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Why I'm Scared of Bounce Back and not Bounce Rate
goodroi




msg:4386675
 12:35 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

There has been a lot of talk about bounce rate. This is the number of people that come to your site and leave after seeing only one page. Matt Cutts has said that bounce rate is spammable and a noisy signal. I also think that bounce rate is a poor signal for Google use.

Just think about all of the online calculators. They can have extremely high bounce rates since they can satisfy the user with only 1 page view needed. If your pages are satisfying the user I would not worry about bounce rate.

Bounce Back is a term my crazy little head uses to describe the people that visit your page, hate it and immediately bounce back to the serps. That is trouble from my perspective.

I am not saying bounce back is a secret Google metric. It doesn't even matter if Google is directly looking at this. If users visiting your site are bouncing back it means you have a bad page for that keyword. Bad pages can do not attract backlinks and actually scare away webmasters thinking of linking to your site. I think we can all agree that attracting backlinks is very important. That is why I am not worried about bounce rate but I am worried that my pages might have a high bounce back.

 

deadsea




msg:4386698
 1:41 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google internally refers to a user that doesn't bounce back as a "long click". A long click is a click that leaves google and doesn't come back for a long time: until that person wants to use Google for an unrelated search. The user doesn't refine their query, nor does the user use the back button and click another result in the SERPs instead.

I agree with goodroi, I have a site that I am trying to satisfy the user on the landing page itself. That site should have a 100% bounce rate (closer to 80% right now) but it has an amazing user experience. So far it is doing phenomenally well in Google search.

On the other hand, bounce rate is easy to measure and can be a great proxy for long click on a site with deep content. I worked with a large product website. We noticed that some products we ranked really well for and some we couldn't rank for no matter how many links we had for them. We noticed that the products that ranked well had lots of content (reviews, photos, editorials, places to buy, etc) and the ones that didn't rank had very little content. We started looking at what content did for our bounce rate. With no content, a product page would have a 70% bounce rate. With lot of reviews, lots of photos, and some of every other type of content, the product could have as little as 10% bounce rate. (We also didn't count clicking on ads as a bounce.) In that case, I believe that our bounce rate metric very closely corresponded with the long click metric that google was actually using and we did very well to work on improving our bounce rate instead of trying to measure long click more directly.

But it means that bounce rate "improvements" like splitting articles into multiple pages are just gimmicks. They won't help your rankings. They will probably hurt your rankings as they hurt user experience and the long click.

netmeg




msg:4386755
 3:33 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

This has *always* been a concern of mine. I have very high bounce rates, because I put the primary information the user is looking for front and center on the home page, and very often that's all they need - they come to my site, find what they need, and they're off. There's a link where they can get more information if they need it; if they do take off, they're not likely to go back to the search engine and search again. I'm not worried about it; these sites have done very well in Google.

It's the ones where they come looking for something, don't find it, and then go back to search again that worry me.

This is why I do pay attention to keywords (and why I don't much appreciate that "(not provided)" has risen to be the second most popular keyword on many of my sites) so that if I see instances where intent has gone wrong, I can figure out some way of mitigating it.

For example - many people know I run a particular type of event site (among others). It's specific only to my state. My state happens to have a lot of cities that were named after cities in the UK. Apparently British people can't read American (ork ork) because when British celebrations roll around, they come looking to MY site for these events (even though the state is *in the domain name*) After several years of this - seeing all this traffic come and go - I spent a couple of hours researching it, and put up some pages with links where they could find the UK information they were looking for. Figuring that they were going to bounce anyway; they might as well leave via a link on MY site rather than going back to Google to search again.

I'll probably never know if it does me any good. But I'm reasonably sure it won't do me any harm. I'm not tricking anyone into coming to my site for the information, and I'm not trying to glamour Google (who is, after all, partly responsible for my getting the traffic in the first place). I'm just trying to move that traffic along to its final destination, without the bounce back.

aristotle




msg:4386765
 3:42 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

If Google is trying to use this as a ranking signal, they will have to deal with some complications:

-- A lot of people will rapidly open a series of tabbed results by repeatedly jumping back to the SERPs page. They won't even look at any of the pages until they finish opening a series of tabs. This makes it appear that rapid bouncebacks are occuring when they aren't.

