Google Analytics Bounce Rate, Is It Really a Vanity Metric?

Bounce Rate is a metric of measuring site performance from Google Analytics. People often ignore the impact that it might have on the improvement of website performance.

Here, you will learn about bounce rate, its relation to Google Trust Signals, get the insight of industry leaders and how to improve it.

What Is Bounce Rate?

According to Google, Bounce Rate is the ratio of “Number of visitors viewing one page at a given time” to the “Total entries to the page.”

Rb=Tv/Te

Where…

Rb= Bounce Rate of a Webpage

Tv= Number of Visits Viewing one Page at a Given Time

Te= Total Entries to the Page

For example, if you go online and search for an answer (let’s say, you search for “Top 3 densely populated cities”), find the answer and leave the site quickly. You get the information within 3 seconds.

In this case, it’s not a bounce. Google AI is intelligent enough to differentiate between bounce & non-bounce and then use it to determine the quality of their SERP (search engine results page).

For example, if you are offering shorter form content, the time on site would be less and in the case of longer-form content, the dwell time would be higher.

Does Bounce Rate Help Search Engine Result Page (SERPs)?

Most people know Bounce Rate as a vanity metric. Many would argue about the impact of bounce rate on the SERPs. My opinion is, “It depends on the approach.”

In general, people often ignore bounce rate. But, if you are an SEO professional and you are not using this metric to improve the site performance, then you are missing one of the most important factors.

Google suggests that you examine your bounce rate from different perspectives.

  • The Audience Overview report provides the overall bounce rate for your site.
  • The Channels report provides the bounce rate for each channel grouping.
  • The All Traffic report provides the bounce rate for each source/medium pair.
  • The All Pages report provides the bounce rate for individual pages.

“If your overall bounce rate is high, then you need to dig deeper to see whether it’s uniformly high or it’s the result of something like one or two channels, source/medium pairs, or just a few pages.”

Once you have figured out the source of high bounce rate, you can improve the content, properties or information for better UX (User Experience) and ultimately the website performance.

I ran a Poll on Facebook & Twitter regarding Bounce Rate. Here are the results…

Facebook Poll
Twitter Poll

For clarity, I am not trying to establish a democracy here. My point is, if “Bounce Rate” is a nonsense metric Google would not keep this as a metric in the first place.

What Our Industry Leaders Are Saying About Bounce Rate?

Bill Slawski

Bounce Rate is a noisy signal that may or may not have anything to do with how effective a page may be. Because you don’t know if someone used information from that page, or if they had to leave their desk to eat lunch and didn’t some back to the page.”

Ammon Johns

“They (Search Engines) are not using Bounce Rate to determine the quality of the site. They are using it to determine the quality of their recommendations and results. “

Gareth Daine

“Google may or may not use bounce rate, combined with dwell time, as a ranking signal. The idea is that if someone clicks through to your result from search, stays on the page for a specific period, and then does or doesn’t return to search it allows Google to ‘estimate’ the quality of the results returned. I get the idea, and it makes sense to some degree, but the problem is that bounce rate is not necessarily the best metric to calculate this, even when combined with dwell time. You see, it doesn’t account for things such as leaving pages open but never reading them, finding the information needed very quickly and leaving to perform another search, closing a browser tab then opening a new tab and performing a new search, clicking a link from an irrelevant result in the hopes that the linked page has information you need, plus many other permutations. It’s noisy and quite difficult to interpret as a quality signal. I’m not yet entirely convinced that this plays a big role in ranking, although it most certainly has some connection to Google’s machine learning input.”

How Can High Bounce Rate Affect Your Ranking?

Google takes into account a number of trust signals to determine the value of contents on the page. There are over 200 different signals that Google uses to determine rankings.

In this video, Matt Cutts talks about Google Trust Signals. He gives three notions for the content of a page i.e. reputation, trust & authority.

Now, how does bounce rate relate to reputation, trust, and authority?

Bounce rate can indicate different trust signals like,

  • Quality of that page content
  • Relevance of Information

Google Machine Learning Algorithm gets different data from user activities. They even used blocked site data from Chrome as part of Google’s Panda Update to fight against low-quality content. Quality content and relevant information refers to low bounce rate and vice versa.

Quality Of Page Content

Bounce Rate can be used to determine the quality of page content for a particular type of query. For example, if you search for “diabetic diet” on Google…

Let’s take two results from the search:

The Mayo Clinic page offers a more focused diet plan with detailed generalized content. On this page you will find the following topics:

  • Introduction
  • Definition
  • Purpose
  • Diet Details
  • Recommended Food
  • Foods to Avoid
  • Putting it all together: Creating a plan
  • A sample menu
  • Results
  • Risks

While, the American Diabetes Association page covers a larger diversity but the details there are not quite enough. On this page you will find the following topics:

  • Eating Patterns and Meal Planning
  • What is a Meal Plan?
  • What is an Eating Pattern?
  • Mediterranean
  • Vegetarian or Vegan
  • Low Carbohydrate
  • Low Fat
  • DASH
  • Looking for a quick place to start?
  • Key Takeaways
  • How to find a registered dietitian

Relevance Of Information

When searching on Google for “What is Plantar Fasciitis?”

