Mysterious Metrics: A Look at Google Analytics Bounce Rate
There are a lot of aspects to ponder about once one decides to refine their SEO endeavors. Quality content, engaging metadata, well crafted Call-to-Actions and a great many other things to consider. And if that wasn’t enough to please almighty Google, it had to go and throw in its own definition of what bounce rate is. Adding to many an online marketeer’s worries about whether or not their site rankings hinged on Google’s confusing mandate. Nobody can fault you for being the slightest bit perplexed about Google Analytics Bounce Rate. The bounce rate definition might seem simple enough to the more meticulous reader. but to most of us Joe Schmoes, it’s a bit confusing in what it sets out to mean:
“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.“
That was fancy robot talk that basically translates to “People come to your site, hit a page, then get out of dodge.” The way Google Analytics calculates its own version of bounce rate is by dividing the number of single visits to a page during a specific period of time over the total number of visits to the same page in the same period of time. And supposedly, nothing else. One can deduce that having a high bounce rate is bad for business, while having a moderate to low bounce rate is fine and dandy. But it’s just not that clear cut.
So in order to shed some light on the issue, we’re going to put most of the the facets relevant to bounce rates at large in perspective and try to figure out how much Google Analytics Bounce Rate actually matters when it comes to SEO.
Bounce? Rate? Those Are New
They’re not. And no, they have nothing to do with bouncy castles (unfortunately). But bounces and bounce rates are two of the more noteworthy aspects that may govern your blog or website’s search engine results page ranking. Let’s assume that you’re looking for information about knitting clothes for badgers (no judgement here). And after a zippy Google search, you gaze upon the first page of your inquiry’s SERPs. Naturally, you go for the closest link to your search inquiry, assuming it has what you need. You waltz in, finally ready to knit that cozy sweater for your badger friend when you find that the page is poorly planned, has unappealing and frankly dull content, and is basically full of ads and click bait. Disappointed with your brief but harrowing experience, you decide to leave the page in the span of a few seconds. Never to return again.
That was a bounce according to Google Analytics Bounce Rate.
You go back and resume the hunt for cozy badger fashion tips. You click on another site that seems kind of promising and hope for the best. Turns out, this singular page you went to has all the information you need on how to keep Benson the badger warm and snug throughout winter, and it even goes in detail on all the aspects you were worried about. So you spend upwards of twenty minutes learning as much as you can. When you feel satisfied and full of woolen knowledge, you leave the page.
That was also a bounce according to Google Analytics Bounce Rate.
See the problem? Google Analytics Bounce Rate supposedly disregards things like user satisfaction and content quality. It’s a possibly useful metric to gauge your online marketing efforts. Focusing more on whether or not people visited other pages on your website. The more page views Google perceives, the better (lower) your bounce rate. And the faster and more often they leave without poking and prodding, the worse (higher) your bounce rate will be. One can deduce from the humble example above that this isn’t exactly fair. And it isn’t, were it to be totally true.
Standard bounce rating algorithms consider a page hit without any interaction or engagement as an effective bounce, disregarding time spent and user satisfaction. Now obviously search engines don’t just dismiss the time you took reading the article and scrolling up and down and whatnot. There are many terms, calculations and conditions that govern how Google Analytics ranks your sites. Sticking to just Google Analytics Bounce Rate isn’t very prudent though. And to have a better grasp on the topic, some education is in order.
Ambiguity and High Bounce Rate
It’d be wise to state once and for all that Google Analytics Bounce Rate measurements has no real impact on your site ranking. Now that that’s out of the way, high bounce rates aren’t always an accurate indication of how bad your pages are performing. Usually when anyone does anything, they do it with a specific purpose in mind. If you’ve ever taken a look at Google Analytics and its bounce rate for your sites, you’ll notice that a lot of pages you’ve planned out from the get-go to be informative rather than for generating views and conversions to have a high bounce rate. Now does that mean you’re doing something wrong? Not really. You designed those pages to convey a message your visitor was clearly looking for. Information about something they need or want. They find it, dwell on it, then pop out. Meaning you’ve benefited someone in need. And who knows? Maybe they’ll come back for more, explore your site or link back to it on their own blogs and social media accounts. Google Analytics Bounce Rate, without the proper configuration and understanding required to benefit from it, automatically assumes somebody leaving within 30 minutes of them visiting a page to be a bounce. But it doesn’t factor in dwell time or events such as scroll tracking, which would have factored into the previous example and lowered the already high bounce rate. Remember that bounce rates are almost entirely based on what you want them to portray. Do you want them to be a representation of page visits? dwell time? content quality? It’s all for the sake of your analysis.
