Tallon - 5:33 am on Mar 1, 2011 (gmt 0)
Bounce rate, page views and time on site factors are really something for the site owner to gauge, but using it externally doesn't work very well for exactly the reasons you are saying ... Using those factors doesn't really make for better results.
ITA with everything you're saying, there are too many variables to make it a consistant signal of quality and I see it with my own eyes on my sites. But it doesn't matter what we think, what matters is what Google actually puts stock in (not what they SAY but what they DO). I get a bit freaked out every algo change and the advice is stuff like:
--what are your bounce rates like
--are people hitting the back button quickly
--is the page "thin" (some reference material can be too concise or low on word counts unless it's beefed up with bs)
Only a small fraction of the pages on this site are of this type, but they generate enough traffic that they do bring down overall numbers (a bit).
No, I'm not interested in changing these pages so they're less than they are (to increase time on site, etc.), just on pause right now for creating new content of this type.