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Mike Friedman

Should I Worry About My Website's Bounce Rate?

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Lately, I have seen a lot of discussions around bounce rate, and a lot of unnecessary worry about it.

 

Threads seem to be popping up a lot on other forums with people concerned about an increase in bounce rate.  I also have seen a lot of people asking about bounce rate when trying to diagnose ranking problems.

 

Sometimes, bounce rate can be a problem, but you first need to understand what it is telling you before you go trying to fix a problem where one may not actually exist.

 

First, bounce rate, as reported by Google Analytics and other website analytics programs, is the percentage of visitors that enter a website and leave, or “bounce”, without visiting another page on the site.

 

Some people believe that a high bounce rate can cause ranking problems in search engines. There are two main points I would make to counter this.

 

The first, and most obvious, piece of evidence that bounce rate is not a search engine ranking factor is that Google (or any other search engine) does not have bounce rate data for every website on the internet. Many internet marketers have this erred belief that almost everyone is using Google Analytics. Truthfully, it is only a small percentage of the websites in existence that have Google Analytics running on them.

 

Google could also get bounce rate data from webpages that are running AdSense on them as well as from visitors that use Google Chrome as their web browser, but that still leaves huge holes in the data.

 

The second point, and the one that most people seem to completely overlook, is that a bounce is not always a bad thing. This is the main reason that I believe Google is not using bounce rate data, and never will, as a ranking signal. Not only is a bounce not always a bad thing, sometimes it is even a good thing.

 

For example, if you have a landing page where there is an affiliate link, the ultimate goal you have for that page is for visitors to click on the link. When they do so, they will be taken to another website, and that will go into your analytics data as a bounce. However, they did exactly what you wanted them to do. How is that bad? In fact, as you fine tune your webpage to increase your conversions, guess what? You will also see your bounce rate go up.

 

I was recently contracted by someone to help them improve their conversion rate. They had a pretty decent landing page with decent copy. At the end of the page, they had a link that took people to a second page with more sales copy. The buy button wasn't until the end of the second page, which took people to an offsite shopping cart. 

 

I asked them why they split up the sales page into two pages. They said that their SEO recommended it to improve the bounce rate. I explained to them all the reasons that was a dumb idea. Besides the fact that there was zero reason to worry about the bounce rate if someone was buying something, it was just a bad idea to have visitors have to make an extra click to buy something. 

 

They made the change to a single page. That little change increased their conversions from 2.3% to 4.5%. Might not seem like a huge difference, but their average order is over $10k, so that is a big change to their bottom line.

 

Another example that I have been using a lot lately is Wikipedia. Obviously, we do not have access to their analytic data. There is no way to know for sure what their bounce rate is, but my guess would be that it is on the high side. From my own browsing habits and the habits of others I know, most people do not visit more than one Wikipedia page at a time.

 

Let’s say I wanted some information about The Battle of Marengo. I wanted to know who the participants were, what the size of the forces were, who won, and where the battle took place. I do a search for the battle and the first webpage that pops up is the Wikipedia page. I visit it, find everything I was looking for, and then unless I am interested in another battle linked to from that page or more information about someone mentioned on the page, I am most likely going to leave the page and go on to whatever else I was doing.

 

It is going to record as a bounce, but the page was very helpful in me finding the information I was looking for. Why would Google want to punish a webpage for that?

 

 

Can a high bounce rate be a bad thing? Yes, it certainly can. Not for rankings, but for your website’s goals. A high bounce rate and low conversions means that visitors are probably not finding your content useful to them.

 

Before you go reworking a whole page or website though, it is important to understand where the bounces are coming from. Who is bouncing, how did they find your site, and what pages are they bouncing from?

 

I was looking at a client’s website recently and noticed that the bounce rate across the site was 43%. Most of the pages fit around that number, but there was one page where the bounce rate was 89%. That was unusual. Average time on the site was over 6 minutes, but on this particular page it was under 30 seconds.

 

I took a closer look at the analytics, and found that search traffic was bouncing from that page at a much, much higher rate than traffic from other sources. Generally, if there is something wrong with the page, the bounce rate will be consistent among all sources of traffic. This was not the case.

