There are plenty of metrics to upset yourself with when it comes to monitoring the user experience of visitors on your site, but an old favourite has to be the bounce rate. What exactly is a bounce rate?
Essentially you record a ‘bounce’ when a visitor comes into your site and navigates away having only viewed that one page. Dependent on the purpose of that page you might not, or more likely might, see that as a bad thing. If they’ve landed on your bottom of the funnel offering page, filled in the form or taken your contact details and are going to get in touch then it’s job done. However a high bounce rate on a page is probably going to be a bad thing. It suggests the user found the content wasn’t engaging, or they found the content engaging but none of the links or calls to action resonated or were attractive enough to drive them forward down your sales funnel. But what if it’s worse than that? What if Google is taking your bounce rate as an indicator of quality and will use it to affect your rankings?
It’s a popular theory, that if Google serves up a page in its result, the user clicks that link and then within a short period hits the back button and returns to those results, then Google will see that as a negative user experience and mark down the result in future, which with sufficient numbers of people following the same pattern, will move the site down the ranks for that search query. Theoretically, could it be doing the same when tracking users on your site through something like Google Analytics?
It seem does seem unlikely. Unlike in the above scenario, Google can monitor that transaction, it could make the decision that the result it served wasn’t correct for the query and make the mark down. Not every site uses Google Analytics although it’s estimated that over half the sites on the web do, but would it be fair for Google to mark down your pages for having a high bounce rate when it doesn’t know the bounce rate of your competitors page that doesn’t use Google Analytics?
I’ll play devils advocate on this one, Google could assume that all pages without Google Analytics have a 100% bounce rate, or they’ve worked out the average for the type of page and it’s content and set that as the measurement, either way that doesn’t seem very fair, but hey it’s Google. This is their game. You wanna play? You’ve got to play by their rules. Also Google is a massive company, it has many fingers in many pies and it’s likely their systems can access data far and wide beyond the Google Analytics code to build up a picture of how users interact with a sites pages, so don’t believe they can’t get a handle on how good a page is performing just because it’s not using the tracking code.
Google always says write content for the user, and improving your bounce rate means thinking about why people aren’t engaging with your content, why aren’t they taking up the great offer you’ve got at the bottom, why does that flashing moving popup not float their boat? Running A/B tests in Google Analytics is a great way of multivariate testing content on the page to get a better level of engagement so give that a go.
And if you’re looking at ways to definitely improve your ranking in Google’s search results, Adam Stetzer’s article (linked below) has some great tips throughout.
If bounce rates don’t affect Google’s rankings as much as you thought, you wonder how significant other ranking factors are. Well, Google recently revealed that magical information. They narrowed it down to three top ranking factor used by Google to drive search results: Links: strong links and link votes play a major role in search rankings. Content: having quality content is more important than ever. RankBrain: Google’s AI ranking system.