Does bounce rate affect search ranking?

Feb 19, 2015 · 3 min read

When you search information about bounce rate you will sooner or later stumble upon an article claiming it affects your search ranking and is a search engine optimisation (SEO) issue. These stories always point out that yes, Google folks have said bounce rate doesn't affect search ranking, but they are probably lying. At this point you are thinking, yes, they must be lying. Those data mining bastards who keep bombing you with adverts which don't interest you. Of course they are lying about this, because uh I don't know. I'd say Google has nothing to gain by saying bounce rate doesn't affect search ranking if it indeed does. They really don't have a reason to be lying about this other than being all evil and wanting to hurt you personally. Right.

There are several reasons why bounce rate doesn't affect search ranking. For one not every site uses Google Analytics or any other way Google (or other search engines) could find out about the page or site bounce rate. If they did use bounce rate as a ranking factor they would have to leave out all the sites which don't share their bounce rate. Next the bounce rate is way too easy to manipulate. You can yourself exclude certain events from bounces or adjust how and when the bounces are recorded. Additionally bounce rate can be spammed by sending false visits to a page. For example sites like semalt are sending false referrals to your site with 100% bounce rate. I'm pretty sure the people at Google and other search engines know about all this and know better not to mind such unreliable data.

The next thing these articles point out is that there's been evidence of bounce rate affecting search results. That a page which previously ranked high then started to drop in search results after gaining loads of bouncy traffic. This evidence might actually be about something else than they think. It is a matter of something like the bounce rate you see on your analytics and is often mixed with it. They are likely to measuring things called actual bounce rate and dwell time. Dwell time is how long a visitor stays at the site after clicking a link on search results. For instance Bing appears to be using dwell time for page ranking. Actual bounce rate counts the dwell time and other factors such as the time spent on the site. Even if bounce rate would affect your search ranking it would be only fraction of things that affect it. Thus it's silly to panic over it and especially to think high bounce rate means your site is in trouble.

Does bounce rate affect search ranking? -- Made In Helmikuu

Quality is an important ranking factor and lots of people seem to think bounce rate is a straightforward measurement of quality. Bounce rate alone doesn't tell anything about how your site is performing. It is true if your website is terrible it's bounce rate is likely to be high. But it's not even close to being the only way to asses the quality. Using bounce rate as a factor would also mess the situation for any one-page sites. Google itself points out there are several reasons for high bounce rate:

-- users might also leave the site after viewing a single page if they've found the information they need on that one page --

In short the answer to the question of whether the bounce rate affects your search ranking is no. It's also yes, because it can be one fraction of the things that affect your search ranking. Bounce rate you see on your Google Analytics alone would be such an unreliable measurement to use for ranking and the people behind Google and other major search engines are smarter than that. Therefore the bounce rate you see on your GA doesn't tell much anything about your search ranking.

Edit December 2015: Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, Tweeted "we don't use analytics/bounce rate in search ranking" in May 13 2015. View the Tweet yourself.


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