Bounce rate as a ranking factor

Incredible how often this is asked, simply put –

Is bounce rate a ranking factor

No bounce rate is not a ranking factor.

To explain this further (and actually argue with myself), a bounce is defined as a single page visit – or in Google Analytics terms a session, bounce rate is single page sessions / all sessions as a percentage (this can be complicated further, as you can have ‘hits’ to the server which are considered interaction events, but for the sake of leaving this as an SEO is bounce rate a metric argument, I won’t get into it there).

“…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…” Google Analytics

Often people describe a bounced visit as a bad visit, as factors such as user intent, satisfaction and user requirements are not included within the analysis. Good blog posts tend to get a high bounce, because a user read the post and was happy.

Google does not user your analytics data in this way, the number of accounts that are setup badly, with badly calculated bounce rate, variations in tagging means that Google simply can’t.

I have heard developers saying about modifting their GA bounce rate to improve SEO. Please don’t do this, track your analytics correctly for commercial, business reasons, not to game SEO, because it won’t work and this part I am 100% confident on.

What Google can use instead

Google can however see your behaviour on the serps, it can see CTR which is the clicks on each result (which it reports back in Google Search Console) and it is my strong belief which is backed up by clear evidence from tests performed multiple times by multiple companies that this is a factor – probably more so with the increased importance of machine learning and artificial intelligence in optimisation. Google tries to understand who is a human and who is a bot and as such it can clean this information to ensure that generally this is a good signal set.

 

“…Additionally, the user can select a first link in a listing of search results, move to a first web page associated with the first link, and then quickly return to the listing of search results and select a second link. The present invention can detect this behavior and determine that the first web page is not relevant to what the user wants. The first web page can be down-ranked, or alternatively, a second web page associated with the second link, which the user views for longer periods or time, can be up-ranked…” https://www.google.com/patents/US8954420

It is always worth noting that Google are tracking this behaviour  (100%) but to what extent this feeds into the algorithm might vary from sector to sector, day to day and from user to user, I suspect it has fed strongly into various quality updates.

This is the sort of thing that blackhats can gamify, as I mentioned Google works hard to understand who is a human, but never underestimate the ability of the really good ‘black hat’ seo folks.

In short – for obvious reasons, getting a good CTR is in itself beneficial for traffic, good landing pages is also very good for users and so consequently SEO.

My recommendation?

Don’t worry about it – get on with creating great content, optimised for users including markup, description tags and title tags that match the page contents, don’t gamify your analytics as all you will do is lose important, relevant information.

 

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