In modern marketing, digital marketing is front and centre. But digital marketing is a hard nut to crack, because just when you think you’ve finally figured out what works for your website, Google goes and updates its algorithm, and you’re back in the dark again. 

But there are ways and means to get your head around digital marketing – not least through our SEO guides. However, there is one term that still baffles website owners because it is seemingly one of those things they can do very little about (we will counter this later). 

Bounce rate is an incredibly important metric to take into account when optimising your website, because Google places a high onus on it. Why? 

Well, bounce rate is essentially the percentage of users who click on your website and bounce away again after only viewing that one page. If that (bounce) rate is consistently high, Google autobots will deduce that what you’re offering isn’t relevant to the keywords you’re trying to rank for, and will drop you faster than GCSE German. 

Understanding what bounce rate is

The dream is this – you spend time and energy creating content that your users will lap up, love and share widely. This fabulous content will attract new leads, it will entice readers to spend hours on your site, it will increase conversions turning browsers into buyers and ultimately sending you whizzing up the SERP. 

The reality can be harsh. 

Every time someone clicks on the URL that takes them through to your website they have two options, either stay on the page and click through to another page (this is known as an absorbed ball), or they bounce back to the search results, more than likely to find something more relevant. This is known as a bounced ball. Hence the term, bounce rate. 

But you aren’t always going to be everyone’s cup of tea. So what are normal bounce rates?

Well, a good rule of thumb for bounce rate is:

  • Awesome: 25 – 40%
  • Average: 41 – 55% 
  • Hmm, work required: 56 – 70%
  • Alarm bells going off: 71+%

There are caveats attached to this – bounce rates will vary per industry, they will vary depending on the type of content you are offering and they will vary depending on the page the user landed on. A holding page with no links taking the reader anywhere else, for example, is likely to experience a 100% bounce rate. Blog posts are also likely to experience higher than normal bounce rates because they contain all the information the user is after on one page. 

Product pages on the other hand tend to have low bounce rates because people like to browse before making a selection. Users will likely click through to see what else you’re offering, thereby staying on your site and clicking through your various pages.

Time spent on the page

So, as mentioned above, anything below 40% bounce rate is to be lauded. Anything above 50% should have your digital marketing team scurrying to their desks to rectify the situation. 

But how do you know what needs fixing?

Also as mentioned above, there are so many factors that affect bounce rate, and just because someone reads one of your blog posts thoroughly and then leaves your website without clicking through to another page, doesn’t mean you’ve failed, or that the blog post needs changing. Because the length of time a user stays on the page should also be measured. 

If a user is getting everything they need without having to click through your website, that is a good thing. It could indirectly lead to a sale through your other channels. 

What is cause for concern however, is if users are clicking on your URLs and then bouncing back faster than a toddler on a permanent marker. So don’t just check your bounce rates, check the average time users are hanging around for. That will tell you what you need to work on. 

You can find this information in the Top Landing Page report on Google analytics

Why bounce rate affects search engine ranking

To clarify, a low bounce rate doesn’t automatically equal a high ranking – people don’t tend to stick around on contact pages, for example. Plus Matt Cutts from Google has categorically denied that bounce rate alone affects the ranking algorithm.

So if bounce rate doesn’t affect SERP, why are we even bothering with it?

Well, because it does inadvertently affect SERP, because it indirectly affects those SEO factors that Google uses to rank websites. 

Let’s explain. 

1. Slow load speed.

If your website takes an age to load, users will bounce. No one has time to hang around and wait. This results in a high bounce rate. Therefore you need to improve your website loading speed

2. Low quality website. 

If users reach your website and it is low quality and spammy, they will bounce. Not only will you lose potential customers, but Google will penalise you – Google will always favour quality over quantity. They are after all, all about pleasing the end user. 

3. Disconnect between content and keywords. 

If you’ve used keywords to entice users to click on your links only for them to find something they weren’t expecting, nor needing, at the end of the URL, they will bounce, because what you’re providing just isn’t relevant. And you will get penalised by Google for doing this, because as mentioned before, Google’s one aim in life is to please the user. 

4. Not mobile first. 

If your website isn’t optimised for mobile users, they will bounce. Who wants to squint at a condensed website on a small screen? No one, that’s who.

Even worse though, if your website isn’t optimised for mobile users, Google will more than likely not even include it in the SERP. 

Conclusion – bounce rate and SERP

So there you have it, bounce rate and why it affects your ranking. Yes, bounce rate doesn’t directly affect your ranking, but it will show you where any potential problems are for you to improve. And if you work on improving the UX and the usability of your website, even if you don’t improve your bounce rate, you will likely improve your ranking.

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