Bounce rate and rankings

Bounce rate is an important factor within the world of SEO. Having a high bounce rate is one thing (and not good while we are mentioning it!,) but does bounce rate have impact on rankings and to what extent – this is the more pressing issue.

Let’s take this step by step…

What is bounce rate?

Simply put, bounce rate is the amount of people that ‘bounce’ or move away from a website after only viewing one page. Of course some of this can be deemed natural or normal, but websites with high or consistently high bounce rates may indicate a problem or some issue with why users are not engaging with it.

Bounce rate is normally expressed as a percentage and if you find your website does have a high bounce rate then there are a number of reasons why this could be the case. These include problems with the layout, (un)user friendly nature of your website, poor content pieces etc. The thing to remember also is not to have a narrow mind on this subject, as a high bounce rate on certain page/s could be quite normal. For example, think about a ‘contact us’ page. A user may visit this page, type their information then navigate away from the page as they wait for the webmaster to act on their request. Moving away from the page after doing this and thus receiving a high bounce rate would be normal and expected.

To conclude, it could be said that the problem arises when the majority of your website, or your website as a whole has a high bounce rate.   

An experiment…

We are not the only ones who are interested in this subject, and to that end, trials have been set up to look at this issue. Large groups of people were recruited to find a particular search result, click on it, then move away from it to mimic the bounce effect. The data was then tracked over a period of time to see what had changed. The results were mixed, with some experiments showing the rankings had changed and other showing they had not. Even where changes occurred the argument is on thin ground, because it could be said that one or many other factors could have resulted in this change.

The answer?

Most people are interested in rankings so the real question here is whether bounce rates affect Google rankings. The answer is still not fully clear and the debate will probably bounce on (if you forgive the pun.) We can probably stick our neck out and say that it is unlikely bounce rates and Google rankings are related.

Firstly, most businesses probably do not have (or even aware) of analytic type programmes to track their sites. It follows from this that Google would find it difficult to statistically analyse something that was not set up. They could always find a way around this perhaps though?

Remember also we have seen that bounce rates can be different on different pages for different reasons and so it would be unfair of Google to judge whether this was positive or negative, because it simply wouldn’t know.

The question follows from this that if it is unclear whether bounce rate is a factor in Google rankings, then what about some of the other aspects that are supposed to make a difference? Well we know factors like good content and quality links are important because Google have numerously issued articles explaining their importance, so these can safely be assumed.

We know Google is constantly making changes (many of these are done behind the scenes) so who knows, bounce rate may become more of a deceive factor in rankings in the future.

In the meantime, striving to lower your bounce rate as a general principle certainly won’t do any harm!

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