It is important to preface this article by stating that Google has adamantly denied using bounce rate or dwell time in its ranking algorithms. While the truth of this has been endlessly debated by top SEO experts, Google does gather user engagement data and we should consider the potential impacts.
What is Bounce Rate?
A “bounce” in SEO terms is when a searcher clicks a website link on the SERP and then immediately (or within an unspecified short period of time) returns to the SERP without further engaging the website. Reasons for a bounce are difficult to quantify and can be anything from irrelevant content to slow page load speeds. Bounce rates will vary for different website types, so do some research to find out if you have a healthy bounce rate.
What is Dwell Time?
Dwell time is simply the amount of time someone spends on a web page after clicking a link on a SERP before returning to the SERP. Not to be confused with session duration, which is the total amount of time a person spends on your domain. First referenced in a 2011 blog post by ex Bing Senior Project Manager Duane Forrester, dwell time may be used as another indicator for search engines as to the quality of website content. If users are clicking on your webpage, but returning to the SERP to browse other results within 30 seconds, it could be a sign that the user is not finding the desired information within the initial content.
Improving Website Engagement
While bounce rate and dwell time may or may not directly impact the ranking algorithms, it is good data to monitor when analyzing the effectiveness of SEO strategy. “Why build a great website if nobody can find it?” This was the mentality behind the birth of Firestarter SEO, but the opposite is also true. Why hire an amazing SEO company to increase your online traffic if the website is not engaging to users? Monitoring user engagement data in Google Analytics gives great insight into areas of opportunity for your website. Using this data to fuel A/B Testing is a great way to optimize the overall effectiveness of a website.
While Google denies using bounce rate or dwell time data in its ranking algorithm, it nevertheless collects the data. The possibility of future use of this data is something to consider in a long term SEO strategy. CTR is one confirmed example of Google using click data in its ranking algorithms. One day we might see a Google update that defines healthy bounce rate and dwell time parameters, and how they affect page rank. To set up a free SEO proposal for your website, contact us today!