What is bounce rate? The percentage of people who click on a link to your site—and then leaves via the back button or closing the window rather than via interacting with the page (to click a link on the page).
I learned something fascinating about Google ads the other day. If you have a business and go buy Google ads for the first time, you don’t generally wind up on google.com search pages—not until you’ve proven that a) you have a high click-through rate on your page (because why should you get on Google.com when someone more proven can), and b) a low bounce rate.
It makes sense in context, obviously: Google’s there to make ad money, and they’re more likely to make ad money when someone interacts with the page.
Aaron Wall Has a Point
Aaron Wall’s recent post, You Can’t Copyright Facts, makes the point:
Some of the more hated aspects of online publishing (headline bait, idiotic correlations out of context, pagination, slideshows, popups, fly in ad units, auto play videos, full page ad wraps, huge ads eating most the above the fold real estate, integration of terrible native ad units promoting junk offers with shocking headline bait, content scraping answer farms, blending unvetted user generated content with house editorial, partnering with content farms to create subdomains on trusted blue chip sites, using Narrative Science or Automated Insights to auto-generate content, etc.) are not done because online publishers want to be jackasses, but because it is hard to make the numbers work in a competitive environment.
(Seth Godin also has some interesting points on the subject.)
And, like all of the above, bounce rate does matter in another way that’s far more subtle: it affects your search rankings in Google—whether you advertise or not.
Another Reason for Measuring Bounce Rate
Think about it from Google’s perspective. They want to offer the most relevant items for a given search. You search for pink fuzzy dice, but when you click on the page, it’s just used as a short phrase in a long essay about the history of gambling. You click the back button to find another entry on the search page.
What that tells Google is that the selected page wasn’t relevant for that search for you. So Google downranks it.
See how that can hurt you?
The problem is, every single page of any size has many, many search terms on it at any given time, and you can’t write something relevant for all of them.
As an example, briefly, after making this Scalzi shirt I ranked very highly for the search phrase: t-shirt hell. I no longer do. Makes sense: my placement was accidental and it’s not relevant to the customers of the brand T-Shirt Hell. (Kinda the opposite, actually.)
Then sometimes you wind up winning despite the relevancy. This post ranks very highly for searches involving: letter and sister-in-law. I can almost guarantee you it’s not what they’re looking for, but they do actually stick around, and it’s one of my best click-through-rate pages.
So Apart from Writing Compelling Copy, What Do You Do?
Well, I’m glad you asked. The deirdre.net Evil Genius Research Labs are testing something even as we speak.