Bounce Rate: Why it matters for SEO

Written by: Jason Bayless | May 13, 2016

Your bounce rate is one of the most important SEO statistics, because it informs you about how well you are retaining traffic to the site. To be precise, the bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your site who only view one page before navigating away to a different site. It is called the bounce rate because these people bounce away from your site instead of sticking around to consume your content and potentially become customers. In this post, we will provide some details about how the bounce rate works and why it is a bad thing to have a high bounce rate.

Much of SEO revolves around trying to get as many people as possible to visit your site. A primary outcome of SEO is search traffic: how many people look up keywords related to your business and then come to your site afterward because it showed up in the Google results. Everyone is trying to move their site higher up on the results pages for their keywords. A site near the top of the search engine results page will get a lot more clicks than one lower down, because people start reading at the top.

But tracking those clicks only goes so far. The whole point of SEO is to increase revenue, and clicks alone are going to do very little for that. You need a method of ensuring that people who visit your site will actually stay there long enough to buy something from you or otherwise generate revenue. If the visitors are bored by your site, the site is broken, the site is slow, or the site is not related to what they want, then they will leave. They leave quite fast, too: most people don’t remain on a site they dislike for more than a few seconds.

That is what the bounce rate is tracking: how many people see your site and almost immediately turn around and leave. If you have a high bounce rate, it is a sign that there is a problem with your web design. The site is not appealing to visitors at all. It could be because the site loads slowly: visitors have very little patience for slow sites. It might be that your design makes it hard to tell what the site is about or looks unprofessional. In those cases, the visitor is unwilling or unable to try to learn about your brand. The bounce rate itself is not very informative about why people are leaving, but it is a great way to get a fast look at how satisfied your visitors are.

You should check your bounce rate often. For example, track how it evolves after you roll out a new product or change an aspect of your web design. That will give you a rough estimate of how successful your change was. If you are up to it, try some A/B testing of different designs and see which one has a better bounce rate at the end of the trial period. There are lots of ways for you to use your bounce rate as a diagnostic tool for your site. It’s a good reminder that traffic is not everything: you need to convert visitors into customers somehow. The bounce rate is a useful way to see if you are successful at that task.