-- For many sites a high percentage of the Long-tail traffic is mis-matched to the content of the landing page. The resulting quick bouncebacks are Google's fault rather than the website's fault.

Unless Google can find a way to take account of these complications, I don't think they can use bouncebacks or bounce rates as reliable ranking signals.

Planet13




msg:4386766
 3:43 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I spent a couple of hours researching it, and put up some pages with links where they could find the UK information they were looking for.


That's a great tip.

You have probably thought of this, but have you put little British flag icons next to the links for the UK sites? Ok, I know it is kind of dorky (I'm an expert in dorky!), but if they are oblivious to the fact that your site clearly lists the State name in the title, then maybe they need all the help they can get...

deadsea




msg:4386775
 4:21 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

If Google is trying to use this as a ranking signal, they will have to deal with some complications:

-- A lot of people will rapidly open a series of tabbed results by repeatedly jumping back to the SERPs page. They won't even look at any of the pages until they finish opening a series of tabs. This makes it appear that rapid bouncebacks are occuring when they aren't.


Google is clearly dealing with this. If I do a search, click on the result and then use the back button, I get a little notice in the SERPs to "block all <site> results". If I open many sites in tabs, I don't get this notice.

I believe that they have been using this data for years on a query by query basis: "Bounce back from your site for 'widgets' search is high, so you will lose rankings for 'widgets' in the SERPs".

I believe that Google started using this as site wide signal as a big part of panda: "Bounce back from so many search terms sent to your site is high, the site (or a section thereof) must not have high quality content at all."

-- For many sites a high percentage of the Long-tail traffic is mis-matched to the content of the landing page. The resulting quick bouncebacks are Google's fault rather than the website's fault.


That could be a problem. Google was directing users to the wrong page on my site a significant portion of the time a couple years ago. I actually started putting up big visible notices that said: "I see you searched for 'widgets', click here to go to the page that actually has widgets on it." Like netmeg, I am upset that Google is hiding referrer data from us. It keeps us from improving user experience for things like this.

[edited by: deadsea at 4:35 pm (utc) on Nov 14, 2011]

Bewenched




msg:4386777
 4:23 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Question?:
So if a user/customer comes to a page and clicks on another link within the site is that considered a "long" even if they almost always back click to the information page and possibly back to google?

deadsea




msg:4386784
 4:38 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't think it matters whether the user clicks a link from your site to another site, or whether or not they come back to your site afterwards. It doesn't even matter if they come to your site and just click an ad or close the browser window. As long as the user is happy enough that they don't click back to and refine their search or click another site.

lucy24




msg:4386813
 5:41 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

So if a user/customer comes to a page and clicks on another link within the site is that considered a "long" even if they almost always back click to the information page and possibly back to google?

It's "long" from g###'s point of view because once a user has made that follow-up click, they're no longer in the g### radar

:: looking around uneasily at Nameless Browser Add-Ons ::

I am upset that Google is hiding referrer data from us. It keeps us from improving user experience for things like this.

What do you mean by this? I had to stop paying attention to keywords when I figured out that they were based on raw weight. (This is a problem when your site happens to include a couple of disproportionately long e-books along with material in a language g### doesn't know so they can't filter out the stopwords.) The information that matters is what's in your logs: the search terms people actually used to arrive at your site.

Figuring that they were going to bounce anyway; they might as well leave via a link on MY site rather than going back to Google to search again.

Isn't it nice when something useful for humans is potentially beneficial to yourself too ;) Once you know what they've searched for, you've got the options:

-- add links to other people's pages that might have the information they really need
-- rewrite your own page to tell them what they wanted to know
-- redirect them based on what you know about your site, which is not always what g### thinks it knows
-- <cue Obi-Wan Kenobi impersonation>
"Move along. These aren't the pages you're looking for"
</impersonation>

Now, if only there were a way to figure out how Previews enter into the calculation... But that's a different thread.

rowtc2




msg:4388543
 1:51 pm on Nov 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Bounce rate is relative because i can write an useful article on one page, user come and find the answer. If a competitor split an article in 2 pages, i do not see why Google should advantage him.

Bounce back + search again the same term = can easily detect unhappy users.

How can we see pages with bounce back to Google?

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