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What does Bounce Rate mean in SEO?

The bounce rate refers to how often someone, after entering your website, clicks the back button on their browser to go back to where they were or leaves your site by some other method (e.g types the URL of another site in the browser).

In other words, and this is a very important point of definition to ensure it is not confused with other terms like:

  • Dwell Time - how long a visitor who came from a search engine stays on your web page before clicking the back button and returning to the search results. The may visit more than one page, the search engine can't tell.
  • Pogo Sticking - users who carry out a search on a platform like Google, visiting a page in the search results, pressing the back button to return to the search results, visiting a different page recommended there, and so on.

Bounce rate is the percentage of your website traffic that only ever visits one page on your site, regardless of where they came from..

Should you worry about a high bounce rate?

Depends. High bounce rates on their own are not necessarily a bad thing. Much depends on three other factors:
  1. what is your bounce rate like compared to your competitors?
  2. how long does it take before a visitor bounces and how does this compare to your competitors? (aka Time to Bounce)
  3. What do they do after they bounce? If they came from a search engine do they carry on looking for further information (a signal to the search engine that your site did not completely meet their needs)?

Many eCommerce websites have a high bounce rate because people come in, check the price and then leave again. They may come back later to buy but while they are shopping around they won't be staying for long.

By the nature of shopping this means that most e-commerce websites have a high bounce rate so if yours does it doesn't necessarily mean you may lose rankings.

The same is true of Time to Bounce - how quickly a visitor bounces. The figure in itself is not that important until you compare it with a website's competitors. Shopping sites and technical forums which provide clear answers to straight forward problems often have a short time to bounce. The internet user visits, sees the information they want quickly, and leaves.

All this said one of the keystones to good SEO is to look for ways to reduce your bounce rate. To find ways of persuading visitors to look at more than one page on your site. The longer they are there, the more chance there is that they will convert.

In other words you are trying to make a Sticky Website.

There are many ways to do this. In eCommerce is a good example. You arrive and see the price of the product but the website is laid out in a way that will make you want to stick around by using features such as:
  • Reviews of the product
  • Information on possible alternatives to that product
  • Products which other buyers purchased with this product
  • High levels of detail about the product
  • etc.

On blogs ensuring other similar content is clearly promoted can keep people longer.

Services like ouibounce (those popups that sense when a users is moving their mouse towards the back button) can bring attention to special offers that might keep a visitor longer.

Finally make sure your Call to Action (CTA) is clear. I'm always amazed when I arrive on a website and its not clear what the webmaster ultimately wants me to do so I get the information I'm looking for and leave.

Do your visitors know what you would like them to do regardless of where they arrive on your website?

Once you have put in place all the stickiness you can its time to move on and focus your attention towards other SEO activities or new content. You will never get a bounce rate of zero. Attempting to do so is simply time and money wasted.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

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