One of the most frequent questions we get as digital marketing experts is, “Should I be concerned with my bounce rate?”
The short answer: No, but maybe yes.
Convenient huh? Like many digital marketing strategies, the answer is much more nuanced than a simple yes or no. But hang with me, I promise the answer is below!
Bounce Rate as an SEO Metric
Bounce rate is a vanity metric that has been used for years to determine the quality of content on an SEO page. But although user behavior has shifted (attention span, mobile usage, Google’s knowledge panel, and many more changes), attention on bounce rates has remained. Presented as a percentage inside the Google Analytics audience overview panel, the number is similar to a golf score; the lower the score, the better performance.
Because it’s an easy-to-understand metric and can be widely understood, it’s a metric that has heightened importance in reports for years. But, not all that glitters is gold.
In fact, all the way back in 2018 (yes, four years ago!) during a Google Webmaster Central hangout, Google’s John Mueller mentioned that Google doesn’t look at bounce rate as a ranking factor because there are many reasons a user might “pogo-stick”. This user behavior is defined as the act of quickly navigating between pages in search results and bouncing around between SERP pages.
To listen to Mueller in his own words, check it out at the 51:18 mark.
So, for example, If someone is in the research phase for choosing a Realtor, it’s natural for them to vet one to two companies, or check out multiple options before making a decision. They may be looking specifically for a service area, or authority on a subject different than what they’re searching for, and it would be unfair to throttle a website’s SEO rankings based on that searcher’s intent.
Bounce Rate as a UX Metric
So while the answer is “no, bounce rate doesn’t impact SEO rankings”, the other side of the coin is “yes, bounce rate can be a good metric to determine if the user journey is optimized.” Defining the user journey doesn’t stop at getting users to your site from other digital means. It also includes how they move through your website, and how they click through the website.
Bounce rate, in tandem with other metrics, can be an indication of whether or not content is performing well. If there’s a service page with a high bounce rate, it can mean that the information or design on the page isn’t compelling enough to drive action from the user. By defining the next step for the user on each page of your website, you’re giving your site users an invitation to stay on your website and engage with more of your content.
Broadly speaking, educational content pages on specific topics have higher bounce rates than general sales pages, which can actually signal a great authoritative site. It means a user researched a question, found an answer, and left! If you’ve supplied the right content, this is a win, even though it may not be reflected in the bounce rate. Landing pages also have higher bounce rates for a couple of reasons. First, the nature of people getting quicker results and wanting immediate return tends to mean that attention span and patience is shorter, and second, many landing pages don’t move the user through a journey that includes other pages. With conversion being the only path on the page, it’s natural for users to “bounce” back after conversion, even though a goal has been completed.
In general, a website with a bounce rate of 30%-50% is optimal, and anything higher than 75% is cause for concern. In fact, if your bounce rates are below 10%-15%, that can also signal a cause for concern. Often times a technical error is the culprit, like data being double-tagged, pageview errors, or scroll tracking errors.
To monitor your bounce rate, take stock of the types of pages on your website. In general, the chart below signals a normal bounce rate based on industry-wide studies of bounce rate.
Landing Page: 60-90%
Topic authority page: 40-70%
General service page: 30-50%
Home page: 20 - 40%
Note that this chart is intended to be a guide for you, and
not prescriptive in indicating an error is present.
What should I look for instead of bounce rate?
As Google moves towards sunsetting their Google Analytics product in summer of 2023, their new GA4 system has been widely implemented on many of our websites. One stat missing from the overall views? You guessed it: bounce rate! While it still exists in other analytics platforms, Google has taken the step to distance itself from the marriage of analytics and bounce rate, in what we can only guess is an effort to cut off the strong connotation that SEO and Bounce Rate are connected so strongly.
While we have used bounce rate as a tool for many years, there are other metrics that let us know how our content is performing.
- Engagement Rates: In GA4, the engagement rate measures how many people interacted with your copy. Consider this the opposite of bounce rate - if 60% of your audience bounced, you likely have somewhere between 40-50% engagement rate.
- Engaged Sessions: In GA4, engaged sessions are defined as the number of sessions that lasted 10 seconds or longer, or had 1 or more conversion events or 2 or more page or screen views. It means people were on the site and found your content useful enough that they took another step.
- Page Exits: Understanding which pages people are exiting from your site help us understand if their journey is complete or if they’re prevented from taking the next step.
- Time on site: Pages that don’t capture the attention of a user are likely to be left behind. Take a look at your pages, and aim for more than 1 minute per page. An ideal time on page is 2-3 minutes for a longform copy page. Pages with :30 or below should be redeveloped to capture more attention or drive better engagement.
- Page flow: Understanding how people navigate through your site tells the stor of what content is relevant, and what content converts. Learn about how traffic moves through the site to understand your users better.
- Traffic sources: Global website statistics are useful, but even more useful is understanding the intent in why people are coming to your website. Direct traffic, organic traffic, and referral traffic are often better performing sessions than ad-based traffic. Consider the major sources of traffic to your site, and if people are sticking around based on interest or conversion.
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Have questions on your specific site? We’re happy to help. Whether it’s helping get your website set up on GA4, or a question on current traffic, our team of digital specialists can help. For more information, get in touch.
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