Google Answers Bounce Rate Questions
Some questions about how bounce rate relates to SEO came up over at Webforumz.com, where our own Mike McDonald was kind enough to step in and try to get some answers about. Mike asked some questions to a couple of Googlers, and the following responses are the result of that. This should shed a little light on how Google takes bounce rate into account.
First Mike got a response from Google Search Evangelist Adam Lasnik:
If you’re talking about bounce rates in the context of Google Analytics, I’m afraid you probably know as much as I do. I love the product, but don’t know the ins-and-outs of it very thoroughly.
If you’re talking about bounce rates in the context of Google web search and webmaster-y issues, then we really don’t have specific guidance on bounces per se; rather, the key for webmasters is to make users happy so they find your site useful, bookmark your site, return to your site, recommend your site, link to your site, etc. Pretty much everything we write algorithmically re: web search is designed to maximize user happiness, so anything webmasters do to increase that is likely to improve their site’s presence in Google.
Mike also sent a few questions to Matt Cutts, who forwarded them to Google Analytics Evangelist Avinash Kaushik, which produced a nice little Q&A:
Mike McDonald: What is the duration for a single page visit until it is no longer considered a bounce when a visitor leaves?
Avinash Kaushik: Bounce is a Visit level metric.
The definition is simple, if there is a Visit (a session technically speaking) with just one page view in it then it is considered a bounce. IE Someone came to your site, saw just one page, did not other action, left your website.
If you want to get a graduate level explanation about bounce rates and a business / marketing perspective on it here it is:
MM: What if a visitor lands on a page, and then visits another page within 5 seconds and then closes the browser. Is that considered a bounce?
AK: No bounce.
Remember time has no bearing on bounce computations. Just page views. In this case there are two page views in a session. No bounce.
The WAA standard definition of bounce rate, and that of Google Analytics, only considers the page view. Time has no bearing on the equation.
If in your external link popping strategy you are also sending a "hit" back to GA, as in this strategy….
Then the behavior you describe won’t be considered as bounce because you have just sent a "hit" (a page view really) back to GA.
If in your external link popping strategy you are not sending a hit back to GA then if the person comes to your site, clicks on a link to leave the site, then that is a bounce.
Note that with Event Tracking (advanced AJAX, Flash, Flex, Video etc) released by the GA team Analytics can handle a lot more complex scenarios intelligently. Say if I come to your site. Watch the video you did with me at SES and leave. Most tools would consider that bounce. But if you are using GA and have event tracking for your videos (or 100% flash site) then that won’t be considered bounce. In fact GA will accurately compute how long I stayed on your site, how much of the video I watched etc etc.
MM: If opening external links in a new window is considered a bounce, does it change anything if the user then comes back to the site which has remained opened and then starts browsing around?
AK: See above for first part of your answer. It depends on how you have encoded the external links (with ga tracking or not).
For the second part….
A session in Google Analytics (and pretty much every other web analytics tool out there) is "29 mins of inactivity". So I come to your site. See just one page. Go away to say google or whatever. Come back in 15 mins (or under 29 mins). Do another click. That’s still the same session. No bounce.
Hope this helps.
There is definitely some useful information there. To read the rest of the conversation, or to contribute to it, you can find the thread at Webforumz here.