Why bounce rate is not an SEO factor

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It remains a point of discussion in the SEO world, does the bounce rate influence your positions in the search engines or not? There are quite good arguments for why drop-off visitors are a negative signal.

On the other hand, there are also reasons why that is positive. All very complicated, isn’t it? Let’s go through everything, starting with what bounce rate is.

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave a webpage without having to worry about it. At least, if you start from how Google puts it: “A bounce is a session where only one page of your site is loaded.” So after having visited 1 page, the visitor leaves the website. However, this is not entirely true and you can lower the bounce rate yourself without inciting visitors to visit more pages.

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How To Reduce Bounce Without Extra Page Visit

You can positively influence the bounce rate and therefore lower it. If you do not set goals (events) in your Google Analytics (GA), the above bounce rate definition applies. By setting goals, you lower the bounce rate because these goals were not initially measured and therefore did not contribute to a clear analysis of visitor behavior.

Yet Google also provides the same explanation in Google Analytics, with a surprising explanation that I will come back to:

My definition of bounce rate

“A visitor comes to a webpage and leaves it without taking any action (which you have set yourself).”

So that is something different than leaving your website after visiting 1 page. And that is right. A visitor who watches a video on your page takes more effort than someone who just looks around and is gone quickly. And someone who stays on a page for more than 3 minutes also shows a higher involvement than someone who immediately draws his conclusion and leaves your website within a few seconds. You only have to set it yourself in Google Analytics (GA).

Is high bounce rate by definition bad?

A high bounce rate does not have to be bad. If you do not set goals in GA yourself, you can have a very high bounce rate, and therefore even a very low average session duration. So suppose you blog regularly and share this a lot on social media. The largest part of the visitors on your blog pages only reads that one blog and then leaves your website. They came there with only one goal: to read that blog. Someone who can seduce them to read other articles or even pages on the website. As a result, there is a lot of bounce.

How to Set Up Google Analytics to Reduce Bounce Rate

By properly setting up Google Analytics, you set goals that are realistic.

A few examples:

  • watching a video
  • scroll over the page, so that the content is also displayed “below the fold”
  • visit duration of longer than x seconds or x minutes
  • Post a reaction
  • Click on an external link

As you probably understand, these are things that are not measured as standard and therefore lead to a bounce. Until you set them as an event/goal. If you have set up events, then your bounce rate will decrease. More about this at Google analysis help.

Why Bounce Rate Cannot Affect Your Rankings

From the above, we can logically state that the bounce rate cannot influence your positions (rankings) in the search engines.

Firstly, because you simply have an influence on bounce rate. And if you do not use the settings for events, would only the lack of that setting have a negative impact on your SEO? And then you could even set it so that you do not have a bounce at 1 second of visiting time, which you can safely call manipulation.

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Furthermore,

the bounce rate cannot affect your rankings because not everyone uses Google Analytics. So Google cannot get the bounce rate from every website. Google also states that they do not use data from GA for the rankings. And although you can safely approach Google, I dare to believe them in this. Especially because no conclusions can be drawn purely from the GA data.

How about a session with a duration of 0 seconds?

Did you see it in the explanation above in Google Analytics? “A session that has been bounced has a duration of 0 seconds.”

Let it sink.

Yes, I had to do that too, because this suddenly explains a lot when I look at the duration of my website. This is therefore greatly reduced by visitors who only read a blog and then leave the website. Because if you now only read this article, it is a bounce and therefore a visit duration of 0 seconds. Justly? Not for me.

Why I am surprised about this

Now you may think,

why is am surprised about this now, he knows things like that anyway? No. At least, I also don’t know everything and Google also changes something regularly. Not only in search results, but also in tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console. When I checked my Google Analytics, I saw a very low session duration and visit times per page of 0 seconds. Very much. And I didn’t understand that. As far as I know, the duration of a session was always measured as usual.

Not so.

And so your data is heavily polluted by the bounces

Visitors who leave your website after 1-page visit not only ensure a high bounce rate, but also a very low average session duration. While that is not really true. That session duration is certainly considerably higher, but you don’t see that because a bounce sets the session duration to 0. Which actually causes your data to be heavily polluted.

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So grab the code from the Web Analysts article and simply lower your bounce rate.

Why Would a Bounce be Negative?

Surely it is not so strange that visitors only visit 1 page on your website? Someone who comes for information on your contact page or any other specific web page does not necessarily have to visit another page on your website. So there is no reason to use the bounce rate as an SEO factor. Someone can easily visit 1 webpage and have a great experience. The visit time can even be a few seconds and still ensure a satisfied visitor. And that is just a positive signal, which you cannot see from bounce or visit duration.

Someone else had an argument why bounce rate would be a signal or even a factor for your findability? Feel free to let us know what you think about it, ask your question or give your opinion in the comments below.

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