For many years, SEO experts have wondered about the impact of the bounce rate. However, the general public still shares multiple errors of assessment on this subject. Bounce rate optimization, an element often recommended to improve its SEO, is not an optimization that systematically results in an improvement in your ranking.

Numerous laboratory tests have been carried out on this point. The conclusions are unequivocal: no major correlation between changes in ledge rate and positions in the Serps (search results page).

It should be noted on this subject that Google (notably through the intermediary of Matt Cutts) regularly insists on this point by stating that Analytics data is not a ranking criterion in Google. However, a large study conducted by an independent site ( Backlinko ) claims that a low bounce rate is associated with a better ranking. To distinguish the true from the false on this complex subject, it is necessary to ask ourselves:

Why doesn’t Google use bounce rate as an SEO metric ?

What is the bounce rate?

How it influences other SEO factors .

What does the bounce rate measure?

Bounce rate is the measure of a unique engagement visit to your site. This means that Google Analytics distinguishes users who view a single page on your site from those who view several or interact with the said page.

In marketing, this measurement determines whether the web page corresponds to the expectations of the Internet user. Note right away that the bounce rate has nothing to do with the time spent on the page. Example: on a very qualitative and long enough content page like a guide, you can have a high bounce rate while having a very long session time because the content is relevant for the Internet user. Therefore, it seems obvious that:

The bounce rate is not necessarily bad in itself: if we take the example of a landing page with a single product intended for a particular promotional operation without much connection with the rest of the site, you risk observing a high bounce rate without this having any relation to the webmarketing effectiveness of your page.

Focusing on lowering the bounce rate can even harm the quality of navigation on your site: for example, if you split your guides into several pages by linking them together to decrease your bounce rate, you will have improved a KPI while harming the navigation of Internet users on these informational pages.

Why Google Doesn’t Consider Bounce Rate an SEO Metric

The previous examples already provide an answer to this question.

Bounce rate is not a reliable indicator of content quality

As we mentioned earlier, the bounce rate does not take into account the user’s engagement since it does not take into account the time spent on the page. In addition, the average bounce rates observed on the sites vary greatly depending on the sector. For example, blogs have a bounce rate that typically hovers between 70 and 90%, content sites between 40 and 60%, and service sites between 10 and 30%. We therefore see that Google would have no interest in taking this measure into account to determine the overall quality of a site.

On this subject, a precision is essential: many advertisers are looking for the average bounce rate in e-commerce . Yet this data, if it exists, does not really make sense. E-commerce is highly differentiated by sector. Depending on the type of your products and their complexity, the average bounce rate by sector varies greatly. Thus, a catalog of expensive and complex products (products for which the Internet user will be inclined to visit additional information pages), will almost always display a lower bounce rate than a catalog listing simpler products with little differentiating elements.

Let’s also mention another element to take into account: the type of traffic. Sites whose traffic relies heavily on image search in Google generally have very high bounce rates. This is the “normal” journey of an Internet user during an image search, who can open an image in its original version on your site only to consult it before returning to the comparison visible in the search engine.

Google has no real reason to look into your Analytics data

On this subject we often hear two arguments, which are both false, and which we will detail here:

Argument 1: Google favors those who use their products. Proponents of this thesis claim that Google should favor users of their tools like Google Analytics, Google Adsense or Google Adwords. Yet this type of patronage would cause legal problems that would be disastrous for Google. Google’s monopolistic status would be weakened.

Argument 2: Analytics would be an interesting source of information for Google. This argument is generally false because Google does not need your Analytics data to know the statistics of visits to your site. For example, the “pogosticking” measurement is sufficient for Google to determine the bounce rate on one of your pages without needing your Analytics data.

Google Analytics is easily manipulated

As we see repeatedly in our business, Analytics data can be quickly falsified. It is regularly necessary to filter Analytics views to remove traffic from bots (spam). So how can we expect Google to take this data into account and give it great reliability?

Many websites do not use Google Analytics

According to W3tech estimates , only 54% of websites worldwide use Google Analytics.

On top of that, many sites don’t use any analytics tools, or collect any traffic data.

As we have seen, Google does not really need your Analytics data to measure the interest of Internet users for your page. It uses for this another index, called the pogo-sticking, which is measurable directly in the Serps. Pogo-sticking is a topic in its own right. Remember, it’s the metric between “long clicks” on your site and “short clicks.”

Long clicks (no quick return on the Serp from the user) are an indicator of content quality in relation to the search of the user. Conversely, short clicks indicate that the Internet user quickly returns to the Serp, and therefore that the page visited has not met their expectations. It will therefore be understood that this element is a ranking factor for the Google algorithm, which can thus measure the correlation between the request of the Internet user and the information offered by your site.

How are the bounce rate and other SEO factors correlated?

Ultimately, this is the question that interests us the most. The only question we care about in marketing is whether Google is tracking your bounce rate and using it to alter your rankings. To begin, let’s come back to the question of pogosticking and remember that it is a criterion that we cannot measure using Analytics tools. However, we can find a substitute by combining two factors that we know: bounce rate and session duration. While we can’t analyze search intent through these two variables, we can form a good estimate of the quality of your organic traffic.

If your web page has a high bounce rate but also a long session duration, your web page seems to have a good interest rate among Internet users. This measure will allow you to avoid unnecessary optimizations intended to lower your bounce rate.

Note also that high bounce rates are often symptomatic of weaknesses relating to other SEO factors :

Poor quality design

Loading speeds that are too slow

An inconsistency between the content and the keywords used

A lack of mobile optimization

For all these reasons it is better not to focus on the bounce rate, which is only a symptom, but to consider global optimizations intended to improve the user experience on your website.

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