Bounce Rate And Search Engine Ranking

Recently, WebProNews published a very interesting article that asked whether the bounce rate of your website is, (or should be), taken into account by Google as a factor in search engine ranking.

They make a good argument that it makes sense for the bounce rate to be a factor.

What Is Bounce Rate?

Bounce rate, for those who aren’t sure of the specifics, is the number of visitors to your site who abandon the site from the page which they landed on. People, in other words, who do not click through to a second page of your site.

Google defines it as “the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page.”

It can be a tricky statistic to come to grips with though. What if the page the visitor arrives on, and leaves from, is so relevant to him that he doesn’t need to go to another page? What if the information he’s looking for is so clear and concise that he only needs 20 seconds on the landing page?

Bounce rate, as a metric of website performance, needs to be considered in the context of the purpose of the website, before you can really decide whether or not it’s a bad thing or not.

Bounce Rate & Ranking

It’s still all speculation of course. SearchMetrics, reporting on the effects of the Panda update on websites in the UK, reported that the biggest losers in rankings seemed to be sites with a high bounce rate, and low time on site.

WebProNews does point out that a meaningful way of using bounce rate as a ranking determinant would be to consider whether the searcher returns to the results, or modifies their search. However, there’s no clear evidence that this is actually taking place.

Matt Cutts has said that increasing your site speed can stop visitors from bouncing, and we already know that site speed is an optimisation factor. We also know that site speed can be a conversion factor.

In the past, he’s said that the rankings team don’t use bounce rate as a ranking signal. However, that was over a year ago, and well before the Panda update.

Bounce Rate Ranking Implications

At the heart of the matter is the fact that there is no evidence either way. There are good arguments why Google could use bounce rate, (or some variation of bounce rate) as a ranking signal. And there are arguments against it being a good idea in all circumstances.

If you do the things that people suggest to reduce your bounce rate, like making your information relevant and easy to find, making your page load faster and essentially creating sites that users like to use, then not only will your bounce rate decrease (if that’s appropriate), but you should start improving your rankings anyway.

So don’t worry too much about your bounce rate, unless it’s clear, from the context and objectives of your site, that it’s a sign of a problem.