Bounce Rate – How does it affect your SEO on Google and Other Search Engines?

Have you noticed bounce rate on your website recently? Through Google Analytics? Is the percentage too high? Well, then you have something to worry about.

bounce rate Bounce Rate How does it affect your SEO on Google and Other Search Engines?

What is bounce rate?

Bounce Rate is defined as the the % of people who visit your site and then navigate away without visiting any another page on your website. In short, it is the percentage of visits that arrive on your site, visit no other pages, and then leave. The more you can lower or reduce your bounce rate, the more opportunity you will have to convert your site visitors. This is extremely important from a conversion optimization standpoint.

To make things harder for you, Search engines have now started considering the bounce rates in their organic ranking algorithms.

Causes of Bounce Rate:

Website Content
Your site content should add value to your visitors. The flow of information should be in such a way that it should be able to carry the visitor to the other pages on your website. Your website is like your home, if you want your guest to see the entire house you need to take them around, when your visitors come to the door and you don’t invite them in they are likely to leave from the door itself. So use your content wisely to invite them in and keep them entertained.

Website Design and User-friendliness

Presentation is extremely important on the internet. Let me ask you:

  • How often do you like to visit a site which throws up 4 pop up windows on your face the moment you visit?
  • hOW lOnG wOuLd yoU sTAy oN a sItE iF iT uSEsiNApPrOpRiAte aND wEIrD tExT foRmATs?

  • If your visitors need a lot of time in understanding your website or comprehend the features you have provided on your website, the chances are, even if your website content is the best in the world, your bounce rate would still be on the higher side.

Site Navigation Structure
Always keep your site navigation simple and intuitive without leaving anything to your visitor’s guess work. Most of the bounce rate is caused by poor navigation system on the websites.

Technical Errors
404 pages and other technical errors should be avoided at any cost to minimize the bounce rate.

Irrelevant Keyword Selection
Search engines consider the keywords used in your site content in their ranking algorithm. If your website shows up for “dog training” while you are selling “dog food”, chances are, the visitor will simply leave your site. The same goes with your Ad copies in Adwords campaigns, meta titles and descriptions of your site pages.

Links From External Websites
You have less control on who can link to your website. Well, we definitely need quality backlinks from relevant websites. But, sometimes you might get that rare backlink from an unrelated off topic website. This might pull in irrelevant visitors which in turn leads to increase in the bounce rates.

Now lets look at the mighty “Bounce Rate” a little more closely.  Let me start with explaining the “Dwell time” first.

Dwell Time

Dwell Time is defined as the time a user is on a website before he clicks back to the search results.


If users are visiting your website through organic search results, be on your site for a few seconds and then move back to the search results page, then that might be a negative sign to the search engines (short dwell time).

But, is it as easy as checking your bounce rate in Google Analytics to determine quality problems on your website? Is the standard calculation for bounce rate the one that the engines use when determining rankings? These are excellent questions, and the answer is most definitely “no” to both the questions.

The search engines are extremely smart and they have a lot more better ways to determine the Actual Bounce Rate of a website and how the Actual Bounce Rate applies to certain types of contents on websites.

In the top image (Google analytics screenshot) you can see the bounce rate is more than 90%. You may wonder what might be causing such high bounce rate when you have unique and high quality content on your website. We know that both users and the search engines LOVE high quality content and high quality sites should have very less bounce rate. But, your Google Analytics still show high Bounce Rates! You may have tried to understand this several times and might have given up!

The truth is, a high bounce rate in your analytics tools/programs doesn’t necessary mean that your website has low content or content which is not liked by the web users, or a high bounce rate to the search engines.

You must have noticed that I have used the terms Bounce Rate (also known as “Standard Bounce Rate”) and Actual Bounce Rate. Let me explain you the difference.

Actual Bounce Rate & Standard Bounce Rate

Person X visits a website through organic search result, ends up landing on a page which is filled with pop ups, banner ads, blogroll links, low quality content. He immediately returns back to the search results page. He hardly spends a few seconds before he returns back to the search results page. This is clearly an “Actual Bounce Rate” which also shows up in your analytics program.

Next, Person Y clicks a page shown in the organic search results and lands on a thoroughly written, high quality content about a specific topic. This page content includes visuals, all related definitions and covers every aspect of the topic you are searching for. As a result, the person Y ends up spending nearly 15 mins on this page before he clicks back to the search results page.

Now, according to your analytics program, that’s still a bounce! However, for search engines, that’s quite a different situation that just a bounce. The search engines know that you have spent nearly 15 mins before you clicked back to the search results page. They know this by analyzing the “Dwell time”.

So, if you have excellent quality content on your website and if you still notice high bounce rates with great search engine rankings then your website does not have “Actual Bounce Rate”, it has high “Standard Bounce Rate”.

A page which has a detailed PhotoShop tutorial will have high “Standard Bounce Rate”. A person visits a page, finds the content extremely helpful, takes his time to read the content fully and is fully satisfied before he leaves. This is not an “Actual Bounce”, it is “Standard Bounce”.

Lower Dwell Time = Negative signal for search engines = “Actual Bounce Rate”

Higher Dwell Time = Does not affect your rankings and a positive signal = “Standard Bounce Rate”

Search Engines Are Smarter Than You Think They Are

Clicking back from the sites to the search result pages is not the only way search engines get to know about the bounce rate. How would a search engine track the “dwell time” if I directly type another URL without going back to the search result page? Or if I open a new window from a search result page and just close it? Following are some of the ways:

Toolbar Data

google toolbar Bounce Rate How does it affect your SEO on Google and Other Search Engines?
Millions of people have either the Google Toolbar or Bing Toolbar installed. Although many people don’t know this, they might be passing information back to Google or Microsoft about the sites and pages they visit on the web. Most SEO Consultants understand this, but I find most people outside of the industry have no idea. This is an incredible way for the engines to understand actual bounce rate. Imagine you visited a page from Search and spent 12 minutes on the page. Then you either type in another URL directly in the browser or via the toolbar (Google or Bing). The toolbar can pick this up and understand how much time you spent. Again, that’s much different than seeing a “bounce” in your analytics package.

Also, if you read the privacy page for Google’s toolbar, it is very clear that the toolbar sends information back to Google about the searches you conduct, the pages you visit, etc.

Google Chrome

google chrome 201561 Bounce Rate How does it affect your SEO on Google and Other Search Engines?

Even the Google Chrome browser essentially behaves like the Google Toolbar. Most of the features of toolbar are active in the Chrome. If the User Agent Chrome is passing your data back to Google, then it has yet another signal about the actual bounce rate vs. standard bounce rate.

To me, the more functionality that’s available in Chrome, the more opportunity for data to get passed back to Google. And that means more data that can be used to determine low quality content, high actual bounce rate, etc.

Now, if you have read the entire post, before you leave, you should know you didn’t really contribute to the “Actual bounce” but “Standard bounce”! icon smile Bounce Rate How does it affect your SEO on Google and Other Search Engines?

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