Bounce rate is not a new jargon associated with website ranking and SEO. Many experts have tried to find the extant relationship between bounce rate and Google ranking. People have spent days to years conducting different kinds of live experiments to determine the nature and dynamicity of their relationship, if any. But in reality, it is like the Loch Ness monster of the digital marketing world. The relationship might be there, or it might be a figment of people’s imagination. No one can really tell for sure! And documentation is too ambiguous for drawing a reliable conclusion.
The elephant in the room — what is bounce rate?
To begin with, bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your website from the entrance page. In other words, this is directly dependent on the single page sessions that your website experiences. Bounce rate increases when a visitor leaves your website without interacting with the content of your page.
It is the principal indicator of website performance. A high bounce rate is usually held responsible for low website traffic and conversion rates. You can directly calculate bounce rate by dividing the total number of single-page sessions by total number of entries to that page. This formula comes directly from Google and it holds true, unless you have a single page website or your visitors find exactly what they are looking for on the very first page they open!
A test of the old belief
Let us start with the narration of an experiment that was very recently conducted by Rand Fishkin, CEO of MOZ, the monster company that has changed the dimensions of modern search engine optimization. Rand has been running a few similar experiments where his team randomly chooses about 500 participants. These people are then asked to search a given ‘search word’ on their electronic devices (phones, tablets and laptops) using Google’s search engine. Then his team asked the participants to click one link at the bottom of the SRL and immediately click away. This procedure is followed for the same link for quite a few days and then the SERP is monitored.
This experiment unearthed a world of inconsistencies in the SERPs and CTRs. In over 50 percent of the cases, the ranks did change on the SERP. In almost 45 percent of the cases, the ranks of the website did not change at all.
What did Rand accomplish?
Rand created an artificial situation of increased bounce rate on a particular website. He wanted to study the effects of controlled bounce rate on a particular website’s Google rankings. And in doing so, he ended up unleashing a storm of very relevant but immediately unanswerable questions.
Point to be noted — when a percentage of users clicks on one link, spends time on only one web page and leaves the site, it is counted as a bounce rate. It is not dependent on the amount of time spent on a link.
Does bounce rate have any effects on SERPs?
Bounce rate can in no way determine if a person who is spending all of his time only on one web page of a website is actually reading every bit of content on that particular page or snoozing with his eyes open just to please his boss.
Sometimes, the high level of optimization of web page ensures that we find all the necessary information in just one link featured on the SERPs. We do not need to browse the rest of the website scrounging for scattered information. This is very true in case of content-heavy websites that are extremely well organized and optimized for search engines.
A high bounce rate is not always bad news
So having a bounce rate cannot always be interpreted as a “bad” sign, especially when the highest levels of bounce come from your contact page. This is especially true for most small businesses. People usually get all they are looking for from one web page, and this ends up giving them a better user experience on your website. This is popularly known as ‘Good Bounce’, and it increases website traffic and boosts the ranking of the website.
A person might also be doing some comparative shopping. This means he is bouncing from one site to another comparing prices, services and coverage. This is most commonly seen before the festive seasons among the shopping websites. Does this mean your website isn’t good enough? Absolutely not! It means that your visitors can easily find what they are looking for from just one link.
How to ensure that high bounce rate does not eat into your site popularity?
Since there is no way to tell if the high bounce rate of your website is because of efficient optimization or because of boring content, it is always better to perform a double check on your website content.
For this you need to know what you should and should not do when aiming at reducing website bounce rate.
- Long page loading time
If your page takes more than 4 seconds to load, then the high bounce rate is definitely not a good sign. Regular internet users hardly have the patience for a web page to load. So make sure your hosting is reliable, suffers no down-time and is lightning fast to minimize bounce rate on your landing page. It should actually load in lesser than 2 seconds.
- Annoying your visitors
Are you guilty of placing autoplaying ads, music and videos on your web pages? Even though you think it adds a certain multimedia charm to your web pages, most users simply hate being surprised with loud music and spectral voices while browsing the web. Get rid of flashy banner ads and pop-ups as well to reduce your bounce rate. Don’t bombard them with info they do not want. Although most people say they like surprises, we’d like it if you didn’t test it.
- Lack of context
If we started this article with the debate on bounce rate and ended it with the question on whether Big Foot existed, how would you feel? In many cases people simply bounce off web pages when they see loads of fluff unrelated to subjects they are searching for. While building webpage content always remember context and quality, or CTR will be a lost war.
- Forget clickbait
If people hate anything more than getting bad news in the morning, it is click bait. Many websites have become slaves to click bait to boost their CTRs and reduce their bounce rates. Most people are looking for quick sources of consolidated information. So, unless you can pull it off like Reader’s Digest does, don’t even think about it!
