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What does Time to Bounce mean in SEO?

If you have read and understood the details surrounding Bounce Rate - what percentage of your visitors only visit one page on your website - then the next step is to understand Time to Bounce.

If you create a page which ranks well and contains some useful information you might still find that you have an extremely high bounce rate.

That's simply because visitors are coming in, seeing the information they need, and feel no reason to stay any longer. Thus bounce rates of near 100% are not always a bad thing and in themselves no reason to affect your rankings.

The key for many search engines is to consider the bounce rate together with the Time to Bounce and what those users do next.

So if your bounce rate is high and users bounce within a few seconds of arriving that's a bad thing. Its obvious that users realize immediately that they are not going to find what they are looking for. The information might be there but perhaps the page is so full of adverts users see only these and back out rather than try and root through them all to find the content.

Either way it sends a signal to search engines that you should not be ranking for that keyword or phrase as user behavior says you have nothing of interest for people carrying out that search.

This is one reason many people use some SEO practices (like link building) to achieve high rankings, only to find that they loose them again fairly quickly. If the content isn't there in a fast and easy to access format users are not going to stick around.

Versus the competition

I'll repeat it again, because many webmasters forget this instantly, we are only talking about bounce rate and time to bounce versus your competition. If your competitors have a bounce rate of 98% and a time to bounce of 15 seconds and you have 90% and 25 seconds respectively you are doing well.

But, and this is a big but, it also matters what the users do after they have bounced. If they came from a SERP and then bounce the key question search engines ask is "What do they do next?".

If they click on another website in the SERP that is a signal that your website did not, or did not completely, meet their needs. If they carry out some completely different search that is a signal that your page did met their needs. So we have a triad of signals all working together - bounce, time to bounce and next actions.

When it comes to rankings Search Engines can't see your total bounce rate. They can't see, for example, how many people bounce after coming to your website from a Social Media site like Facebook. They can only see these actions for users clicking through from the SERPs and back again. This particular subset of time to bounce is known as Dwell Time.

What to do about time to bounce?

Generally my approach is to ignore it completely! Focus instead on your conversion rates - how many of your visitors do what you want them to do (buy a product, sign up for something, register, etc.). If you do this your time to bounce will automatically increase alongside your bounce rate as more visitors stay longer and visit more content.

This is known as making your website a sticky website and one of the most common methods is that pop up window you see, as you move your mouse towards the back button, which says 'Wait do you want something for free' or some other similar message.

You can set this up with an addition like Ouibounce.

A final note

I say search engines like Google use the part of time to bounce they can see, Dwell Time, as a ranking factor. They say they don't and many other SEO practitioners say the same. There is also however a large SEO community that say Google is spreading disinformation on this one (to put those who do Black Hat SEO off the scent) as there is simply too much evidence that contradicts it.

Personally I have seen, over and over again, reducing bounce rates (and therefore increasing Dwell Time), lead to higher rankings. I have also seen webmasters who have increased their bounce rate after a website redesign then start to see their rankings slip away in the following weeks.

I know some others will disagree or deny but dwell time affects rankings and even if it didn't getting your conversion rate up should be the order of the day anyway!

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.

Find me on Facebook or get in touch if you need help.

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