In the world of website analytics, digital marketers and clients alike are always looking for key metrics that determine success. Sessions, time on site, and bounce rate are usually among the top mentioned metrics.
Of those, bounce rate is often accompanied by a few commonly asked questions. What does bounce rate mean? Is it an important ranking signal? Should I pay attention to my bounce rate? What other metrics should I look at instead of bounce rate?
All these questions—and more—will be answered in this 3-blog series. Today, we will focus on the definition of bounce rate and its consideration as an organic ranking factor.
What does bounce rate mean?
As defined by Google, bounce rate is “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.”
Bounce rates are often highest on the home page and other pages that get large amounts of traffic. The more people you pull into a website, the greater chance you’re going to get less qualified visits. While this isn’t always the case, it tends to be more true than false.
It should also be noted that whenever speaking of bounce rate, Google is very specific in their semantics. They phrase bounce rate as “analytics/bounce rate.” This specification is very likely due to the fact that Google measures a different, but similar metric, which we address below.
Is bounce rate an organic ranking factor?
As far back as 2008, Google has maintained that “analytics/bounce rate” is not a ranking signal, which has been reconfirmed over the years. However, for a number of reasons many Search Engine Optimizers (SEOs) have speculated otherwise.
SEOs worldwide are of the opinion that instead of bounce rate, Google measures dwell time, the lesser-known cousin of bounce rate and time on site. Dwell time measures the time users spend on your website before bouncing off and visiting another listing on the search engine results page.
We don’t often hear about dwell time because the information isn’t made available through website analytics, and Google, being Google, won’t release any information on whether it is a ranking factor.
Even with Google’s shroud of secrecy in place, there is compelling evidence in favor of bounce rate as an organic ranking factor. In fact, correlation studies have proven time and again that when the bounce rate is high, search rankings drop. This continuing correlation has led many SEOs to strongly conclude that bounce rate should indeed be considered as an organic ranking factor.