People often miscontrew a high bounce rate as a negative thing, that people aren’t finding their content engaging enough, or perhaps that it doesn’t fulfil its promises. However a high bounce rate can mean the exact opposite, it can be a hugely positive sign. Think about it, if someone searches for “chromebook pixel screen resolution” chances are, any one of those results should answer the question without the user needing to search beyond that initial page. Net result: User finds what they need and carries on with their day. Bounce Rate = 100%.
So, the big question is… How can Google tell if a high bounce rate is a sign of poor/inaccurate/unfullfilling content or a sign of excellent/purposeful content and influence your rankings accordingly? The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of scenarios where Google attributes high bounce levels to a positive user experience.
- When users visit a site, find what they are looking for, go back to Google and search for something different entirely (as opposed to returning to Google and clicking on another result or refining their search only slightly)
- When users visit a site and then close the window (without then conducting a similar search). This suggests the user has found what they are looking for.
- When users have a history of returning to your site with similar on-page behaviour. This suggests the site is a good answer/problem-solving resource such as Wikipedia
- When branded search terms are used in the query. This suggests that users had an idea of what they were looking for already
- When similar search queries and subsequent results tend to produce high bounce rate outcomes. Closed question queries for instance will inevitably produce web results that will likely exhibit high bounce rates
- When time-on-site or “dwell time” is typically high
- When users return to the search results and proceed to check out another resource by the same author or brand. Google will actually show extra results by the same author if time-on-site was sufficiently high (see below)
It is important to mention that Google DOESN’T simply use the bounce rate metric the way we see it in Analytics to influence rankings. They have a far superior data set and intelligent algorithms to draw conclusions from.
This article is inspired by a discussion I was part of in March 2013 in a Google+ Forum. So many intelligent marketers contributed to the discussion resulting in Dejan SEO covering the topic. I highly recommend checking it out.
Two things brought to my attention from that discussion were the term “Dwell Time” and the metric labeled “Return-to-SERP”.
“Dwell time is simply how long visitors spend on the landing page before clicking the “back” button, closing the browser or entering a different URL” -More: www.netlz.com
Return To SERP
To quote Gordon Campbell: “That metric, in a nutshell, is how often after clicking on a specific result users come back to Google’s search page and try a different result or a different query – i.e. the page they clicked on did not give them what they’re looking for. Pages with a high return-to-SERP metric are likely to be not relevant for the specific search query in question, and might as such lose ranking in Google”
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