Bounce rates are one of the most important metrics for marketers, but there’s still a lot of voodoo surrounding them. In short: bounce rates do matter, but potentially not for the reason that you think they do. For beginners, a “bounce rate” is the number of users who click through to your page but quickly leave it.

The Truth About Bounce Rates

What does a bounce rate really mean? A high bounce rate is an unfulfilled promise. It means that whatever the user thought they were going to get when they reviewed the title of your page and its description wasn’t what they actually got when they clicked the link. This could happen for a few reasons:

  • You misrepresented your content. Obviously they were interested enough in your title to click the link. But did the title truly represent the content? Or was it intentionally designed to mislead?
  • Your website loaded too slowly. Most users will only wait two to three seconds for a page to load. Any longer and they will get frustrated and leave.
  • Your website is ugly. There are a few things that will get users to immediately exit out: auto-loading videos and modal windows are two of them.

A high bounce rate is, in other words, one of the best indicators that something is wrong with your website. But what is a bad bounce rate, anyway? It may surprise you to know that the average bounce rate for a website is 41% to 55%. That’s right — if you’re capturing more than half of your clicks, you’re doing good.

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The Lie About Bounce Rates

There’s one really big lie about bounce rates that’s been going around just about forever: it doesn’t have an impact on your SEO. That’s right. While bounce rates may impact your overall user experience, it has absolutely no impact on your search engine performance. This has been confirmed directly by Matt Cutts at Google.

It’s easy to see why this type of lie might proliferate. It would make sense for Google to track bounce rates as a method of determining whether a website was truly relevant. But then consider the fact that a “good” bounce rate could be as high as 30%. The metric itself is highly variable and dependent on a number of factors.

So there you have it. Bounce rates are an important metric that indicates the overall user experience of your content but not necessarily its search rankings. A high bounce rate indicates that the content is not providing the value that the user anticipated — but bounce rates in general are quite high. To lower your bounce rate, you need to ensure that your content is fulfilling the promise of its meta data.

Jenna Inouye
Jenna I. is a freelance writer, programmer and web developer, focusing on the areas of digital marketing, technology, gaming and finance. Hire Jenna through WriterAccess or contact her directly.

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