It’s also wise to keep in mind that Google Analytics can easily be manipulated to fudge the bounce rate. rates as low as 10% or even 5% have been seen numerous times. Either due to bad installation or malicious intent. Rates as low as these are a cause for alarm and scrutiny.
Google Analytics Bounce Rate and SEO
It’s safe to say that we’ve effectively covered the cliff notes pertaining to both search engine optimization and proper online marketing tips in the past. The key to a strong online market presence and proper SEO is quality content first and foremost. You want your blogs and websites to be home to many attractive insights and engaging events that do almost all the work for you. And even though Google doesn’t use Google Analytics exclusively to govern your site rankings, It’s still a worthwhile idea to use Google Analytics Bounce Rate as more of a gauge of how well your site performance and potential conversion rates can improve:
Before and After
Google Analytics Bounce Rate can be a great a tool to figure out how well your sites are doing over time. You might think that an aspect of your landing page is poor and want to change it to something different. Maybe add some Calls-to-Action like newsletter subscriptions or more links to relevant pages or partners. Maybe that one ad you’ve had for a while is bothering people and making them buzz off far faster than you’ve anticipated. Or maybe you want to optimize your pages with a continuous sidebar to further your site’s usability and appeal to would-be-leads. How would you know if any of these changes had any real impact? It’s true that bounce rate is a fundamentally flawed concept if perceived as a gauge of how well your site is doing overall. But it’s a nifty indicator of how often people visit, stay on and explore your sites between different iterations. Provided you’ve tinkered with it enough to include proper page hit detection and event logging.
See a Need, Fill a Need
Now you want to know how well your informative content is holding up against others. You want to see how you can optimize it as much as humanly possible. This is where an adequately configured Google Analytics can come into play. By investing in advanced scroll tracking and paying closer attention to dwell time, which is the actual stretch of time that visitors spend on a page before jumping back to the SERPs, you can figure out whether or not your potential patrons actually enjoyed the content you worked so hard on sharing with the masses. Taking into account the time they spent reading it, the time they took before disappearing and the amount of scrolls up and down the page. In this scenario, these are all events that positively impact your site’s popularity and actual bounce rate.
Similarly, If your site is more geared towards direct engagement via engagement hits, such as subscriptions or item checkouts (ecommerce), then Google Analytics Bounce Rate can be a good indicator of how well your site’s layout is actually doing. In this scenario, you’re looking for a typically lower bounce rate, signifying more interaction with the site’s features and less premature evacuation. All depending on whether or not you have your Google Analytics properly configured.
Matters of Perspective
While the brick and mortar definition of Google Analytics Bounce Rate or any other bounce rate my sound disheartening to would-be online entrepreneurs only wishing to funnel more potential leads down their virtual funnels, it all comes down to how you can view it in a way that serves you and your SEO endeavors through insight rather than a simple choice between good or bad. One would hope that after reading through this article, one can deduce that bounce rates aren’t a black and white indicator of how good your content or brand is or how well you rank on Google’s search engine results pages. It’s clear that Google Analytics Bounce Rate is more aimed at cross examining your strategies in a variety of ways. Comparing current you to past you in terms of page content, SEO and general ranking on a SERP. Though it has no direct impact on your ranking, it does a good job of telling you how people react to your pages, how well your message is conveyed to them and what you can do to generate more appeal towards your online presence.
There’s also the matter of bounce rate versus exit rate. Bounce rates generally apply to visitors leaving single pages, usually your landing page. Whereas exit rates apply to visitors leaving after several pages. What this means is if a visitors were to read a multi-page article on your site and leave somewhere in the middle, that could mean your content isn’t engaging enough. But if they leave on the absolute last page, it could mean your content was interesting enough to follow through. Make of it what you want in accordance to how you want to lay down your strategy and SEO.
Other metrics that are well worth your time and research would have to be Click-Through rate and dwell time. We briefly mentioned what dwell time is but just in case it wasn’t clear enough, it’s basically how long people stay on your pages before leaving, and obviously a high dwell time means your pages are engaging enough to garner somebody’s attention for more than a few seconds. But what about CTR? It’s a metric most search engines including Google makes good use of when it comes to ranking sites. More clicks obviously means more traffic, but it can easily be manipulated with misleading titles and cheap, shady metadata. Now if you were to pair those two metrics together, you’d have a much higher quality system of appraising your web content. comparing the level of both CTR and dwell time on each of your sites would give you an accurate representation of how good your content actually is compared to standard Google Analytics Bounce Rate.
Is it Over?
Afraid so. Though these few insights into how Google Analytics Bounce Rate and most other metrics and aspects of Google’s ranking are nifty, they are by no means the only references you need to get started on your quest to rank high and dry on Google’s good side. Consider running around a bit and reading more into the matter all over the great, wide interwebs. Time is money after all.