Are backlinks important? If they get people to your site they are. But what’s the point of getting a flood of visitors if they are running from your site as soon as they step into your door? Wouldn’t you rather invite them in and have them make themselves at home for a while? Ignoring your bounce rate is like not caring that everyone you invite over to your house only stays for 5 seconds and leaves to never come back.
THE single most important factor in SEO is your bounce rate!
I know you might be saying, “Whoa, Jon, that’s quite a big statement there!” And you would be right, because it IS a big statement. And there’s an even bigger reason why I believe it to be true.
There are 200+ factors Google uses to determine where a site should rank, so how can the bounce rate be the biggest. Do I know something you don’t know?
Probably not. I’m not that smart, but most people assume SEO just deals with where your site ranks in the SEs. But you and I both have seen websites that are ranking #1 for a tough keyword, and those sites are total flops. As soon as you click on the link and begin to see that website fill your screen you have a tremendous urge to let out a blood curdling scream and click the back button as fast as you can because it’s nothing but junk.
Why is it so important to lower your bounce rate?
From everything I have studied and read about SEO and the future direction of search engines, your bounce rate is becoming a bigger issue all the time. And it only makes sense. Here is why:
- Backlinks are being abused in masses. (ahem– profile links, xrumer etc..)
- Keyword optimization is being abused by many sites.
- Link farms and blog networks are making it harder for legitimate sites to stand out
- Even social media is being abused by spammers trying to manipulate Google
After Google’s announcement that they are now using factors from Twitter and Facebook to help determine a site’s rank you can just hear all the groans from real social media users as they await the “spam rush” to game every social site with tons of fake tweets and “likes”.
Even though it’s against their terms of service, people are trying to manipulate Google more than ever before, and with every algorithm change there is at the same time a new ebook on how to exploit it.
But there is ONE factor that I believe will trump all others:
The human factor.
Think about it. How can the search engines tell what actual humans think about a site? They can’t merely rely on backlinks (even though it’s the bread and butter of every SEO company) because they are often left surreptitiously. But they CAN see if humans are using the back button way more than is normal.
But bouncing doesn’t JUST occur when someone hits the back button. Here are some other ways a visitor can bounce from your site:
- They click on a link on your site linking to another page (external links)
- They type another URL in the browser
- They simply close the browser window, effectively leaving your site
- Or they just sit there and do nothing, timing out the session after 30 mins or so.
So how do you keep people from bouncing?
- Encourage them to click on other internal links within your site
- Make it easy to navigate your site
- Use engaging videos to keep them there longer
- Write engaging content to make them want to read more of your stuff
- Use a related posts plugin to show similar articles to the one they just read
- Make your site interactive so it’s an enjoyable experience
- Keep you site’s load time down
- Beg them to read more articles on your site
Ok, the last one was just to make sure you are still paying attention. If your site is done right you shouldn’t have to beg. They will WANT to see more of your site.
And THAT is what the search engines are looking for; websites that make people want to stay.
So look at your site or blog from an unbiased opinion (which is actually impossible.. but do try). Does it feel like a warm fire place with a chair next to it where you just want to sit down and read a good book? Or does it feel more like 3rd period chemistry with tile floors and a horrible smell of B.O. and you just want to run for the door?
The answer to those questions will ultimately determine the success of your site.
So why is your bounce rate the most significant part of SEO?
Let me try to summarize the issue. It doesn’t matter if you are ranking #1 on page 1 for a hot keyword. If your bounce rate is high, not only will you make MUCH less money from your traffic, but you will also lose some of that ranking over time. You may not have seen it yet. But trust me; the “great big bounce rate algorithm change” is coming. No, I’m not a prophet, but I honestly believe this factor is going to get more weight as search engines evolve.
Ok, I’m not trying to scare anyone here. Just follow some of the above steps to improve your site and make it fun for your visitors. No one likes a boring teacher. Remember that 3rd period chemistry class?
But here is the BIGGEST side effect to having a solid, low bounce rate:
People don’t naturally link to websites and blogs that make them want to leave. They link to sites that have engaged them (I feel like I’m writing for EPN here… inside joke for those in the eBay affiliate program). They link to sites that have interested them enough to look at several pages of awesome, liver trembling content!
So to put it in mathematical format:
Traffic + Low Bounce Rate = More Natural Links (which consequentially = more traffic)
It’s going to take some work to get that bounce rate back down to where it should be. And every site will naturally be different depending on the topic. Most people strive to get a bounce rate below 30% or 20% and really get scared when 60% plus starts showing up. This is a great thing to test, so make some changes to your site and see of the number goes up or down. If the % goes down, keep doing those things. If it goes up, don’t do those things.
Simple hah? Told you I’m not that smart.
Please let me know your thoughts on the matter though. I always love a good comment war.