Bounce may be a word that you have not used much in the past. It is likely to become a hot word in 2009. We are talking here particularly about the way visitors to online web pages eventually move off elsewhere. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave the website from that web page.
If they move off to another web page in the same website, then that is normally a confirmation that they are finding something of interest. It is the very best indicator. It may well be far less open to manipulation than the emphasis on hyperlinks that is at the heart of the Google PageRank approach. That is why I believe the answer to Eric Enge’s question, Do Search Engines Use Bounce Rate As A Ranking Factor, must be in the affirmative. Google has all the data needed to use this approach and it must only be a matter of time.
The proportion of visitors who bounce away from any website is a critical measure of performance. Having sticky websites that hold visitors as they move from page to page gives the best opportunity to achieve whatever objectives the website may have. The one major exception is all those web pages where someone clicks away and the website gains revenues by the move. Google is a major partner for such web pages since the major part of its revenues comes from AdWords ads. Provided they move away via the AdWords ad, a high bounce rate here is not a problem.
For all other websites it is best to be considering how to lower that bounce rate. It is not just a matter of opening links in a new tab as one person suggested.
Nor is it just a matter of only including links to other web pages within the same website. As Matthew Ingram pointed out, even the New York Times has now realized that including links to other websites may be the smart thing to do.
There have been hints for a while now that the New York Times was going to start adding links to third-party content on its front page, and now it appears to have finally happened, with the launch of something called Times Extra. The paper has been doing this for some time now on its technology front page, using links aggregated by BlogRunner — the meme-tracker the company acquired a couple of years ago — as well as through content-syndication agreements with blog networks like GigaOm, VentureBeat and Read/Write Web.
The very best way to make a website sticky is to give visitors what they are looking for. That is what will bring them back again and again. Even the New York Times is showing the way.