First of all, let’s review how Google defines bounce rates and if they use them in their algorithm metrics to determine rank for your page.
- Google’s definition – Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page.
- Google’s advice – Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors. The more compelling your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site and convert. You can minimize bounce rates by tailoring landing pages to each keyword and ad that you run. Landing pages should provide the information and services that were promised in the ad copy.
- Does Google use Bounce Rates for Rankings? – Matt Cutts with Google, “To the best of my knowledge, the ranking team does not use bounce rate in any way.” (Be careful in totally believe this, I’ll explain more below)
There has been an ongoing debate as to whether bounce rate does or does not affect the ranking of a page. I’ve come to the conclusion that it DOES indirectly. Although Google’s Matt Cutts says they do not use it as a ranking factor – out of the other side of his mouth he is saying that improving site speed and keeping your users on your site longer ARE important factors to improving rank.
So if a person clicks a search link to our page, doesn’t see what they are looking for and leaves, that is counted as a bounce. Google feels that if that person did not stay longer, that page must not have the value the user was looking for and devalues the page in rank. So indirectly they are still using some form of measurement with the bounce rate, they just may not be using the bounce rate factor singly or directly.
At a recent SMX West 2012 Conference, Danny Sullivan, of Search Engine Land, asked a panel of search engine representatives if bounce rate is used as a factor in their ranking results. Although there was not a definitive yes, it was concluded that it was more along the lines of bounce rate combined with other signals may affect your site’s performance in search results.
My recommendation would be to pay attention to bounce rates, along with time on the site and other pages visited, as a measured metric for both SEO purposes and user experience. Just like the retail “brick and mortar” axiom that the longer a person stays in their store, the more they are going to buy, also holds true for our site visitors.