- Don’t make your visitors dig
Unless it’s gold you are hiding, please do not make your visitors screen through bottomless pits of black and white texts for what they need. Include headings and subheadings to your text. Subheads make it so much easier for people to scan through blocks of text to find what they are looking for.
- Don’t preach at the wrong mass
When you are presenting your advertising links to people, know who your target audience are. You better not try to sell those hot lingerie sets to a church group! Reducing the bounce rate has a lot to do with spreading the word to the right audience. If you do not know how to find the right people, rely on referrals and tools to find your crowd.
- Hard to follow landing pages
The landing page is like the face of your website. You and your business will be judged by the landing page even before your visitors take a look at the main content. The most common problem associated with landing page is legibility. From wrong font colors to squiggly font styles, many expert designers falter when it comes to landing pages!
- An ugly face will scare the users away
No judgments please! At least in case of websites, an ugly face (landing page) does not help to reduce bounce rate. Besides, who does not like looking at pretty things? So, why should web pages be any different? A well-designed landing page or web page with beautifully aligned fonts and images implores users to spend some extra time and explore the other web pages of the site before they bid you goodbye.
- Don’t make your website the Bermuda Triangle of all mazes
This is not good at all. Imagine walking into a straw maze on Halloween and getting stuck there for the rest of the evening. Not a pleasant feeling, is it? So, why subject your visitors, customers and followers to the same ordeals? Always present them with the “next” action or option at every step, so they don’t have to hit the dreaded “x” button.
- Don’t be too pushy
Apparently, the same principle works for both first dates and websites: don’t ask for too much personal information. If your website registration form includes too many fields, it will automatically bore your potential-followers off the site. Include only minimum information requirements like first name, last name, email and contact number. You can always get the rest once they start becoming active on your site.
- Don’t pretend that mobiles don’t exist
All of us love apps. If you don’t have an app yet, don’t fret. We can make do with a mobile website. But not having a mobile responsive website is a complete deal breaker! 45 percent of landing page traffic, in case of most mobile friendly websites, comes from mobile devices only. So, step up your game and get a responsive version of your website today!
- Pay attention to quality
The eleventh commandment says if you notice spelling mistakes and grammatical errors on a web page, the website is trying to scam you! And that has always been true. Now, if you have a poor-quality landing page filled with errors, no wonder you are scaring your visitors off.
The days of judging website performance from its bounce rate is long gone. It is quite the archaic metric that is slowly being replaced by event tracking and exit rate.
What are event tracking and exit rate?
Did you know that for more accurate reading you can actually use event tracking in Google Analytics? Event tracking is made up of several components (five in Google analytics). You can define the features of these events. For example, the time a visitor spends on a particular web page that will disqualify it as a bounce.
Exit rate is an evolved form of the bounce rate that specifically tells you which part of your website needs better optimization. For example, if a visitor comes in thorugh your landing page, navigates to your shopping cart and then leaves the website, it simply denotes that you might need to optimize your shopping cart features better. Now, you can take help from the 12 points discussed above or simply consult with a SEO specialist to pinpoint the problem area(s).
Dwell Time is the new Bounce Rate
More than bounce rate, you should be paying attention to dwell time. This is a much newer concept. Although it does not specifically tell if people are actually reading your web page content or drooling on the laptops using your web page as their screensaver. Dwell rate is what tells bad bounce apart from good bounce.
According to Moz, Dwell rate is the amalgamation of time-on-site metrics and bounce rate. It shows how much time the visitors spend on your website. In a sense, it measures the actual time a person takes to return to the SERP that featured your link. It can be directly measured from search engine data rather than Google analytics.
It is still unclear if Google uses bounce rates and dwell time to rank existing websites. But the experiments preformed by Randy shows that website ranking and bounce rate do have a covert relationship that may be extremely hard to define at the moment. There are several factors at play when it comes to website ranking, and bounce rate is just one of them. There are several analytics tools like Google Analytics that try to demystify the dependence of website ranking on bounce rate, event tracking and exit rate. Using these tools is quite easy. Most results are interpreted visually in the form of comparative graphs that can be understood by anyone and everyone with minimal understanding of online marketing, but the results are not quite as accurate.
Only a few people and SEO organizations in the current market have the correct understanding of web analytics and tracking technology required to answer the more pressing questions that have been raised here. So, check out the latest trends of dwell time, its effects on your website SEO and search result rankings with the newest analytics tools and reporting software today. If you are seeking expert assistance from the pros of the industry, contact us.