What is a “Bounce Rate” and how does it affect your SEO?

Couple looking at our website on an iPadThe bounce rate of your search engine results is a critical piece of information to you and to Google.  Essentially a bounce rate is the percentage of searchers that click on your link in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP), arrive at your site and doesn’t click on anything but the back button to go back to the SERP.  In other words, the searcher was looking for something else, rather than what they ‘perceived’ your site was offering.

For example, a searcher may be looking for a Massage Chair, and in the results was a company that did Chair Massages.  When the searcher arrives at the Chair Massage site and quickly realizes they are not finding what they need, they click the back button and leave the site.  That’s a bounce.  Likewise when a searcher is looking for a quality general contractor to add a room to their home,  but arrive at a site the doesn’t inspire trust or quality, they also click the back button.  A bounce could also result when the searcher didn’t use the appropriate search terms for their intentions.

Google watches this number and so should you.  It means your site is a mismatch for what the searcher had in mind.  The mismatch is often the result of a poor quality website.  For example, if you a plumber’s website looks unfriendly, unwelcoming, untrustworthy and incomplete, it will likely inspire a high bounce rate.

What is an acceptable bounce rate?

In most cases, anything above 65% is a poor bounce rate.  You may be surprised to find, though, that a good bounce rate is around 50%.  You can use Google free tool, Google Analytics (see below) to see your bounce rate.  If your bounce rate is much higher than 50%, it may be a reason to be concerned.  You may be helping your competitors if it’s too high (searchers click to your site, find it unappealing, and go back to find your competitor).  You can drill your information down further to see what real prospect’s bounce rate is by targeting a local area instead of the world.  Bounces from India may be increasing your numbers, but we don’t care about them.  Instead find out what your bounce rate is just for your local target area.

Now, while Google is not a human that can evaluate these things like us humans do, they certainly can glean some information from that bounce rate AND their own technical evaluations to make an assumption.  That assumption is the website, and thus the company, is poor quality and doesn’t belong at the top of the results pages.  Remember, Google wants to put the best company at the top of the list so their customer, the searcher, is pleased and will continue to use them.

Also, I like to point out something else about a high bounce rate.  A poor quality website actually helps good websites attract more business.  Follow this path: a searcher is looking for something, clicks on your page, feels negative or neutral about it, clicks back to the results page and chooses a competitor instead.  That poor website created a gauge for the searcher to determine a good vs. bad website.  The bad website created business for the good website.  This happens a lot.  If you have one of these poor websites, you are likely paying for it to create business for your competitor.  People do compare.

How do you find your bounce rate?

Google has a free service called Google Analytics.  GA allows website owners to learn huge amounts of information about their website.  It measures everything from your bounce rate to how many unique visitors to your site, to where they come from, what they searched for to find you, how many are using a mobile device and on and on.  Lots!  To install GA you go to Google’s Analytic page and create an account.  During that process you are given a small snippet of code that is to be added to each page you want to measure on your website.  Often times, it is best to give this to your website designer.  It’s a quick 3 minute modification when done right.

After your site has had time to collect data, is when you can start to examine that data to find hints about your site.   A high bounce rate for one company or industry can be a low one for another.  So there isn’t a solid number to shoot for, but generally anything higher that 50% is something to be concerned about.