What is bounce rate in Google Analytics and how does it impact my SEO?

According to BuiltWith , around 90% of the top 10,000 websites use Google Analytics and if you’re familiar with the platform then you’re likely to have heard of bounce rate. Google defines bounce rate as “single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.”

Even as a Google Analytics veteran, I’m somewhat perplexed by this description. Put simply, a bounce happens when a user enters your website, views a single page and then leaves. Bounce rate is the percentage of times in which this happens. Comparatively, a user would not bounce if they were to view a second page after landing on your site.

What causes high or low bounce rates?

When I mention bounce rate to clients they’re sometimes concerned to learn that a large percentage of their website users bounced. Equally, they’re pleased when bounce rates are particularly low. Neither of these situations are necessarily good or bad as bounce rates can vary depending on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of landing page - If your bounce rate is high on your blog posts then it could mean that users are coming to your site from a search engine, finding the information they need, then leaving the website. Conversely, if your landing page is more of a gateway to other pages (i.e. the homepage) then your bounce rates may be much lower.

  • Page load speed - No one likes waiting around for a website to load. In fact, research from Google shows that on mobile “as page load time goes from one second to five seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 90%.”

  • Misleading titles or backlinks - You know those clickbait titles you get on Facebook and YouTube? The people that click on those don’t hang around for long. The same goes for misleading titles and backlinks. Craft your page titles so that you’re incorporating your keywords, but also giving an accurate summary of what’s on the page. The same applies for backlink anchor text.

  • Poor UX and design - As web and UX designers, we’re experienced in knowing what looks nice and works for users. Your website needs to make a good first impression, if it’s unattractive or just doesn’t work then you're likely to see higher bounce rates.

Why should I care about bounce rate?

Bounce rate isn’t just important to determine how engaged users are with your website, it’s also an indicator to Google as to whether your landing page is meeting user needs. As I touched on before, high and low bounce rates are good and bad in different contexts, so how does Google determine whether a landing page is satisfying users and allowing them to complete their goals? It uses something known as ‘time to long click’.

What is time to long click?

A long click is recorded when a user enters a website via Google Search, stays on the site for a prolonged period and does not return to Google Search to select another result. A short click, however, is when a user enters a website via Google Search clicks on a result and quickly returns to the search results to find another, more relevant result. This is often referred to as ‘pogosticking’.

That said, some search engine queries will lead to users naturally exhibiting this behaviour. For example, if you’re search is contentious and there are multiple points of view on the subject then users may commonly move through multiple results before they reach their goal. 

How does this impact my SEO?

Don’t get too hung up on bounce rates alone. Instead, look at other engagement metrics such as average session duration and pages per session to see if people are engaging with your content. It’s also worth setting up scroll depth tracking on your pages to monitor the points at which users stop being engaged. If you want to take things to the next level then you can set up an account with Hotjar and record all clicks, taps, cursor movements and more.

If you’re curious to find out the other factors that impact your SEO then take a look at our blog post on how to improve your SEO on Google and compete with the big players in your industry.


Author

Related SEO & SEM insights