Why Bounce Rate is Your Most Important SEO Metric

bounce rate

Every day I talk with small business owners about optimizing their websites.

Many of those business owners ask me about keywords and links. However, in recent years, I’ve had to explain to them that those are no longer enough to rank well.

To help you understand what is important in 2013, let’s take a retrospective look back in time, way back in time, a time before Google became a household name in the Internet search space …

On Page Optimization

Before Google, much search engine optimization was focused on “on page” optimization. And in fact, on page optimization was quite literally a science predicated on ensuring a precise number of keyword phrases and keywords were positioned exactly on the page and in the right number such that its density (the ratio of the keyword to all of the words on the page) matched exactly what the search engines were looking for.

As time marched on and as search engine optimization progressed more and more keyword phrases were appearing on the page as competition became stiffer requiring SEO’s to repeat the keyword phrase more often just to maintain ranking and out do their competitors. Having that many keyword phrases on a page made the page barely readable and SEO’s were more concerned with ranking the page than providing a good user experience.


Google’s foray into the search space changed all that. It became apparent to Google that search results should be based on the number of external links pointing to the webpage with a specific keyword phrase in it rather than the frequency of the keyword phrase appearing on the page. So external links were the dominant factor in determining ranking in Google.

The thought was that the popularity of a site signaled by the number of external links with the all important keyword phrase or as Google called it the number of “votes” that were pointing to the webpage would determine the pages rank order.

SEO Evolves in Complexity

Fast forward to 2011, a combination of external links and content optimization and were the norm in Google finding your place in the search results. And once again SEOs had learned to manipulate search engines like Google by buying links. Fast-forward to spring of 2012, Google introduces its infamous update called Panda. So more and more of Google’s search engine ranking will be attributed to so-called social and user engagement signals that were introduced by Panda. And that in itself makes it more difficult for SEOs to game the ranking system because it puts ranking control into the hands of the visitor and not the SEOs.

In order to rank well in the search engines like Google will depend heavily on a number of factors but the most important of these are are the bounce rate, the average length spent on your website, and the average number of pages visited per visitor.

Why is Bounce Rate So Important?

Where should you focus your attention in 2013? The answer to that would be the bounce rate.

If you’re not familiar with the bounce rate, then let me explain. The bounce rate is simply the ratio of the number of people who click to go to your webpage from Google and click the back button to go back to search results in contrast to the total number of visitors who visited 2 or more of your web pages. So it’s the number of one page visits versus two or more page visits to your website. Interestingly, once you take care of the bounce rate for your landing pages, the average time visited in the number of pages visited on average will correct itself.

So Google looks at the ratio from your landing pages only, which makes sense since the landing pages are the pages visited initially from the search results in Google. So how do you check your bounce rate on your landing pages? Just sign up for a free Google Analytics account and grab the javascript code and enter that on your site pages you want to track. If you are using WordPress, Joomla or Drupal you can get a plugin that will make it easy for you to just input the tracking once and all of your pages on your site will be tracked.

So you can make the Google gods smile upon your website by increasing your visitor engagement and user experience, and you solve that by looking at your bounce rate for your landing pages. The magic number would seem to be maintaining your bounce rate for your landing pages below 55%.


0 0 votes
Blog Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dan Knauss

“The Google gods” will not “smile” on you more for having a lower bounce rate. Google has categorically denied using Analytics data like bounce rate to influence rankings, which would be highly illegal. They do look at Return-to-SERP behavior: visitors who come in from a search result and then “click the back button” right away. Google is trying to figure out if those visitors found a relevant result on your page, which they recognize may or may not be the case with a bounce. But bounce rate does not measure just the people who go back to a search engine result page. You really need to look at exit rates in context, not bounce rates.

Dan Knauss

It is important to be clear how that signal is used. Google has said SERP bounce (not the same as your bounce rate in Analytics) is *not* a ranking signal but a quality factor that their web spam team uses to evaluate content. This will only impact your search result position if the content looks like spam. (See [url=http://www.searchenginejournal.com/opinion-is-serp-bounce-a-ranking-signal-or-a-quality-factor-for-seo/35464/)]http://www.searchenginejour…[/url]

Your article is about how small business owners should try to to reduce high bounce rates to rank higher in search, and this is simply wrong. It’s very common (and fine) for a small, static site to have a high bounce rate as visitors are looking at a single location and/or phone contact page on a very small (possibly even one-page!) site. Matt Cutts has made it clear Google does not punish sites for working like this.


