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How Bounce Rate Can Kill Your Rankings

Posted by on January 21st, 2013
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We look at all the different ways a high bounce rate can damage the rankings of your web pages from slow loading speeds to poor landing pages, or simply not having any products in stock.

So if your rankings have fallen, bounce rate is always worth looking into – especially during peak shopping periods.

What is Bounce Rate?

To start with, bounce rate is measurement of how many people visit your web page and hit the Back button on their browser rather than continue their online journey through your website.

Google measures this alongside other usability metrics, such as Time On Site and compares it to similar web pages ranked for the same search terms.

But generally if the Time On Site is low and the Bounce Rate higher, your web page is going to drop in the rankings.

Your page won’t take a penalty as such, but it will need to perform better to regain its rankings. And some further link building wouldn’t hurt to get it back up quicker either.

3 Examples of High Bounce Rates

Here are 3 examples of what can cause an unnaturally high bounce rate and cause your pages to fall in the search engine rankings.

Holding Pages
Sometimes you may need to create a Holding Page while you’re working on your website.

For example, Apple shows a ‘Back Soon’ note when they take their store down temporarily during product announcements, before it comes back with shiny new products.
So when you’re making significant changes to your site, redirecting users to a Holding Page can be very helpful.

However, if the message isn’t clear or the Holding Page remains active for longer than 24 hours, it can see your Bounce Rate soaring. The longer the Bounce Rate remains high, the further your web page will be demoted in the Google rankings.

No Stock
Similarly, if you’re an online retailer ranking for a popular product, but your store is Out Of Stock, your Bounce Rate will become incredibly high the second your stock levels drop.

The need for stock levels can cause even greater difficulty with seasonal web pages. For example, I when I used to work in house for a small footwear retailer and we had a Snow Boots page (after lots of link building) which ranked 1st in Google for snow boots, winter boots and après ski boots.

So every January we would have a truly MASSIVE peak in traffic and sales in January. It was partly due to all the snow in the UK and because of the start of the ski season.

However, if we didn’t maintain stock levels outside of peak season, the Bounce Rate would go up and our competitors would outrank us. So we had to maintain healthy stock levels all year round in order to keep our Bounce Rate down and our ranking up.

We did this by ‘drop shipping’ a number of the boots or having available on pre-order, so this is always something to bear in mind if you’re an online retailer.

Price is something else that may need to be addressed. If a business is pricing itself out of the market, it will have a high Bounce Rate to reflect its lack of interest from customers.

Shallow Content
If there is next to no content on a page you have ranking in Google for a popular information based search term, your Bounce Rate us going to be unnaturally high and your page is going to be demoted in the rankings.

Once client reported a loss in rankings for a number of pages in their Resource section shortly after the Penguin and Panda updates in October 2012. We advised that they get some more content on those pages, as there were only 100 words of unique content on each of them.

They wrote some great content, getting the word count up to 500 words and the pages regained their rankings. Some even ranked a little big higher as a result!

Earlier I mentioned that Google measures this alongside other usability metrics, such as Time On Site. This is because many people find an article through Google, read it from start to finish and then Bounce straight out.

So if you’re worried about your website’s high Bounce Rate, check the average Time On Site for the before worrying about Google demoting it in the rankings.

Conclusion

You can build all the links in the world to get your web pages to the top of the Google, but if there’s nothing there for customers, the Bounce Rate will become unnaturally high and the Time On Site unnaturally low – resulting in your web page being demoted in the rankings.

We were link building for one retail client and chose to hold fire on one of their product ranges until they got more stock in, because we were worried about their Bounce Rate becoming unnaturally high.

We’d got them up to position 8, but didn’t want to push them any higher, because this would increase their Bounce Rate to the point where Google would demote their page in the rankings and undo all of our good work.

How quickly the ranking of your page falls in the search results will depend on the popularity of the search term and how competitive your niche is.

However, once the Bounce Rate has fallen, the web page should start to recover. And while link building always helps, it can be hard to get web pages rankings back in particularly competitive niches without extensive link building.

So look after your pages and think about your users as well as your Google rankings and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.


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