Bounce Rate Explained
In general, a “bounce” occurs when a visitor views a single page and then leaves a website. Note that the single page can be any page on the site, and in practice the first page a visitor lands on is often not the home page. A site’s bounce rate is an indicator of how engaging the site, or its individual pages, may be. Higher bounce rates are bad and web developers strive to lower them. The traditional way to reduce bounce is to encourage visitors to click on something, most notably a link to another page or post on the same site.
Does Bounce Matter?
We know that Google tracks sites’ bounce rates, and it may use bounce to help determine organic search rankings. At the same time, unscrupulous SEO practitioners can game bounce and decrease it with tricks and gimmicks that cast suspicion on the whole subject. The truth is that I don’t know whether bounce matters in terms of SEO, so it’s safer, I think, to assume it does and to take (legitimate) actions to lower bounce rates.
Lowering Bounce Rates
Let’s assume no one reading this wants to be a party to black-hat SEO practices. Here are some legitimate ways to lower bounce.
- Provide lots of internal links on all of your pages and posts. There are some good plugins that can automate some of this linking for you.
- Make sure that all of your pages and posts have sufficient navigation on them. Because a visitor may enter your site on any page, every page must give that visitor every chance to access the rest of the site’s content. In practice, most websites see very low percentages of entry through home and or landing pages. Images, for instance, provide initial access for many visitors.
- Use a sound information/content architecture. Far too many websites are organized in ways that make sense to the sites’ owners instead of first-time visitors. It’s easy to organize information by division or department, markets, product lines, etc., while visitors who are unfamiliar with those constructs may feel lost when facing them. It is much better to organize things in ways that make sense to those totally unfamiliar with your organization.
- Give people something to do. Make sure there is a compelling call to action. Conversion mechanisms are great for engaging visitors and prodding them to take an action.
- Review analytics and improve pages with high bounce rates. This may require UX (user experience) testing to determine why people are bailing while on a certain page.
In practice, it seems inconsequential whether bounce rates affect SEO. I think it makes sense to do what you can to improve content and UX. Your website will be better for it.