The basics of bounce rate
A look into Bounce Rate, Session Lengths and other website statistics.
Web analytics. It’s a term you may have heard, probably being bandied about by a marketeer. Maybe you’ve had an agency courting you, throwing jargon at you like a Casanova tossing out pick-up lines. You’re no easy target though. And more importantly you’re not sure what most of the jargon means. I mean honestly, bounce rate?
In this episode, we’re going to demystify some of the jargon you may have heard about the statistics around websites. We’ll explain a few key concepts so you have a better understanding of what is actually happening with your website.
As the chap in Moneyball showed the baseball league, statistics matter. It’s one thing having amazing tools, but you take everything to another level when you begin to gather and analyse the data that is associated with how those tools are used. And this is equally true of websites.
Gone are the old school days of web-counters (jeez, do you remember those?!). These days, web analytics are far more complex than simply the number of people who have hit your website. And web analytics have importance beyond simply giving you an idea of how much traffic is coming to your website. We’re going to be dipping into two aspects of website analytics which have a significant impact on Google and your ranking.
Bounce Rate – SEO
We mentioned web-counters. In the early-ish days of the internet it was common to see a small counter somewhere on a page which literally tallied the number of visitors a page had. In fact, it was a matter of pride to display it in some cases. Some retro-computing fans throw them onto sites for nostalgia purposes.
However! Unscrupulous types began using exploits to artificially inflate their numbers – especially when Google and the like started trying to rank websites and search results. Scammers would use slave programs which would constantly reload websites on repeat, each reload adding another tick on the tally.
To tackle this, a bit of computer code is now included in websites behind the scene to perform the web analytics data. One example is including Google Analytics for your website. Making your website fully complete with the world’s largest search engine means website designers like ourselves have to wheel our code nerd out of her dark dungeon and get her working. Because of the devious actions of the scammers, Google doesn’t focus on hits. Instead, Google looks at the bounce rate of a website.
Bounce rate is a figure given for the number of people bouncing back off your website. Handily Google has a nice long winded page explaining it. Here’s the abridged version. Google is watching to see if people stay on your site and look through the different pages. If a user comes to your website, only views the page that brought them there and leaves, that’s a bounce (it’s also timed to under 10 seconds spent on the page). If they click links and move around the site, they’ve begun a session.
Google wants to get the best answers to users when they search. They assume that if users come to you but don’t explore then you’re probably not a great answer to whatever question was asked. So a high bounce rate is not a great thing to have.
There are of course exceptions. Google’s AI is smart enough to recognise when people can’t go clicking because you’ve actually only got a one-page website or if the link they are sending users to is an article which means they’ll naturally only stay on that page. This is where the next element of analytics we’ll discuss comes in – Engagement.
Online Engagement – SEO
If a user comes to your site, that’s great! If they don’t bounce and click around then they begin a session. Coded into your site will be various measures – perhaps a page may include a video which you want visitors to watch. These help Google to measure Engagement. Perhaps it’s a user reading through a blog in detail (Google can tell how far down a page a visitor scrolls) or how many pages the user opens.
The amount of time a user spends on your site is called session duration but the number of pages they explore is called page depth. And you know what? Google factors this all into where they pop you in organic search results. Oh and they also factor it into your Google Ads advertising as well. Engagement and Bounce Rate help to tell Google if your website is trustworthy, but why?
Why bounce rate and engagement matter
A couple of factors really impact upon your search engine ranking:
· Low quality page design
· Mobile optimisation
· Loading Speeds
· Content and Keywords not matching
If you have a high bounce rate or poor engagement, Google is really going to be questioning why. The assumption will be that one or more of these four factors is an issue for your site. And guess what, your organic ranking (where you come on a results page without paying for it) will be suffering.
Think about it like this. Imagine a tour guide in a city. Tourists come with requests, they may not know where they want to go but they may ask where is good for a drink and a dance on an evening. The tour guide may take the tourists to a new bar they’ve heard about but when they get there the tourists hate it, the bar only plays dubstep and offers only water. The tour guide learns quickly never to bring tourists looking for a drink and a dance to this bar.
Or the tourists complain because it takes a lifetime to get served at the bar.
Or the toilets are holes in the floor – in the ladies.
Or they are sure that the server is actually serial killer.
Whatever the issues, the tour guide learns that the bar is unreliable. As more and more tourists are taken and then leave dissatisfied, the tour guide learns never to bother taking anyone there. In this case the tour guide is Google.
They’ll give the bar a try a few times, maybe it wasn’t good for a drink and a dance but it’s good for a pint and a chat. The more complaints they get, the less they trust the bar. Google reads users visiting your website for less than 10 seconds as a complaint. You clearly don’t offer what users are looking for.
On an interesting side-note, this is also why when you’ve asked friends to visit your site it has probably done damage rather than helped. 9 times out of 10 they’ve popped on and off out of courtesy. For that kind of thing to start to have impact visitors need to spend time, scroll and click. Google is too smart for your previously cheating ways. Tut tut.
So now you know a little about two of the big website measures. We know tonnes about this stuff are here to support other SMEs with your web design needs. If you come to us for a website or SEO, we will not only help you navigate this minefield but help you to be able to help yourself too.
We may be small, but we’re mighty. Just like you.