Bounce Rate: An Introduction
Bounce rate is widely used in website traffic analysis. It represents the average percentage of online visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site. (Read more about Bounce Rates at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounce_Rate )
Bounce rates are used extensively by online marketers to analyze users and their preferences. For example, you have a web design article site with more than 500 articles. However, if your bounce rate is higher then it implies that something is wrong with your site. Either visitors are finding your site hard to navigate, or your content is not being perceived as helpful by visitors. Also, it could be possible that you are unable to target potential customers. If your product is meant for kids, then you need to target age groups of 5-10 (depending on your product). If your bounce rate is high, it implies that either you are targeting wrong age group or your content / product is not attracting any attention by the visitors. (Refer to: http://www.google.com/adwords/learningcenter/text/38069.html to know more about bounce rates, and other terms associated with it)
If you are using Google analytic or any other analytic then it will show you the bounce rates for various keywords ( organic or PPC visitors). You don’t need to sit with a pen and pencil to calculate bounce rate for every single click. Most of the analytic scripts will handle this aspect for you including Google analytics (Everybody loves free products ).
Bounce Rate and SEO Connection
Bounce rate was more inclined towards marketing/business aspect of any website. However, in the past few months SEO industry is getting some inside information that Google could be using bounce rates to determine top page rankings (especially on top pages of Google search results ranging from pages 1-10).
This technique could be used to ward-off black hat SEO sites which are artificially optimized for unrelated keywords. These websites will naturally display high bounce rates.
On the other hand, this same technique can be used by competitors to pull down other competitor sites on organic listings. This practice is widely common in Pay Per Click which is also termed as Click Fraud (http://blog.seohawk.com/click-fraud/). This technique is used to exhaust PPC budget of competitor sites.
Therefore, Google will use Bounce rate data carefully and it can be used for temporary period of time. For example a website with higher bounce rates might get pushed to pages 3-4 from Page 1 for duration of 10-15 days. This is all what any SEO Services Consultant can perceive from Google’s viewpoint. Google has not made this information available to anyone, but it could be using these sorts of techniques to promote genuine websites with genuine content.
The ultimate goal of any search engine is to present best information to any visitor who is searching for that specific keyword. Therefore Bounce rate can prove as a helpful tool in giving priority to certain websites over others.
However, Google cannot afford to grant permanent positions to any website (unless it shows consistent bounce rate over a period of 6 months – 1 year. This tool can be used to decide who will rank on the top page, but it doesn’t imply that every single site with higher bounce rates will be pushed to the bottom or will receive some sort of penalty .
Google can use bounce rates in following manner:-
a) If any website hasn’t installed Google analytic then Google can rely on number of separate I.P clicks received on a particular website over a period of time from within Google search results.
b) Once a user clicks on the site, and Google detects Google analytics, then it can use Bounce rate as a factor to decide whether your site is helpful to your visitors or not.
If Google has introduce this feature then it must be using a combination of other parameters to grant that “Temporary High Rankings” to websites with lesser bounce rates .
Therefore, Google will try its best to ensure that this ranking factor doesn’t get manipulated by Black Hat SEOs. Moreover, it could be possible that Google is only using websites listed on top 10 pages who have genuinely gained positions. Any new website trying to gain instant rankings will be checked by various parameters as compared to an established website.
Google has clearly distinguished keywords on the basis of their competitive levels. If a keyword is highly competitive then you need to pass several “TESTS” before gaining top positions. However, if a keyword is less-competitive, then you can score higher rankings quickly.
We conducted some experiments on different websites using Google analytics. Some of these websites were not using Google analytics. At the end of these experiments we did observe some changes in the ranking positions, but you cannot perceive the exact manner in which it was done by Google. We did observe some changes and this experiment was also conducted to gain higher rankings of a website which is ranking on Google.co.uk to a different geo location (Google.ca or any other).
If your website is genuinely helpful to visitors then Google analytic can help your site to gain higher rankings. However, if your website is not helpful, then Bounce rate within Google analytic could effect your rankings.
Therefore the best way is to make your website informative in terms of content and usability. Always target best audience and abstain from gaining artificial rankings. If your articles are helpful then users will automatically bookmark them and promote them on other social bookmarking sites.
You can also try to remove Google analytics, but it wont help you much. Even if you remove Google analytics, Google can still collect this data easily from Google toolbar. So all those users who visit your website and have Google toolbar installed can pass off some useful information to the Google search engine ranking algorithm.
If Alexa can collect traffic data from users who have installed Alexa toolbar, then why can’t Google use the same TRICK .
Google bounce rate can be a blind tool, if you are receiving 100 phone calls from potential visitors.
Therefore it could be more applicable to those genuinely ranking on top 1-10 pages of google or those who are indulging in heavy black hat spamming techniques .