Your Site’s Bounce Rate May Cripple Your Search Rankings

By on March 11, 2013
bounce-rate-chopped

I know you are probably tired of hearing about all of the Google animal updates (Panda, Penguin, Werewolf… just kidding) but this one is really important and can be directly influencing your search traffic and thus your income. I repeat, this could be costing you actual MONEY...

Google has worked hard to dramatically improve the quality of its search results and provide Google users with the absolute best search results possible.  Over the past two years, Google’s focus has been improving the quality of material being delivered. In doing this, they have focused on many new elements such as social engagement and a site’s bounce rate.

What is Bounce Rate?

There are a lot of competing definitions for exactly what counts as an official “bounce,” but the only one that really counts is Google’s — as usual. According to Google, here is the definition of bounce rate:

“Bounce rate is the percentage of visits that go only one page before exiting a site.”

Although Google has been analyzing bounce rates for a long time, recently they have added a lot more weight and credibility to the statistic.  This means that we now need to be taking a harder look at our site’s bounce rates and what we can do to improve them, especially if a page isn’t ranking well.

How Do I Find My Site’s Bounce Rate?

The easy way to get this information is directly from Google.  If you don’t already have Google Analytics connected to your site, you need to take a few minutes to make this happen. Lots of WordPress users rely on third-party plugins for their analytics information, but I recommend that you rely on Google Analytics for your traffic info.

Not only is Google Analytics going to reflect the data that Google is using to rank your site, but  it’s also free and simple to set-up.

In this example you can see that the bounce rate is 52% which sounds bad but in actuality it is average for content sites.  I found an infographic that can help you better understand Bounce Rates.  You can view the full version here.  If this site could get its bounce rate down below 50%, it could start to see search engine ranking improvement.  So. . .

How Do I Improve My Bounce Rate?

There are actually many, many ways you can tweak your site that will help keep your readers on your site.  The key is to get them to click on other, internal links to additional content on your site.

Here are a few quick improvements you can make to help facilitate an improvement in bounce rate:

  1. Make sure you have at least two contextual links to other, relevant pages within the body of your page. It’s simple to look back into your previous posts and select related posts, but few webmasters do this.
  2. Add an “Other Articles You May Enjoy” section at the end of your content. Sites that showcase more content on each page, typically get more clicks to internal content. It’s simply maximizing the traffic you’re already getting.
  3. Reduce the number of outbound links on your page or at the very least, have them open in a new window. Simple enough.
  4. Encourage social engagement through comments.  The longer you keep them engaged on your site, the better the odds that they click to another page, e.g. encourage comments and discussions on your blog posts!

There are many other factors that can affect your site’s bounce rate but this will be a great start.  If you improve on these elements of your site, you should start to see a slight reduction in your bounce rate over time depending on the amount of traffic your site gets.

I encourage you to ask any questions you may have here in the comments section.  I will try to answer them all to the best of my ability.

About Travis Harper

Travis Harper has been marketing online since 2001 and has just launched a new site: Internet Marketing Revealed. He enjoys teaching and educating as well as networking with other likeminded professionals. You can follow him on Facebook for more information.

12 Comments

  1. seospecialistsinc.com

    May 10, 2013 at 8:28 am

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    I will actually share it….carry on with the good work!

  2. byduaaxudrieeverett.polyvore.com

    May 9, 2013 at 1:04 am

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  3. nunta dj

    May 3, 2013 at 2:54 am

    I do accept as true with all of the concepts you have offered to your
    post. They are very convincing and will definitely work.

    Still, the posts are too brief for beginners.
    May just you please lengthen them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

  4. Dita I.

    March 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Hi Travis,

    Excellent article on understanding bounce rate. I also think that the speed of your site has a lot to do with bounce rate. People do not want to wait while your pages are loading and they leave. I think about 5 seconds should be max. Lower would be even better.

    The other thing I really hate and make me leave the site instantly are the popups that cover the whole screen and the is no immediately visible button to turn it off.

    This happened to me yesterday. It was a high ranking site I visited for rather interesting info. I started to read and the thing that covered the whole post asking me to join the mailing list popped up. I could not get rid of it. So I back-spaced and came back. The thing kept popping up. Disgusted I left. This person will never get another visit from me. I am sure it leads to a high bounce rate for his high ranking blog. Would be interesting to see if his rankings will be affected.

    Have a great day,

    Dita

    • Travis Harper

      March 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Dita,

      I hate the pages with the insane pop-ups that load immediately too. I personally like the pages that wait like 20 seconds. This means I am actually reading and enjoying the content. With these sites, they generally get my opt-in. The others, I click away right away too.

      I don’t know how much it has or will affect his SE rankings as bounce rate is just a small piece of the puzzle but I am sure it is hurting his opt-in rate which is even more important.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Travis

  5. Graeme Benge

    March 12, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Nice post. It’s important ot keep the user at the heart of this analysis. It is totally realistic for a visitor to view just onepage of your site and get all the info he/she needs. Blogs tend to have higher bounce rates as a result. I’m not sure if bounce rate is as simple an eqaution as no. visits viewing one page only as a % of overall visits. I think G adds other engagement metrics before letting this metric play a role in rankings being adjusted.

    • Travis Harper

      March 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      Graeme,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes it is certainly important to keep the human reader in mind when putting together any blog post. Google also tracks time on page and that is important also so if you have a high bounce rate but back it up with a high time on page you will probably still be okay.

      The average bounce rate for content sites is just around 50%. There are many other types of pages with much higher bounce rates. My goal is to try and keep my bounce rate at or around 50% which is very achievable.

      Travis

  6. Darlene Ouimet

    March 12, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Hi Travis
    When including “other articles you may enjoy” should those open in the same window then? (instead of opening in a new window?)
    ~I have a fairly high traffic blog but my bounce rate is 75% and I always use the “open in a new window” option.
    Thanks, Darlene

    • Travis Harper

      March 12, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Darlene,

      In this section, which is traditionally at the end of your article, I would have it open in the same window. If you are linking to content within the body of your article, I would have it open in a new window so the reader can easily come back to where they were reading.

  7. Dahlan Dahi

    March 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Good point. Thank you.

  8. Paul Simister

    March 12, 2013 at 6:49 am

    I sometimes wonder if having too good content increases bounce rate because the reader is aware that they’ve stayed on the same page for quite a long time and because, you’ve answered the question on their minds, has no need to click on.

    The websites that start me clicking most often are those that have 7 tips to xxxx, and has one tip per page or those that get me engaged in reading a page and then have a page 2 continued when I’m halfway through.

    Both get me clicking although I find the reader experience is sub-optimal because I’d rather stay on one page and keep scrolling down.

  9. Graeme

    March 12, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Here is some tips to keep people on the page longer:
    - Video will take some minutes to play so that will keep people on the page.
    - Break articles into part 1 and part 2 so people click to the next page.
    - put a picture halfway through the fold line on a page so that it encourages people to scroll down to see the full picture.

    Its not just about bounce rate but also time on site that Google likes to see.

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