So Bounce Rates Really Make a Difference to Your Page Rank?

Bounce rates are a hot topic of debate in the SEO community with most people wondering about the impact of the bounce rate on the search engine position of a web page and if the major search engines have indeed included this factor in their algorithms. There were reports of the inclusion of this factor almost 3 years ago when webmasters started reporting the difference in their search engine rankings when they made efforts to change the bounce rates. However, there are no concrete reports or tests that can prove that bounce rate is indeed a factor in the search engine positioning of a web page.

As a result, there are several people who refute such claims and are of the view that neither is bounce rate important to the position of a web page today nor will it be in the future.

Most SEO experts on the other hand hold an opposing view; as a matter of fact, they even provide answers to some of the claims made by the naysayer. But to begin with one needs to understand what is bounce rate. The bounce rate is a measure of people who leave a website. In other words, a bouncy website would the exact opposite of a sticky website that holds people and makes them stay for long.

The first objection presented by people who are opposed to the idea of bounce rate being one of the determining factor in search engine positioning is that there isn't a specific definition of bounce rate: This unfortunately is one of the silliest arguments because a bounce simply refers to a visitor who leaves the website to return to where he/she came from.

These naysayer also go far enough to suggest that they do not like how bounce has been defined by Google Analytics; actually, for all those people out there who shares this opinion, there is a silver lining to the cloud and that is the definition of bounce in Google Analytics is not necessarily what is included in its algorithm; just as the little green bar may not be the Page Rank that they use in the Google Algorithm.

People go on to add that because many sites do not have Google Analytics turned on; the company will have no way of getting the exact data required. The folks who say this are conveniently forgetting that Google Analytics has nothing to do with the position of your website, actually, that is the dependent of Google, MSN or Yahoo search engines; these guys track their own traffic and how their users move around the cyber world and how these visitors return to their sites.

Then there is the age old question what is the threshold for a bounce, is it 10 seconds, 15 seconds or more; this is often the mot confusing part; after all, nobody is expecting a visitor to hang around a website for 24 hours so what would be a defined and acceptable threshold? A bounce is a bounce that is a person leaving a website regardless for how long he chose to stick on it, he could have stayed for a minute or for an hour but when he leaves it would still be a bounce. However, how the search engines treat bounce and the time lag that will make a difference to their algorithm is a totally different matter. Unfortunately, this information is readily not available because the search engines are in no mood to give you the download on the specifics of their algorithm so that you can ago ahead and exploit it. How many visitors they will follow and what count will be required to make a difference to the search engine ranking of a site is a difficult number to anticipate. But then again it is no different from any other algorithm input

Then another ambiguous question is about a visitor leaving a site to go to one of the external link sites, people contest that even that even this would qualify as a bounce, actually it would not because this is a referral not a bounce. There is also no telling how the search engines will choose a visitor quickly closing the window and if they will treat it at all. However, this should not be considered as a bounce unless the search engines clearly mention that.

Seomul Evans is an Search Engine Optimization Services consultant.

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