Visitors Bounce

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.

18 thoughts on “Visitors Bounce”

  1. I am skeptical that bounce rate is a significant factor. I believe it is too difficult to get any meaning out of that one figure. For example, what do you think the bounce rate of is? Very high I would guess. If the purpose of a site is to link people to other sites the bounce rate is not a measure of quality. Also If a site has 10 related sites but uses different domains for those sites the bounce rate will be much higher than if they all used the same url. Again the bounce rate alone tells you little. I can see the value in trying to learn from things like bounce rate but I think the meaning of the bounce rate number is too dependent on other factors to be a significant SE ranking factor. Of course I could be wrong but that is my guess.

  2. I would agree with you, John, if that was the only parameter in the algorithm. Equally PageRank if it was treated as the only parameter in the algorithm would give meaningless results. However in conjuction with the other 100+ factors and if you use more complex maths then I think there is meaningful information to be derived from the bounce rate.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Erik. Perhaps you skimmed the post too quickly since your blog post was the one I referred to with the text, It is not just a matter of opening links in a new tab as one person suggested. I guess we’ll agree to differ. 🙂

  4. Good Post! I agree. I already have these problem on my sites. When i read your post, I realize that I know the reason for the bounce rate. Now I must correct my mistakes. Thanks for your post.

  5. Google keeps focusing on content but “curiously”, blog posts usually show a higher bounce rate than a corporate web page. I would be curious to see the bounce rate of a Wikipedia page. It’s probably not very good although the return rate would be so what matters the most? Having people go to a second page of your website and never come back or reading your article, leave, and come back for more later? You pick.

  6. Bounce rate is a great measurement of performance. It is not the only one, as has already been discussed, and on its own would be a poor measurement. Leaving a site through an affiliate link (or any other link) should not be considered a bounce. It should be considered and external referral.

    Whenever anybody clicks on a result in Google, there are four potential next actions.

    Bouncing back to Google, especially after only 3 – 5 seconds, is a sign that Google had served up a less-than-useful result. Not good news for ranking well.

    Referring to a deeper link in the site (an interior page) is as Barry says “normally a confirmation that they are finding something of interest”. Good, job Google; keep ranking that page for the search that was just performed.

    Referring to an external link is also a sign that the searcher found something useful on that page, which is why for SEO the New York Times is making a wise decision. Searcher happy, Google happy. Keep on ranking.

    Closing the browser window. Yes, that is the fourth option, which means simply that the searcher’s wife just called, “Honey, dinner is ready.” (Hopefully that won’t affect rankings one way or the other, or else we’ll need a kitchen-centric SEO strategy in the future.

  7. Hi Barry, highly useful content as usual! 🙂 I agree with you. I think we should all be watching parameters such as bounce rate as 2009 comes in. Improving all your parameters can only have a positive effect on the success of your website.

  8. I think you are right to point this out, as too many people focus on the number of visitations to their site. While a high visitation rate is all well and good, it’s far better to get them to stay and read a while. It’s not just about getting traffic to your site, for many people, like myself, who own their business and are trying to get new customers, it’s also about providing them with something of interest to get them to inquire about your services. Thanks for sharing the info.

  9. I think time spent on a site would be an extremely important factor soon. Especially when many sites have google analytics stats and google collects data from their browser – chrome. They’ll soon know where from your visitors go and what they expect to see – it’s so close to include these factors in search results.

  10. Good Post! I agree. I already have these problem on my sites. When i read your post, I realize that I know the reason for the bounce rate. Now I must correct my mistakes. Thanks for your post.

  11. I have tried to combat bounce rate by having loads and loads of info on my homepage, plenty to engage the reader and hopefully, the kind of info they are looking for.
    I think Google probably does use this – I would guess they use hiundreds of methods but the important factor is how much emphasis they place on bounce rate and I would think it will not be a lot.
    if the emphasis was high then that would pretty much spell the end for hundreds of thousands of “made for adsense” sites whose sole aim is to have the user leave via a sponsored link.
    Which would also mean google would lose revenue – surely??

  12. If google uses bounce rate then they are shooting themselves in the foot. low bounce rate can mean visitors are clicking on adsense ads and isn’t that what google wants most of all?

  13. So as I look at my statistics I note that each site has its own bounce rate. Mostly 50% and even greater except for an 80+ page site with examples of murals by an artist. His bounce rate/percentage is 45% which I consider remarkable.

    So what you are saying is put external links on the every page or just the index with a _blank tag and the bounce rate will decrease.

    I don’t get this the reasoning of this topic.

  14. i makes a great deal of sense to me to place emphasis on the bounce rate. Google’s stated goal is to improve the relevancy of offerings to its clients (searchers), so a ranking algorithm that uses bounce rate is going to assist in bringing to the top of results those sites that are excellent, but which have not yet gained the exposure currently needed to get seen. the emphasis on backlinks often means you can’t become a popular site until you have created your own system of backlinks, which is not the way it ought to be.

  15. I’m with you entirely on that, Stephen. .. and why can’t all those Google PhDs understand that and buy in to that concept. Or perhaps they are already starting. Unfortunately they don’t tell us.

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