Opinion: Is SERP Bounce a Ranking Signal or a Quality Factor for SEO?

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A long debate is on whether website’s bounce rate is a ranking signal for SEO. The fact is, Google does have the ability to track any page’s bounce rate using Google Analytics, Google Toolbar, and free Google Wifi. Using this as a universal ranking signal would be too much spying. Google also has no right to spy on internal user data of all the world’s sites, even if everyone allows them.

While talking about bounce rate and SEO, I heard a few people talking about SERP Bounce and it being a SEO factor. It was not possible to give any concrete reference whether SERP Bounce is an influential SEO Factor, since Google never confirmed it. Though it seemed, it was something that Google can use either as quality factor or as ranking signal for SEO. Moreover, Google also has the ability and right to track this user behavior.

Recently, Google introduced a new feature called “Block all site results”, which is only available when you are logged in and make a SERP Bounce. The blog post by Google does confirm that SERP Bounce is now a SEO Factor.

What is SERP Bounce?

Search Engine Result Page or SERP Bounce is the incident where you bounce back from a website to the Google search results. Google can identify the clicks you made and whether you came back to the search result page. When you open the results in multiple tabs, and close them, that will not count as a SERP Bounce. Google can identify a SERP Bounce, only if you hit the Back Button to their search result page.

Is SERP Bounce a Quality Factor or Ranking Signal?

Few years back Google introduced Search Wiki, which many SEO professionals thought to be a very important ranking factor. But, it turned out to be a spam identification method for Google Web Spam Team. The “Block all site results” feature is also a similar feature. Google introduced the feature to track spammy pages and to tweak their algorithm.

According to Google:

We’re adding this feature because we believe giving you control over the results you find will provide an even more personalized and enjoyable experience on Google. In addition, while we’re not currently using the domains people block as a signal in ranking, we’ll look at the data and see whether it would be useful as we continue to evaluate and improve our search results in the future.

This confirms that SERP Bounce is not a ranking signal after all. But, can be a great SEO Factor for the Google Web Spam Team in identifying the quality of a specific domain.

The Drawback

Since Google started giving authority sites more love for long tail keywords, some authority sites might rank for keywords that are not relevant. In that case, many authority sites may get blocked if they are not much relevant.

Moreover, different search intent can also trigger block if the searcher’s intent does not match the site’s content. e.g. when I search “Apple Notepad” in the hope that I’ll find many results for apple-shaped paper-based notepad, then none of the results from Apple.com will be much relevant for my intent for the search. Eventually, if I block Apple.com’s results, it really doesn’t mean that the site is low quality.

But, we are really not sure how Google will use the site block information. So, let’s hope they make good use of it.

Asif Anwar

Asif Anwar

Independent Digital Marketing Consultant at AsifAnwar.com
Asif Anwar is the internet marketing pioneer in Bangladesh. Former online marketing consultant for UNDP and Bangladesh Government. Internet marketing trainer, speaker, and moderator for... Read Full Bio
Asif Anwar
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  • Jenni

    It’s hard for Google to accurately assess the reason for a bounce; just because someone closes the tab or returns to the search results doesn’t mean the page is of low quality. Using it as a quality factor would cause a lot of problems.

    • Nate White

      There have been a few instances over the past month where I’ve performed a SERP bounce and Google pops a balloon over the link I just visited that says, “Did you find this page useful? +1 to recommend it on Google search!”

      I can only think that if someone proceeds to +1 that result it would positively affect it in the SERPs aside from the benefits it will receive from the +1 itself.

    • Krishan

      I think we are talking about SERP bounce here than web page bounce … no ?

      • Nate White

        “What is SERP Bounce? Search Engine Result Page or SERP Bounce is the incident where you bounce back from a website to the Google search results.”

        I’m guessing a SERP bounce is differentiated from a page bounce simply because it came from and goes to the SERPs. You can be on Wikipedia, click on a link to a different site, and click back to Wiki. That would be a regular page bounce but the SERPs aren’t involved.