Maybe this will help in reducing bounce rate


Nicolas Daudin

Hi Dan

Interesting article…

How did you come up with that magic number (55%)? And how are you sure Google is using this as a variable for their algorithm? Other people say they are using Time on Site…

What do you think about Clicky’s way to compute the bounce rate – I think it’s much more accurate. You can find it here: [url=http://clicky.com/blog/214]http://clicky.com/blog/214[/url], but here is the main idea:

“A visitor who has only one pageview, and who is on your site for less than 30 seconds is what we now consider a bounce. So any visitor who has more than one pageview, or any visitor who has only one pageview but is on your site for at least 30 seconds, is now what we consider “engaged” / not a bounce.”

Dan Knauss

I’d say that’s a better definition Nicolas, but 30 seconds is a long time on a simple landing page. You could get an untracked conversion or other “engagement” in a 30 second visit to one page, especially if the visitor is already engaged and seeking a phone number, etc. People want stuff fast and come to sites knowing what they want much of the time, especially in scenarios like restaurants and take-out on mobile devices. Where the product is simple and service is supposed to be fast, lots of visitors going over your pages for a long time should be very rare or indicative of a design/navigation problem.

Nicolas Daudin

Hi guys, thanks a lot.

So this “bounce” rate of 55% is the percentage of people hitting back button?

Wow… and my site has 90% of boucing :-S


I can confirm the empirical 55% threshold for the bounce rate. As soon as this goal is achieved landing pages go up in search results for the keywords.

What really helps to reduce the bounce rate is splitting long articles into pages.

Example here: [url=http://www.soccerwidow.com/betting-maths/techniques/is-arbitrage-worthwhile-pursuing-is-arbitrage-legal/]http://www.soccerwidow.com/…[/url]

Breaking up above article into 2 pages reduced the bounce rate from previous 85% to under 55%, and it’s now in many countries top 10 for the keywords.

Rohan Mod

i heard it that bounce rate should be under 50% at least to get rid of google panda. My personal opinion is that widget also plays a role in reducing bounce rate because they engage the user for longer time on the website along with strong internal link embedding also reduces bounce rate.your tips will help me more to engages user for more time on my website to reduce the bounce rate.thanks you very much for those tips these will help me a lot.widget for blogger

Cristian Vultur

You’re right more than 90%. Higher than competition bounce rate will only result in the competition occupying the better positions in google and vice-versa.

on [url=http://bebepunk.ro]bebepunk.ro[/url] I’ve came down from 45% bounce to 3-7% and my visitors doubled within a month. I’ve changed server to a faster one, hit some problems with the host my bounce rose to 70% and my google traffic hit the floor. I think I’ve solved the issues and I’m positive that my bounce rate will turn again to under 10% in the next week.

Suzane Mart

I enjoy when people are expressing their opinion and

thought. So I like the way you are writing.

professional web design

I have bookmarked your post so that I can review it later.


I think when it comes to SEO, people make lots of assumptions without real evidence or statistics to back up those statements. For instance, how can one know if bounce rate is really important for the search engine? I analysed many first page results and came to the conclusion that most of the huge sites don’t use Analytics, they probally pick another solution. With that said, I don’t see how google can monitor the visitor bounce rate inside your website, it doesn’t make sense. I agree with Dan Knauss when he said google knows the exit rates, but I’m really not sure if they can monitor your in-site bounce rates.


could google track bounce rates with their other tools also? if sites have adsense scipts, google should know when user goes from site to site and not going back to serp? or what about just youtube videos embedded to sites? does them all make some cookies?


Your blog is very useful. Great article really awesome work.i have collect more information from your website. its really wonderful blog. Nice sharing.Thanks for your valuable posting. My bounce rate was 67%. how to reduce my bounce rate.give me some one tips please. i’m working in a cms in chennai.Here providing very low price cms , responsive webdesign and ERP. you have any more than information kindly make me call this number 044-42127512 or send your mail info@excelanto.com.


Thanks for your valuable posting.I have collect more than information from your website. It’s really wonderful blog. please added more than tips. i’m working in a [url=http://www.excelanto.com/]content management software in chennai[/url].Here providing very low price CMS , responsive webdesign and ERP. you have any more than information kindly make me call this number 044-42127512 or send your mail info@excelanto.com.


Thanks for your valuable posting.I have collect more than information from your website. It’s really wonderful blog. please added more than tips. i’m working in a [url=http://www.excelanto.com/]content management system in chennai[/url].Here providing very low price CMS , responsive webdesign and ERP. you have any more than information kindly make me call this number 044-42127512 or send your mail info@excelanto.com.


If its not possible to lower the bounce rate in some pages, its better to just delete them.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x