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Beating the Bounce Rate Blues

I came across a brilliant blog by Dan Nolan on bounce rates this week – I’d had a few questions myself about how it features in ranking, for example, industry by industry a “good” bounce rate will change, so how could Google globally define a bounce rate that equates as “good” and use it in ranking?

After a root around cyberville it looks like bounce rate isn’t a direct ranking factor – phew. But being in the industry and getting it wrong, it seems people (such as myself) are still prone to misconceptions and bounce rate blunders…I’ll stop with the alliteration now.

Dan’s blog defines bounce rate perfectly, so it’s far better for me to summarise it than to try and write my own:

Bounce Rate vs. Click Back – What’s the difference?

“Bounce rate is when you don’t go to a second page on the same website. Maybe you entered from search, a referral link, or direct load. You visit one page and read it from top to bottom. You spend 15 minutes on the page, but never click to another page on the same website. You finally leave the site by typing a new URL in, or following a link, which leaves the site completely.

Click Back is when you reach a page from a search result and say “whoa, this sucks” and hit back in your browser, to find a more relevant site from the search results. You come from search, and return to the same search results with one page in between”.

A Common Misconception

So bounce rate isn’t when you hop on then hop immediately off a page, you can stay on for a significant amount of time…it’s just your lack of navigation through the rest of the site that is marked.

Therefore, having a high bounce rate isn’t necessarily bad – for example if you have a blog site where reading one page is kind of the point, bounce rate can be acceptably high.

Going one step further and looking at time on site in Google Analytics however, if this is largely around 0 seconds, you’re probably looking at a number of click backs and users that didn’t find what they wanted on your page.

What is a Good Bounce Rate?

Bounce Rate Visebility

Again, Dan has some great stats here:

“Other than “lower”, there is no right number to what your bounce rate should be, unless you have experience with that type of content on multiple websites (An SEO agency is great for this knowledge). For a blog like this a bounce rate of 90% isn’t bad. If your site is highly informational and positioned to attract potential clients, then a bounce rate of 40-70% is probably appropriate. If your site is entertainment based (lots of kitten pictures for people to flip through), then you would expect a bounce rate below 20%”

Ranking Factors

So, is it a ranking factor? NO! Should we use it as a metric? YES!

Another Note

On organic search results there is now the option to block future results from websites that do not deliver relevant content to your query (Hummingbird anyone?!), perhaps a high click back rate can cause this option to show up next to your site. If this is the case, hurrah! We can finally do something manual against all the spam clutter that ranks unfairly.

Final Thought

Keep an eye on your bounce rate and time on site, Google is heavily on the side of usability and user engagement, so produce a range of content around what your website is about and you’ll stand the best chance of having a relevant page to match a wider range of user queries.

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