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Creative Commons License photo credit: Jonty Wareing

I read this interesting blog post entitled “How Do Search Engines Rank Websites?“, a blog post by Mark Johnson on Site Sketch 101, whilst there have been a range of good advice (content & links being the main crux, and that nobody knows the true ranking factors bar Google, and it was the factors he considered, rather than hard fact), some of the advice I respectfully disagreed with. One such point is this:-

Bounce rate: Another factor that not many people think of. What if you do a search, click on a result and find its not what you expected? You then go back to your search results and click another link don’t you? The search engines will notice that too, that’s a pretty strong indication that the first site was not that helpful after all… So yeh, your bounce rate matters a lot more than you might have thought.

I’m of the opinion that bounce rate should never be a ranking factor for a number of reasons, here’s three of the reasons why.

It’s Counter Intuative for Users

If you are a user of Google, you will probably want to find the information as quickly as possible, rather than waste time reading through a bunch of blog posts. Some searches – such as “What is my IP?”, result in a one page, you have the information you need, you’ll leave.

It’s Counter Intuative for Bloggers

A couple of pages on my blog post have a very high bounce rate. Am I bothered? No. These pages have affiliate links and are targetted for search engines. The search results gets people here, and the page copy is designed to get them to click on an affiliate link & hopefully buy. It’s a bounce, because a user only visits one page on my site. Am I bothered? No, as I could earn money from it. Is the user bothered? No, as they find a solution to their problem. Bounce rate, in this case, is good. As is users’ tweeting/facebooking/stumbling my post. They leave my site, but can get a lot more visitors to my site.

It’s Against Google’s Business Model

This is where it all ties together Google’s business model. Google’s main concern is to build the best search engine they can, so that the most relevant pages are top of search engines. Both the examples mentioned above are examples of users finding what they want on the first page they hit, and then bouncing out. Should these sites lose rankings because they have high bounce rate? Of course not. It’d make Google a worse search engine because of it.

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