Is Bounce Rate A Ranking Factor For Google?


A typical marketer’s SEO efforts might revolve around trying to improve their bounce rate. And bounce rate is just another victim of false information in the SEO community.

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In his “industry study”, Brian Dean of Backlinko, is giving some valuable SEO advice on bounce rate. However, his “industry study” was quickly called out for being “an effective piece of link bait” by the SEO community.

So, what’s the truth about bounce rate? Is it really a ranking factor? Does bounce rate impact your organic traffic?


Here’s a look into it:

Though SEO experts have been debating the relevance of Google Analytics bounce rate to search engine ranking for years, yet, several misconceptions still surround this topic. 

Many website owners optimize for lower bounce rates in the hope of improving their ranking, while lower bounce rates don’t simply translate into higher rankings.

But the answer seems clear enough that bounce rates don’t affect SERP. And if that were false, how do we explain Backlinko’s conclusion that low bounce rates are associated with higher rankings? 


What does bounce rate measure?

The percentage of single-engagement visits to your site accounts for your bounce rate.

This indicates that what Google Analytics is actually tracking is the number of visitors who come to your page and leave without viewing any other page on your website.

Marketers usually interpret this measurement to determine whether the webpage provided the user with what they were looking for.

Hence, bounce rate is not a measurement of how long a user spends on your page. Your page might be highly engaging and you had a high bounce rate doesn’t mean the user spent a high time and had left.

There are two implications:

The first one is that the bounce rate is not necessarily bad.

A bounce rate can be explained as the effect of ineffective content and/or low accessibility, it could also be the result of a mismatch between keywords and content or even the purpose of the page.

Thus, optimizing for bounce rate does not necessarily mean you are improving the quality of your website or will be helping your website become more useful for your visitors.

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Secondly, an overemphasis on bounce rate can decrease the usability of your site.

For instance, if you think about turning every page you have into two pages and linking them together to forcibly decrease the bounce rate of your site, the analytics might show that you have improved your KPI. But, from the user experience, you’ve turned a simple, accurate site into a mess. 

Hence, the roadmap of your website and your user funnel should be purposeful in design rather than bounce rate focused.


Google doesn’t use bounce rate as a metric. Here’s why:


1. Bounce rate is not a reliable measurement of quality

As discussed before, bounce rate cannot accurately determine user engagement as it does not factor in time spent on the page. And, bounce rate varies widely across industries. 

So, it does not make sense for Google to punish certain types of websites based on their Google Analytics’ bounce rate. 


2. Google lacks access to Analytics data.

Google Analytics data is considered integral to any sort of testing or analysis, Google isn’t likely to see things the same way.

And people who believe Google has reason to stalk Google Analytics data cite one of two reasons, each of which can be deconstructed.


3. Google Analytics can be easily manipulated.

The amount of posts that are published on how to detect and filter out bot behavior in Google Analytics is a powerful indicator of Google Analytics’ inherently unreliable nature. 

Hence, if Google Analytics isn’t powerful enough to automatically filter out manipulative behavior, there is no reason for Google to employ this “flawed” data in its ranking system.


4. Many websites are not using Google Analytics.

The fact is, by W3Techs’ estimates, only about 54.3% of all websites use Google Analytics.

There are sites that don’t use any type of analytics tools and of the sites that do use analytics tools, not all use Google Analytics. Therefore, Google Analytics’ bounce rate cannot be used as a ranking factor.

The fact is that Google does not need to rely on Google Analytics to source data about the traffic and content of websites. Instead, Google employs its own tools to determine your actual website bounce rate: the pogo-sticking algorithm.

The pogo-sticking algorithm is Google’s tool for tracking user pogo-sticking. The analysis works like this; when a user clicks a link but realizes it is not what they’re looking for, they return to the search results page to click on another link, then, they are pogo-sticking, meaning, bouncing around from page to results to page to results and so on.

The thing is Google does not quantify the amount of pogo-sticking your webpage causes through bounce rate, but rather through the number of long clicks and short clicks your website generates.

A long click occurs when a user clicks on a result and stays on that page for a long time. And, they don’t return to the results page. A short click, on the other hand, occurs when a user clicks on a link and quickly returns to the results page. 

Long clicks are the best sign of user happiness and what Google optimizes for.

From the SEO point of view, the implications are clear, ranking requires generating long clicks and keeping your long to short click ratio high rather than dwelling on bounce rate.

But, knowing why Google doesn’t use Google Analytics’ bounce rate brings us to a rather surprising conclusion: bounce rate still matters.

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While bounce rate doesn’t directly affect your page ranking, it is still something you should understand and be able to improve upon.

High bounce rates are symptoms of deeper problems like user experience issues or poor targeting. These are the things for concern. 

By getting in touch with our digital marketing company Kochi you can work on the deeper problems like usability and customer targeting, SEO problems, and improve sales as well.