 

Through some digging, we found that the page was not only ranking highly for our target keyword, but it was also ranking highly for another keyword that was similar but highly unrelated to the page. In other words, the words in the phrase were close, but the definitions were much different.

 

I cannot reveal the client’s site, but the difference in keyword phrases would be something like doggy style versus styles of dogs. The words are close, but two completely different meanings.

 

The targeted phrase was searched about 500 times per month on average. The untargeted phrase was searched about 12,000 times per month. That’s why the percentage of bounces was so high.

 

In this situation, it was nothing to worry about. The bounces were coming from untargeted traffic.

 

In other situations, I have found a high bounce rate was coming from paid advertising. Search engine traffic was just fine, but AdWords traffic was bouncing at a significantly higher rate. What this told me was that there was a disconnect between the ads I was running and what those visitors were finding on the webpage.

 

Before you start worrying about the bounce rate on any of your sites, take a few minutes to look at what the bounce rate is really telling you before you react to it.

 

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I cannot reveal the client’s site, but the difference in keyword phrases would be something like doggy style versus styles of dogs. The words are close, but two completely different meanings.

 

Sorry Mike, that might have been me bouncing in and out of there, LOL...Seriously - that was an excellent analysis of Bounce Rate. 

 

I'm guessing the phrase, "Doggie Style" was ranking well for the page because of semantics (LSI/A). it's another concept that still isn't well understood, even though SE's have been doing it for years now - makes it a lot easier to rank for words/phrases you didn't even think of. 

 

Here's an idea though, if the site owner is up to it; reinvent the page as a humorous "Doggie Style" type page and throw in some pics/info related to dogs and their mating habits. It should include a clear explainer of why the page was made that way :)

 

He or she might be able to leverage that extra traffic for Adsense or something.

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Sorry Mike, that might have been me bouncing in and out of there, LOL...Seriously - that was an excellent analysis of Bounce Rate. 

 

I'm guessing the phrase, "Doggie Style" was ranking well for the page because of semantics (LSI/A). it's another concept that still isn't well understood, even though SE's have been doing it for years now - makes it a lot easier to rank for words/phrases you didn't even think of. 

 

here's an idea though, if the site owner is up to it; reinvent the page as a humorous "Doggie Style" type page and through in some pics/info related to dogs and their mating habits. It should include a clear explainer of why the page was made that way :)

 

He or she might be able to leverage that extra traffic for Adsense or something.

 

 

Those were not actually the keywords. Just an example of two phrases that have the same or similar words in them, but mean completely different things. I didn't share the keywords in this particular case because the client is ranking #1, which can bring unwanted scrutiny, and they have me on an air-tight NDA.

 

But yes, your idea would work. Kind of actually makes me want to rank a page for doggie style now and see what I could do with it.

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Lmao at the 2nd sales page buy button. Some people are just messed up.

 

If anything try and have 100% of the checkout process directly on the sales page. I've seen this done, I think it was on a Frank Kern sales pages. When I found that checkout form on the sales page I was like, OMG that's brilliant!

 

It's not new, it was being done offline long before the internet existed. Very few webmasters actually include the entire checkout process on a sales page. The less clicks you force traffic to make the less traffic dropping off the sales funnel. Higher conversions!

 

Old time offline example below (magazine order forms). Imagine If each of the offline order forms were on the next page in the magazine. ZERO SALES.

 

 

 

 

 

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I agree with Yukon - not having the checkout process start on the sales page is irritating as hell. With the technology available to us, having a seamless, automated process is the only way to fly.

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All the talk you see about bounce rate and rankings just shows how many people don't bother to take a few minutes and think about what something like bounce rate is actually telling them. 

Good thread. Like you said, there are plenty of situations where a higher bounce rate is a sign of good things or at the very least a high bounce rate is not a sign of bad things.

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I was just on another forum (a more slimy area) where I saw someone posting about how they were going to use Facebook and Twitter to purposely drive a bunch of untargeted traffic to a site (a competitor) to drive up their bounce rate and knock them down in the rankings.

The only thing it might do, is get the competitor a few sales.

 

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