Raise your hand if you start your SEO day with the goal of trying to improve your bounce rate…
Too often, SEO advice gets passed down so often through so many different people that it can be hard to tell fact from fiction.
And bounce rate is just another victim of false information in the SEO community.
You’ve likely read SEO advice like this from Brian Dean of Backlinko, who supports this with his own “industry study.”
However, his “industry study” was quickly called out for being “an effective piece of link bait” by the SEO community.
It should have been a red flag when I saw bounce rate paired with pogo-sticking, where he continued to spread false information.
To confirm, pogo-sticking is not a ranking factor. But I digress.
So, what’s the truth – is bounce rate a ranking factor? Does bounce rate impact your organic traffic?
The Claim: Bounce Rate as a Ranking Factor
Bounce rate reminds me of those reality TV spring break shows; it’s full of unrealistic expectations and ends up getting your hopes up. While the cast of “The Hills” appear to be shacked up at a swanky hotel in Tulum, they’re actually in a Motel 6 in Miami.
That’s how I see bounce rate when it comes to SEO.
So, What is Bounce Rate?
Bounce rate relates to the percentage of single-engagement visits to your site. Google Analytics tracks the number of people who visit your page and leave without viewing other pages on your site.
Bounce rate does not necessarily mean you need to improve the quality of your site. The user flow of your site should be designed for your customer journey, not bounce rate.
Here are some myths, facts, and truths you should know about how bounce rate impacts your rankings.
Bounce Rate as a Ranking Factor: The Evidence
On June 12, 2020, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that Google does not use bounce rate as a ranking factor in a webmaster hangout.
“I think there’s a bit of misconception here that we’re looking at things like the analytics bounce rate when it comes to ranking websites, and that’s definitely not the case.”
There is historical data to support this message.
On April 14, 2017, Google’s Gary Illyes said on Twitter, “bounce rate is not a good signal.”
And, way back in 2008, Google’s Matt Cutts said in a Sphinn forum, “bounce rates would not only be spammable but noisy.”
“A search industry person recently sent me some questions about how bounce rate is done at Google, and I was like, ‘Dude, I have no idea about any things like bounce rate. Why don’t you talk to this nice Google Analytics evangelist who knows about things like bounce rate?’ I just don’t even run into people talking about this in my day-to-day life.”
It’s safe to say that bounce rate as a ranking factor is a myth.
Does Bounce Rate Affect Search Rankings?
Bounce rate doesn’t directly affect organic ranking.
However, it indirectly affects other ranking factors that Google cares about — slow page speed, low-quality design, poor mobile optimization, etc.
This is where time-on-page and bounce rate meet. Together, these metrics can tell you that you’ve created a good user experience.
If your webpage has a low bounce rate and high time-on-page, your webpage is in a good place.
A high time on page indicates your content is engaging – and creating an engaging website is a far better use of your time than trying to optimize for bounce rate.
Bounce Rate as a Ranking Signal: Our Rating
No, bounce rate is not a Google ranking factor.
Bounce rate is just a metric – and one Google has repeatedly said does not directly influence Google rankings.
Should you track your bounce rate and try to improve it? Yes – because it is one metric you can use to understand whether your content is successful.
Improving your bounce rate won’t help you rank better on Google. But lowering your bounce rate is usually a good indicator that your content is engaging, valuable, or useful.
Although most of the SEO community has thoroughly dismissed this idea as a myth, it somehow still persists.
So next time a client, colleague, peer, or your boss comes to you with 100% certainty that bounce rate is a Google ranking factor (thanks to some bad information they read), send them this article.
Featured image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal