Is Bounce Rate A Ranking Factor?
This is pretty tricky question and many industry personals are divided on the answer. There are many arguments can be given either way. Let’s discuss those arguments first and then conclude. The possible answers to the question is YES or NO. Many people say a tiny one, I have considered their arguments in YES.
First and foremost, let’s see the definition of Google for Bounce Rate.
“Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).”
Let’s start roller coaster ride of arguments and counter arguments.
YES- First argument is so naïve that Google just wouldn’t spend money on analytics as charity. It is gathering data and there may be some sort of connection there. Google said many times that user metrics are important to decide quality of website. So it is for all to guess, what are the user metrics? Obviously bounce rate can be one of it.
The second argument with Yes is about pogo-sticking. When you search in Google click a result and go back to search result again harms your ranking. This one is also one kind of bounce but only calculated when someone lands on your website through Google search. I think in one of the Moz’s WBF Rand also supported this theory and that is the reason why I have included this one. One other reason is Google record the pogo-sticking in order (see the image below). But there is counter argument which I will discuss later.
NO – the first argument is pretty simple, I have searched for “how old Barack Obama is” clicked on first result and found my answer and exit. There is no need to click on second page and so I am bounced. But that doesn’t prove that the website is low quality because I got my answer. This is the case for all Q&A websites like Yahoo answers. Still we can many such websites rank well in Google.
The second argument for No is not all websites use Google analytics. So how Google can be unfair to those websites which are using their analytics against those which are not using.
The third argument for No is Google’s own stand. Here is one response from Gary Illyes,
@dnespo we don’t use analytics/bounce rate in search ranking
— Gary Illyes (@methode) May 13, 2015
There are many more instances where Google’s representatives reiterated the same thing, “we don’t use analytics data in search ranking”.
The fourth argument to counter the pogo-sticking theory. If I am checking the price then I will go back to Google and check several websites. In this case certainly the websites from which I have bounced is not bad and they are telling me their mrp. Another example, if I am looking for the meaning of a word I will visit several websites to get detailed meaning as well as cross-checking. This also doesn’t prove a website bad.
So what is the conclusion? I think no clear conclusion can be drawn. But if I think the no argument is little stronger than yes in case of analytics bounce rate. In the case of pogo-sticking, I think type of query matters. For transactional queries like buy, shop, price etc., Google can easily understand that price is the matter of individual website, it can’t be a ranking factor. But in some cases pogo-sticking certainly proves a website bad. So whether you should worry about bounce rate or not depends on your niche.