The bounce rate of a site is the percentage of users who leave without going to another page on your site before the analytics session times out, with the length of a session being dependent upon your specific analytics package (I’ve heard that 30 minutes is the average.) Usually listed as Bounce Rate in your analytics package, you can find the bounce rates for specific pages and for the overall site. A lower bounce rate is usually a good sign, as it indicates that the user likes the site enough in order to continue looking around.
Bounce rate can be a great way to determine how sticky your site is. It’s especially useful when viewed in conjunction with a PPC campaign, as it can help you better invest your money. However, it’s a fantastic link building metric that’s underutilized. It’s also a very tricky one.
As mentioned above, a lower bounce rate is usually a good thing; however, it could also indicate that the user simply did not find what he or she was looking for initially, which could indicate a problem with whatever method was used to come to the page.
Also, depending upon the goal of your site, you may have a different acceptable bounce rate. For example, a page that simply lists a hearty synopsis of other articles (along with links, even if most of the information can indeed be gathered simply on the page itself without having to read the full version) that link to the full versions may have a very high bounce rate. CNN’s homepage might have a high bounce rate, as people tend to glance at the news and get an idea of what’s happening, without needing to click into any subpages. The overall bounce rate can be fairly skewed if there are some problem pages with very high bounce rates.
3 tips to work this metric into link building
1. Figure out what your goals are.
If you’re building links to a contact us page and you want the user to call or email, your acceptable bounce rate will most likely be a lot lower than if your goal was to have the user fill out a contact form, or continue to another page.
2. Make sure that you can differentiate your traffic sources.
The overall bounce rate of a specific page will be composed of data gathered from all entry points, which means that the page may be perfectly targeted for your PPC ad, but very poorly targeted for your link building. How can you tell which it is?
If you’re using Google Analytics, it’s fairly straightforward:
Under Content, choose the page that you wish to check out and click on it. You’ll see your bounce rate listed, along with other good information. Click on Entrance Sources, and voila! There are your methods of entry. You should be able to easily see your bounce rates from your inbound links, your search engines, your direct paths, etc. My only issue with this is that the full URL of the linking page is not listed, so if you have a referral from someone on a site other than the home page, you won’t see that listed.
Alternatively, under Traffic Sources, choose Referring Sites. This gives you a list of all of your referrals for a given time period, and by clicking one of the referrals, you’ll drill down into it and see your bounce rates. This shows you your referrals that go to your entire site, so you won’t be able to differentiate between your site’s pages here.
My preference is to view both of these, but if I’m mainly interested in making sure that my pages are properly optimized and user-friendly for inbound links, I’d go with the Content view.
3. Compare your desired bounce rates with your actual ones.
Make sure to take the type of page into account in order to produce a viable bounce rate. If they don’t coincide, take a look at the reasons that could be behind the discrepancy. Perhaps your page is not actually properly optimized for the keywords used in the anchor text of the link that brought in the visitor.
Now, I’m definitely not trying to say that the methods I have described are the only (or the best) ways to do this, as there seem to be new ways of gathering data coming to light every week. However, I think that this is a good start, and it’s easy enough that anyone can do it. If you’re simply looking for another way to use analytics data to help refine your link building, this can definitely be something that you come to rely upon.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.