Why Bloggers Should Watch Their Bounce Rate

by JoHarrington

People clicking too quickly off your site means that they didn't find anything of interest there. The search engine makes a note.

Many people confuse the bounce rate with the exit page. It's not that people are leaving, it's why and where they are going that's the issue.

As a blogger, you want readers to stay on your page for several minutes to half an hour, then leave for another page in your portfolio.

Leave too soon and a signal is sent to the search engines that your blog did not contain the requisite information. Leave too late and it's assumed that the reader merely stepped away from the screen.

Finding the balance is key to the bounce rate.

How About a Nice Game of Catch?

When a search engine throws questions at you, it expects your web content to hold the answers.

Photo: Catching a BallThrow a ball against a wall and it will come back to you. How quickly it does that is called its bounce rate. At least it is when the ball is a query and the person doing the throwing is a search engine.

Imagine a game, where one person stands with a ball in their hand. All around them is a circle of people - friends and professionals - all poised to catch should the throw be made in their direction. The person throwing asks a question and casts the ball towards an individual.

They are only allowed to hold it for as long as they keep talking. If there is nothing to say, then the ball has to be returned. Their answer has to be relevant to what has been asked. The thrower can demand the ball back at any time, if it is considered that the receiver is just waffling.

Then comes the tricky bit. They have to also introduce a related topic, which keeps the attention of the thrower. If it passes muster, they get to keep the ball and carry on talking. Extra points for each new subject.

The winner is the person in the circle who can keep hold of that ball for the longest amount of time. The losers are those who consistently have to return it to the thrower or fail to successfully move past the initial question and answer.

How would you play this game? How would you plan your strategy, so that you retained the ball against all comers? Would your answers be relevant and would you have enough to say? Could you impress the thrower with new topics long enough to emerge victorious?

If you are a blogger or any other type of website content writer, then these questions are not child's play. This is precisely how search engines work. The thrower is a potential reader typing their query into their browser.  The circle around them are the links provided as search engine result pages (SERPs). Anyone clicking onto your blog has just metaphorically cast the ball into your hands. How long will you be able to hold it?

Bounce! Bounce! Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!

Buy ball game merchandise to remind you to watch your bounce rate!

What is Bounce Rate?

Readers entering and leaving your website from the same page are described as 'bouncing' away.

Photo: BrowsersSearch engines monitor how people use their services. The data is used to assess internet usage and to target adverts or sponsored links.

A report from their gargantuan databases could list every query that was ever entered into their website from your computer. A timeline could note which link you selected and how long you remained on that site.

More pertinently, it will record which webpage caused you to click on a site and which sent you away again. If it is the same page, then it will incur a high bounce rate. This is still true, even if you followed an external link given in the content.

If someone leaves their computer idling on a single area of your website, while they go away for a reasonable period of time, then you will incur a high bounce rate. Their search 'session' will have ended, thus sending a signal back to the cookie that you are not there.

There is no industry standard for the amount of time needed for a session to end. The average is thirty minutes. It's believed that anyone could read a whole webpage in that time. Therefore if you have not moved on further into the website, then the landing page has failed to entice you further. This is a mark against it which is factored into your overall rank.

Have a look at the top of your browser. How many tabs/windows do you have open? Have they been there longer than half an hour? If so, then I have a message for you from the person who owns the site:

'Thank you very much for visiting. I love the hits that you've given me. But next time, could you please click elsewhere on my site, then exit properly before going away?  Thank you in advance.'

In effect, you just threw them the ball and, while they were trying to talk to win the game, you simply walked away. The search engine's cookie, silently acting as judge and jury, marked them down as a loser.

On an entirely related note, I would be very grateful if you'd just click on my profile after reading this. Then perhaps have a look at some of my other articles?  Yes, the above note was from me too.

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How is your Percentage Calculated?

Stand-alone readers send it soaring.

Programs like Google Analytics will show your bounce rate as a percentage.  This is produced by dividing the number of single-page viewers by the total number of people who visited it.

For example, say 10 people clicked onto your blog entry. Five of them read it, then went away again. Their numbers were noted.

Five of them were attracted by a link to another of your articles and clicked to read that instead.They do not factor into this equation.

Ten (overall visitors) divided by five (just looked at one page) would result in a bounce rate of 50%.

Google's Avinash Kaushik Discusses Bounce Rate

His simple definition is 'I came, I puked, I left'. Fair enough!

Reasons Why Bloggers Should Analyze Bounce Rate Metrics

Search engine rankings and maximizing revenue are the big incentives here.

Photo: JugglingDevelopers of search engines are not stupid enough to tell the internet precisely how they determine high ranking SERPs. If they did that, then unscrupulous programmers would simply design some kind of bot to hook the algorithms. Potential readers would enter their queries and end up on unsuitable pages. Then the world would possibly end.

High ranking links lead to more visitors. They could be potential customers, if a site is monetized. Therefore everyone with a stake in promoting their blog or website is obsessed in trying to determine what pushes certain links to the top of the results pages.

Some experts have noted that sites with a high bounce rate have fared worse than those at the opposite end of the spectrum. This is particularly true of post-Panda Google searches; though previously Matt Cutts had publicly stated that, “To the best of my knowledge, the rankings team does not use bounce rate in any way.”

While noting that any advice on the current situation is pure speculation, bloggers might want to try and lower their percentage in case it does push up their rank.

A more compelling reason to monitor this statistic is that it indicates how well people are being lured into the rest of your site. If your blog is monetized, then that provides extra opportunities for visitors to start perusing your wares.

However, others argue that a high bounce rate could actually be a good thing. It suggests that anyone with a query found their answer on that page. The search result link was perfectly matched to the question. Surely that is a good thing? In truth, no-one has yet come up with a definitive answer.

Do you consider bounce rate to be important for your site?

There is some debate amongst web owners as to the overall worth of this metric.
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Updated: 03/18/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 09/19/2012

Yay! Glad that you liked it. I totally misunderstood bounce rate for ages too. I had it mixed up with exit rate.

Ragtimelil on 09/18/2012

This is great information. I thought I knew what bounce rate was, but I didn't really understand it. THANKS.

JoHarrington on 05/02/2012

Wow, you're making me blush. <3 I'm glad to have explained it well enough for you. :)

JoHarrington on 01/27/2012

Thank you for the tip, Biztable. I totally agree! The recommendation is to get to at least below 50%, preferably lower.

biztable on 01/27/2012

If your webpage has a bounce rate of over 70%, it's time to get some editing done with regards to content, design, page loading time, etc. A high bounce rate sends a negative signal to Google that can lead to lower search engine rankings.

JoHarrington on 01/16/2012

Hi Ember! I think the world would greatly appreciate you writing articles. I've never known anyone who could make biology and the medical world sound as interesting as you can.

I'm just going to leave this here: http://wizzley.com/accounts/register/...

Ember on 01/15/2012

I will not likely ever be an internet blogger but I'll certainly be prepared if that ever happens...lookit all these nifty tricks of the trade you keep teaching me :D (its not going to happen. >.>)

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