Bounce Rate & Google’s Rankings

I have decided to publish this article or blog post also on Medium for a larger audience.

Does bounce rate affect Google’s rankings on search? This is a question I was pondering recently that led me to research this topic as well as Google’s search alorithm in general; what affects a site’s visibility on Google search in general led me to this inquiry.

Lets look at how important speed and bounce rate are and what can be done to make a website have less od a bounce rate. First of all what is bounce rate you may ask? Bounce rate is when users visit a website and decide to leave without sticking around to check out the website’s content, particularly its various pages. However, it can be more specifically defined.

Bounce Rate Defined

Google defines bounce rate as the percentage of single page-view visits to a website:

A bounce is a single-page session on your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.

Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.

These single-page sessions have a session duration of 0 seconds since there are no subsequent hits after the first one that would let Analytics calculate the length of the session. Learn more about how session duration is calculated.

A pageview is just one of many possible interactions a user can make with a website – so other interactions can also affect bounce rate like transactions and so on. A non-interactive event doesn’t affect the bounce rate on the other hand.

Bounce rate is often confused with the term unique visitor to a website. However, these are do pletely different terms and aspects of search.

Unique visitor is a first-time visitor, or visitor whose cookies a site doesn’t detect. This is a new user that visits the website basically for the first time or from a new browser and computing device.

Bounce rate deals with that unique visitor or any visitor staying on the website for more than a single click.

Does Bounce Rate Affect Google Rankings?

Now lets take a look at exactly how bounce rate is affected in Google’s search rankings. Search Engine Watch has offered an analysis of a transcribed conversation about this topic between Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz, and Andrey Lipattsev, Google’s search quality senior strategist:

Lipattsev believes that for each individual search query in the experiment, the generated interest regarding those specific searches impacts the rankings change rather than just the clicks and bounces.

He said that if a certain topic is gaining a substantial amount of searches and an increase in social media mentions, Google would pay more attention to that rather than a site getting more clicks.
Lipattsev says that it is certainly doable to determine exactly what causes a large rankings jump for an individual listing, but Internet-wide, it is much more difficult.

What Is a Good VS a Bad Bounce Rate to Have?

The difference between having a good vs bad bounce rate may come down to the type of website we are looking at and the type or content it provides.

According to Rocket Fuel Research, “Most websites will see bounce rates fall somewhere between 26% and 70%. The average bounce rate for the websites in my sample set was 49%. The average bounce rate for all visits in the set was 45%. I threw out the outliers—the 1% bounce rates. The highest bounce rate was 90.2%; the low (from a properly functioning profile) was 27.33%. The low across all (including broken implementations) was 1.23%.”

Basically, a bounce rate from 26-40% is really good for any website. While, a bounce rate of 41-55% is average. Anything above 70% is disappointing outside news, blogs or events.

The content of a website is also dependent on the expected bounce rates we should be looking at. Here is how Fuel Research analyzed how various websites should expect different results based on content:

To set an appropriate baseline, consider the intent of the user and the purpose of the content. On a website that revolves around events, visitors often want the time, date, location, and that’s it. They get the information. They leave. The bounce rate on that website will skew towards a higher percentage, but that’s fine, because the user’s needs are still being met.

In an online apparel store, visitors will probably shop around for a bit. The bounce rate there would ideally skew lower. An upward trend is particularly alarming for ecommerce because when users leave the site too quickly, that almost certainly translates to lost sales.

So, to sum it up, bounce rate does affect rankings, but it is difficult to predict exactly how. Many organizations don’t use Google Analytics, so Google has no way of tracking their bounce rate information. However, the AI algorithm looks at things such as speed, bounce rate and various nuances within a website to rank it.

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