  • Abul Kashem

    Thanks for your article . You concluded that bounce rate is not a ranking factor at all based on following claim:
    They can only track the bounce if you come back to their result page .
    Well, their algo is for their system . Not for others. Why they need to consider whether do the same if you use other’s system . Applying various techniques some site can rank highly . If for a certain url is shown for a certain keywords that does not mean that it is better than all down to it.

    Bouncing is a good signal to further judge the quality of the search result . I think even if you do not use analytic they get the data using various web service. If they do not have the rights to spy , how come other websites like Alexa, HitWise , Compete etc get the data to provide various information. What are their sources?

    Google if you consider their PPC program , they already use bounce rate and CTR to show the better ad . That system works fine for long . As it works in that system, there is no problem to include it in their ranking system.

    In fact bounce rate is a very good signals to provide user the better result.

    • Asif Anwar

      Thanks Kashem bhai. SERP Bounce is a special type of bounce when you only hit the back button to reach the SERP you left off from. Any behavior other than this, would not count as SERP Bounce. And Google has all the ability and right to track this behavior.

      This is a bit different thing than normal incident that makes the bounce rate scores. Bounce Rate is totally an internal private user data that Google can’t use as their ranking signal, since it is not an universal factor. Google will be leaving out those pages that they can’t track bounce rates and threaten the use of Google Analytics, Toolbar or WIfi.

      The bounce rate definition goes like this: Bounce rate (sometimes confused with exit rate) is the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.

      So whether you leave or not, does not measure whether the site is a quality site or not. Eventually, we all leave a site, even after reading the contents for an hour. In site like CNN and other news sites, we just get in to read the news and once reading, we leave the site without reading other news. That’s why each news pages have high bounce rate. But, it never indicates that the site is less quality.

      By using bounce rate as quality factor, Google would be too much interfering with the internal user data. If you follow the discussions here:

  • @DavidRFrank

    It is a symptom of a poor performing page but I don’t know if it is the driving signal in the algos.

  • Justin

    Asif, great post but what is your opinion stance on bounce being a rank factor or not?

    • Asif Anwar

      Thanks Justin, please see my immediate reply above made below the comment by Abul Kashem.

      • Asif Anwar

        Please click the link to my name in THIS comment to see the link I referred in the previous comment. Matt Cutts himself in the link said that he does not know what bounce rate is, then there is no use in advocating BR as a ranking signal.

  • Rick Thomas

    While the reasons for serp bounce are unknown, and it is difficult to assign a weighted value to the percentage of bounces a website has, it seems obvious that a bounce rate of 1% is significantly preferable to 100%. I would be rather surprised if Google didn’t factor it in to their algorithm somehow …

    • Asif Anwar

      Thanks Rick. Glad to see your comment here.

      A lot of people go to a specific news item on CNN.com and then leave the page, making the page highly bouncy. That can never be an indication that the news item in CNN.com is a low quality page.

  • Aurelie M

    Since SERP Bounce rate is visible in Google Webmaster Tool I use it to improve the title on my pages, it’s a factor SEOs are using to improve their traffic. It’s always something we thought Google would use as ranking factors, I don’t see why it wouldn’t use it, it’s a good signal to know if the content on the url satisfies the user or not.

  • Murad Palash

    So asif Bhai can we say those site have low bounce rate, google treat them as a quality site but those site got high bounce rate,google have no negative impression for them??

  • Abul Kashem

    Do you think MattCutt really does not know about bounce rate ? His statement does not make sure that it is not a signal .

    How often you find news item in regular search in your daily search ? Well I do not get . There is a huge difference between low quality or relatively lower quality for a search term . You must agree that Google leaves not stones unturned to provide the best result for a search term . For a given keyword if the bounce rate of number 2 item is far higher than any other item , does that not mean that number 2 item has less value for visitors than other items ?

    Search Result is the product of Google . Once they produce it for you for a certain term , if they examine the quality of the search result with bounce rate or CTR , where is the problem ? How come it is too much interference ?

    They have every right to analyse their result and improve it further observing user activity like bounce rate and CTR.

  • adumpaul

    Nice article.You concluded that bounce rate is not a ranking factor because they can only track the bounce if you come back to their result page .Thanks for sharing.