Are Bounce Rates A Google Ranking Factor? - Semalt Expert
Table Of Contents
- What are Bounce Rates?
- Why Do People Bounce?
- Bounce Rates: Are they Good or Bad?
- Are they included in Google Ranking Factor?
- How Does It Affect the SEO of Your Site? (Dwell Time plus Bounce Rate)
Are you interested in improving the rankings of your website? That's the only reason this article would be of interest anyway. Google rankings are very important to anyone with a website (whether or not you know it). Even SEO specialists take very detailed notes of Google's ranking for a site. This is because high rankings generally mean goodies for the site - better traffic, more sales, a high reputation, increased trust, more clicks, and so on.
So that's why many website owners and managers look for different tools, tricks, and methods to reach the goal, which is, high ranking by Google. And despite the many options that are available online, there seems to be a 'fiction vs fact' situation with whether or not Bounce rates are one of Google's ranking factors.
This guide would clear the air and finally expose the truth behind bounce rates, how they affect your site, and if it is anything worth paying attention to. But before getting into the juicy deets, it would make things easier if the definition and the idea behind bounce rate were first explained.
What are Bounce Rates?
As mentioned earlier, bounce rates are one of the tools that might help increase a website's google ranking - or is it? It is the percentage of single engagement visits to a site. In simpler terms, it is the measurement of people that clicks on your page and leave without engaging with anything else. This means that no links were clicked on, no forms filled, nothing, nada.
Note that a few SEO pages might say that it is a measurement of the people that click and leave within few seconds. But this is not entirely true. Bounce rates DO NOT measure time. It simply measures how many clicks landed on a page and then left. It doesn't measure how long the clicker spent on the page (more information would be dropped on this in coming sections).
Also, it would be better to note that 'average bounce rate' is not so safe to follow because different site types have varying average bounce rates. A dictionary or blog site usually has a higher bounce rate than a service website. Why? People read the meaning of a word (on a dictionary page) and leave. But that's not the only reason sites have a varying bounce rate.
Why Do People Bounce?
Again, a lot of SEO pages have ignorantly concluded that people bounce because they didn't convert. Therefore, implying that bounce rates are a major red flag and it needs to be immediately attended to. But this is also not true. People bounce off websites for different reasons and knowing the 'why' can help you determine whether or not your bounce rate needs major attention. Here are a few reasons why people bounce:
- The page is different from the keyword searched (misleading title tag).
- The website was mistakenly clicked on.
- Poor on-site user experience.
- What was searched for was seen on the first page (clickers got the answers to their question on the first page they landed on).
- Clickers landed on a blank page or a technical error page.
- The website is not mobile-friendly.
- The page was not well optimized (ugly design, slow page-loading speed, a poor website structure etc.). Hiring a professional SEO specialist can solve this problem.
Bounce Rates: Are they Good or Bad?
Judging from previous sections, you should already be able to tell that bounce rates aren't all bad, nor all good. Your website might have a low bounce rate (which means that people click more pages and engage more before exiting), but it doesn't entirely mean that it is better than your partner that has a high bounce rate. You could have a low bounce rate because clickers have to click too many pages to find what they are looking for and your partner has a high bounce rate because they all found the bullseye on the very first page.
Bounce rate can be the outcome of a mismatch between content, the purpose of the page, or keywords. It can also be an indication of ineffective content or low accessibility. And for a page like Wikipedia or Merriam Webster Dictionary, a high bounce rate is okay. Why? The value of the website is on that first page that is landed on.
So when checking to see if your site's bounce rate is good or bad, compare it with other sites within your niche (because a low bounce rate doesn't always indicate the need for improvement).
Are they included in Google Ranking Factor?
Simple answer, No! Bounce rates are a lot of good things (and bad things also from what have been discussed in previous sections), but it is not a Google ranking factor. According to Google's John Mueller in June of 2020, bounce rate is not a ranking factor for Google Analytics. Back in 2008, another one of Google's people - Matt Cutts said it was only going to be 'spammable' and 'noisy'. And it is quite understandable why.
One of the reasons bounce rates just cannot be a ranking factor for Google is because it is not a reliable measurement of quantity. It cannot determine accurately the amount of user engagement because of the absence of time calculation. Also, we have already established that a high bounce rate can be a good or a bad thing depending on the type of website it is. Therefore, it will not be fair to give sites like Merriam-Webster low rankings because they have very high bounce rates.
But even though Bounce does not DIRECTLY affect Google's ranking, it INDIRECTLY does. This implies that though you might not pay too much attention to it as a Google ranking factor, it still calls for a certain level of 'attend to me' because it has a hand on your page's SEO (which affects the rankings).
How Does It Affect the SEO of Your Site? (Dwell Time plus Bounce Rate)
The SEO of a business website is of great importance because it determines how successful the business would be online. It is what causes or influences the business's visibility, website clicks, amount of loyal customers, sales, and so on. So even if bounce rates don't drive Google rankings directly, they are very important because (when paired up with dwell time), you can monitor the success of your on-page SEO.
Before moving to how it helps with on-page SEO, let's tackle dwell time.
Recall when it was mentioned that bounce rate does not measure time (making one of the reasons Google did not adopt it as a factor)? Yes, Dwell time measures, well, time. It is the measurement of how long a clicker spends on a website page. So whether or not the clicker leaves on the first page (bounce rate), dwell time can tell how long he or she engaged with such page.
But then again, short or long dwell time doesn't necessarily mean that the content was not engaging or that it was. To better understand the situations, take a look at the following:
- Low bounce rate, short dwell time: This can probably indicate a connection page that handles its purpose efficiently.
- Low bounce rate, long dwell time: This could be a well-designed website with relevant content and proper linking.
- High bounce rate, short dwell time: There is a higher probability that the page might be problematic.
- High bounce rate, long dwell time: The probability that the page is engaging and satisfies without linking, is higher.
However, without dwell time, a high bounce rate is usually associated with a weakness in the SEO of the page. So if you have an unusually high bounce rate, contact your SEO specialist or check for downers in your on-page SEO. Poor mobile optimization, a mismatch between content and keywords, low-quality webpage design, or slow loading speed are good places to begin checking.
Yes, bounce rate is not a direct factor in the ranking of a website on Google's result page. But it does affect your website's SEO in more ways than one. This, therefore, means that you need to pay attention to how high or low your bounce rate is, by the dwell time. And if the supervision and monitoring of these two powerful variables seem like a lot of work (because it is), you can always hire a professional to help. Professionals in SEO and website management are the best option because they would not only actively work on reaching Google's high ranks, they would also help to maintain it.