That Bounding Metric Called Bounce Rate: Part Two

How much attention bounce rate merits is a matter of considering several variables. For instance, the relative weight—as part of your overall analytics mix—you assign to lowering your bounce rate should always be a factor. Also, both the design of your website and the purpose of its content will influence time spent on site.

Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst tweeted last April, “Bounce rate is not a good signal [to gauge user satisfaction].” This caused renewed strife in the SEO community. What about our monthly reporting? What about our correlation studies?

Aside from sparking much debate about the meaning behind his statement, it really begs the following question. Should I pay attention to bounce rate?

The answer to this question may lie in considering the answers to two more questions.

Is lowering bounce rate my number one goal?

If you said yes, then you might as well throw the metric out the window. Focusing on numbers for numbers sake is the fastest way to lose the rankings game. If dramatically lowering your bounce rate is your goal, there are plenty of scripts to load that artificially lower bounce rate.

Bounce rate manipulation only serves to distract attention from the real purpose of the metric, which is to analyze how website users are processing your content and what content contributes to conversion.

Have you taken the time to look at the design of your website or the purpose of its content?

If you find yourself wondering why your FAQ page has a high bounce rate, despite providing plenty of useful content, or why people are bouncing off your Hours of Operation page like a bunch of kangaroos, perhaps it’s because the content is quickly and easily consumed. Of course, your bounce rate is going to be high – visitors found what they were looking for and left. So, bounce rate on these pages may be misleading.

While you can do your best to provide second interactions (an additional page visit or button click) for all your pages, from a content and/or UX perspective it might not make sense for the user to take an extra action on certain pages. Therefore, bounce rate on those pages will remain high. And that is ok!

Whether or not you should pay attention to bounce rate definitely does not have a cookie cutter answer. Hence, it is always important not to focus on the metric in a vacuum, especially when you are analyzing conversions or user interaction.

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