The first benefit that comes to mind when you think about faster page load time is the user experience; this means that the user value of a page goes up if it loads fast. Now about bounce rates, what comes to mind when you talk about a website having high bounce rates? No prizes for guessing, it’s a low conversion rate; the higher the bouncer rates, the lower the conversion ratio.
These two aspects are something that even somebody who isn’t an SEO professional, knows about page load time and bounce rates. But, these two characteristics of an online presence play another important role. They are ranking factors, and play a role in how well your website will rank on SERPs. So, it makes sense to take a closer look at them.
Page Load Time and Google Rankings
Speed kills, but that’s on the highway if you aren’t careful; here in the world of SEO especially in terms of the page loading time, speed thrills. Internet users, yes those people who are going to come to your website, expect it to load in 2 seconds or less. In a survey commissioned by Akamai Technologies back in 2009 and conducted by Forrester Consulting revealed that 47% of the users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less.
So, if your site hasn’t been optimized to load quickly, you are going to lose customers, a lot of them actually. But, what this also does is that it affects your Google Rankings.
Page load time is one out of the over 200 signals that Google uses to rank websites; so relevance, reputation etc. are right up there as the rankings signals, you must strive for, but you will do well to focus on page load time as well.
Since the appearance of Google Panda, the importance of page load time has increased. There have been cases wherein sites that were ranked lower in Google’s SERPs were seen to suffer from server page load problems. Once this problem was sorted out, their rankings increased. Google Panda and let’s get Penguin in the picture as well, want you to improve the user experience of your websites. If searchers are going to be happy with what they find on your website, it’s going to rank higher.
The first thing that user’s experience when the access your site is its page load time. So, this needs to be quick.
Bounce Rates and Google Ranking
Before we find out how bounce rates affect Google Rankings, let’s take a look at what is bounce. A bounce is a single page visit; pure and simple. If a visitor comes to your site and leaves it for some reason or other from the entrance page itself, then that’s a bounced visit.
Some of the reasons for this can be a session timeout; the visitor clicks on an external link; the visitor types in a new URL in the web browser or just closes the page window. So the bounce rate measures the percentage of these single page visits to your site. You get an idea about whether your site kept the visitor engaged or not, by taking a look at the bounce rate.
A bounce rate of around 40-60% is considered normal; it’s the design of your website and its content that determines the bounce rate of your website. Factors like page load time, ease of navigation, search engine rankings for target keywords, links, and quality of content amongst many others have an important role to play in determining whether a visitor remains engaged with your site.
Now we come to the important question. Do bounce rates affect your Google rankings? This question cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. That’s because if your web page offers all the information to the user in a single visit, it’s actually done a pretty good job and this singe page visit isn’t a bounce.
For my money, bounce rates don’t directly affect the rankings, but do so in conjunction with other factors. Say somebody has come to your site, but doesn’t find what he expects and just goes on to another site, by clicking the back button and going back to search results. This user behavior is something that figures in search engines that use bounce rate as a signal. If the user directly types in a website name in the browser, while he is on your webpage, this is something that a search engine like Google doesn’t take into consideration, while ranking your site.
This Back button bounce rate tells Google that the user didn’t find anything of value on your website, and so your website doesn’t get a high rank for that particular search query, that the visitor used to come to your site.
Page Load Time and Bounce Rate
Bounce rates go down if your pages load faster. If your pages are taking an eternity to load, visitors will just go on to some other site. This will reduce you conversion ratio, bringing down your website’s profitability. Add to that the fact that both are ranking factors and you have a nightmarish scenario that’s going to see your website put in a very poor performance.
So, it makes sense, but in terms of website profitability (sales figures) and Google Rankings, that you get both the page load time and the bounce rate of your site in order. SEO has become more challenging now, but if you focus on improving the UX of your visitor, there is a good chance that your site will rank high in SERPs. So, do it and reap the benefits.