Let’s take two examples for this result:

The user can leave the page after reading the featured snippet (definition). Let’s say, he/she clicks on that 1st link. From that page, that user can learn more about,

  • What is plantar fasciitis?
  • What causes plantar fasciitis?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
  • How is it treated?
  • How long will it take for the pain to go away?
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Now, that is something Google takes into account in the case of trust. Google is wise enough to take bounce rate into account for calculating the quality of a webpage for that specific query. For ranking, Google chose that link over mayoclinic.org article about plantar fasciitis. Why?

  1. That featured link has the specific answer to the user query “What is Plantar Fasciitis?”. On the other hand, the Mayo Clinic article didn’t trigger the query specifically.
  2. The featured snippet article had additional information related specifically to plantar fasciitis.
  3. The readability and presentation of that featured article are better than the mayo clinic article.

The bounce rate can indicate a trust signal for this specific query that this article is better than the mayo clinic article. Let’s say you are ranked on the first page at position 9 for that query and getting a high bounce rate. Use this metric to improve the overall performance.

So, when you have a deep study of bounce rate, you can optimize your content, site structure, internal linking structure, and finally improve User Experience hence the trust signal.

Previously, I have shown different metrics in two simplified relations which are key factors to generate Digital Marketing Strategy.

  1. Quality Content + Low Bounce Rate + Faster Load Time + Longer Dwell Time—>>>Good UX (User Experience)
  2. UX + Backlinks + CTR + Social Signal—–>>>SERPs (Search Engine Result Page)

12 Steps for Reducing Bounce Rate

As I always say, “Everything is Connected,” Bounce Rate cannot impact search results alone, but along with other metrics, it can be used to improve site performance. Here are some generalized tips for lowering your Bounce Rate:

  1. Know your audience and design user-friendly & responsive landing pages
  2. Increase the readability of your content (No large paragraphs or uncommon words)
  3. Provide relevant content according to users’ query
  4. Target more specific keywords for ranking higher
  5. Provide relevant resources within your site by proper internal link mapping
  6. Use proper external link source (if there is any)
  7. Make every relevant external link open in a new window or tab
  8. Avoid Pop-Ups altogether for mobile devices or make them easier to close
  9. Reduce the page load time
  10. Update outdated information or data (if there is any)
  11. Make your Navigation user-friendly
  12. Make your site compatible with different browsers.

We can use bounce rate to improve the website performance. In this article, you will learn about bounce rate, ways to improve and insights from industry leaders.

— Author Bio —

Jubayer Hossain is a SEO Consultant and Entrepreneur.  He Helped Hundreds of Companies/Business Owners By Improving Their Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPs) For Both Local and Organic. He has founded Ninja Creative Marketing in 2017. Read his Blog. Learn more about him at LinkedIn. Follow him on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Google Analytics Bounce Rate, Is It Really a Vanity Metric?”

  1. This is a very comprehensive post Jubayer. I do however disagree that Google uses Bounce Rate (in the way that we know it) for anything, solely due to the fact it can be manipulated with custom events (that fire to the GA server causing an “interaction”), and how many people genuinely don’t get an installation right.

    I wrote this post back in 2016 on SEMrush explaining it a little more: https://www.semrush.com/blog/should-you-worry-about-your-content-s-bounce-rate/

    Bounce rate for me is also subjective to the content, and what/how it satisfies user intent. If a user lands on your blog post about Mount Everest and is met pretty early on with a ‘table of awesome facts’ and they see the information they need, and they close the tab or click the back button – has this content failed? What if they read every word of your review of a new piece of industry software then clicked back? In GA you’ll see a high bounce rate, but does this mean your content had low engagement?

    Dan Taylor
    TechSEO Podcast

    1. My point is to improve UX & UI and bounce rate can be used to go further. Google machine learning algorithm uses user behaviour to determine a lot of factors. As per your “Mount Everest” example, it is not bounce. In most cases, high bounce rate is the result of low quality content. In those cases, a deep study can help you determine what is causing bounce rate to go up and improving the presentation and quality can definitely make a difference there.

      1. Hi Jubayer,

        I agree user experience is important but Bounce Rate (as we see it in GA) is not a true indication of user behaviour because of how easily manipulated.

        Bounce rate, time on site, they’re metrics that are far too easily broad stroked into saying they’re good or bad indicators of user experience. If a page has a 5 minute long video, and some text, and the average time on site is 6 minutes but the bounce rate is 99%, that is not poor user experience.

        I think you have the right idea, but I’d look more at SERP pogo-sticking as a better indicator than bounce rate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *