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Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?

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Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?

Google search representatives have consistently and clearly stated that they do not use Google Analytics data to rank websites.

But, there are discrepancies between what Google says and what SEOs believe.

Despite Google’s public statements, some search marketers continue to believe that bounce rate is in some way a ranking factor.

Why do they believe this? Is there any validity to the claims against Google’s public statements?

Does Google use bounce rate to rank webpages?

[Recommended Read:] Google Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction

The Claim: Bounce Rate As A Ranking Factor

As recent as Q3 2021, recognized and respected resources have perpetuated the myth that bounce rate is a ranking factor.

Rand Fishkin, Founder of MOZ, tweeted in May 2020 that “…Google uses (relative) bounce rate (or something that’s pretty darn close) to rank websites.”

Screenshot from Twitter, June 2022

Backlinko published an article (June 2020) about bounce rate saying that “bounce rate may be used as a Google Ranking factor.”

They cite an industry study they ran and claim it found a correlation between first-page Google rankings and bounce rate.

Backlinko published an article (June 2020) about bounce rateScreenshot from Backlinko.com, June 2022

Later the same year, Semrush reinforced this claim in December 2020, saying, “Bounce rate is an important ranking factor.”

They did not provide evidence to back up the claim.

Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?Screenshot from Semrush.com, June 2022

HubSpot included bounce rate in a rundown of “all 200 ranking factors” in a cheat sheet to Google’s known ranking factors in July 2021.

Bounce rate is included as a factor twice under “site-level factors” and under “user interaction,” with no supporting evidence for their claim.

Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?Screenshot from Hubspot.com, June 2022

So, let’s take a look at the evidence, shall we?

The Evidence: Bounce Rate As A Ranking Factor

In “How Search Works,” Google says, “…we use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries.”

Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?Screenshot from Google Search, June 2022

The vague wording here has led to many assumptions about what “interaction data” Google uses to inform its machine learning systems.

Some marketers believe the “interaction data” includes bounce rate.

They use a handful of studies to support this hypothesis.

The Backlinko study mentioned above ran a subset of domains from their own data set through Alexa to determine a site-wide time on site.

They discovered that the average time on site for a Google first-page result is 2.5 minutes.

Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?Screenshot from Backlinko.com, June 2022

The study goes on to clarify:

“Please keep in mind that we aren’t suggesting that time on site has a direct relationship with higher rankings.

Of course, Google may use something like time on site or bounce rate as a ranking signal (although they have previously denied it). Or it may be the fact that high-quality content keeps people more engaged. Therefore a high time on site is a byproduct of high-quality content, which Google does measure.

As this is a correlation study, it’s impossible to determine from our data alone.”

Brian Dean confirmed in reply to a comment that the study did not actually look at bounce rate (or pageviews).

Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?Screenshot from Backlinko.com, June 2022

The Backlinko study, which supposedly found a correlation between first-page Google rankings and bounce rate, did not look at bounce rate.

Rand Fishkin stated that Google uses relative bounce rate to rank websites, and discussed this topic with Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google Ireland, in 2016.

Rand described tests he had been running where he would ask people to do a search, click on the seventh result, and then observe over the next 24 hours what happened to that page’s ranking for that query.

The results were inconclusive.

In seven to eight tests, rankings improved for a day or two. Rand said the rankings did not change in four to five tests.

Andrey responded that he believes it’s more likely that the social mentions, links, and tweets (which are basically links) throw Google off temporarily until they can establish that the “noise” is irrelevant to the user intent.

Both the Backlinko study and Rand’s experiments helped shape the bounce rate myth. But the study didn’t look at bounce rate, and Rand’s experiments did not prove a causational relationship between user behavior and ranking.

[Download:] The Complete Google Ranking Factors Guide.

Does Bounce Rate Affect Search Rankings?

Google has stated that bounce rate is not a ranking factor for over a decade.

“Google Analytics is not used in search quality in any way for our rankings.” – Matt Cutts, Google Search Central, February 2, 2010.

“…we don’t use analytics/bounce rate in search ranking.” – Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, Twitter, May 13, 2015.

“I think there’s a bit of misconception here that we’re looking at things like the analytics bounce rate when it comes to ranking websites, and that’s definitely not the case.” – John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google,  Webmaster Central office-hours, Jun 12, 2022.

Why Google Doesn’t Use Bounce Rate As A Ranking Factor

There are technical, logical, and financial reasons why it is improbable that Google would use bounce rate as a ranking factor.

This can be summarized by looking at three primary facts:

  1. What bounce rate measures.
  2. Not all websites use Google Analytics.
  3. Bounce rate is easily manipulated.

What Does Bounce Rate Measure?

A lot of the confusion around bounce rate can be cleared up once people understand what bounce rate actually measures.

Bounce rate is a Google Analytics metric that measures the percentage of single-page sessions (no secondary hits) to your site divided by the total sessions.

Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?Image created by author, June 2022

Marketers often misinterpret this metric to mean that the webpage did not provide what the user was looking for.

But, all a bounce means is that a measurable event (secondary hit) did not occur.

Technically speaking, Google can’t understand how long a user spends on a page unless a second hit occurs.

If a user spends 2.5 minutes reading the webpage (as the Backlinko study found correlates with page rank) and then exits, it will count as a bounce because they did not send any subsequent hits to GA.

So, keep in mind that bounce rate does not necessarily indicate a bad user experience.

Users may click on a result, read it, and leave because their query was satisfied. That’s a successful search, and it doesn’t make sense for Google to penalize you for it.

This is why Backlinko’s study, looking at the time on the page, does not support the claim that bounce rate is a ranking factor.

[Discover:] More Google Ranking Factor Insights.

Not All Websites Use Google Analytics

While Google Analytics is a widely-used analytics tool, not all websites use it.

If Google used bounce rate as a ranking factor, it would have to treat websites with the GA code differently than those without the GA code.

If websites without the GA code were not graded by bounce rate, they would theoretically have greater freedom to publish whatever content they wanted.

And if this were true, it would be illogical for any marketer to use the GA code.

You see, Google Analytics is a “freemium” service. While most businesses use their service for free, large companies pay a monthly fee for more advanced features.

The paid version is called GA 360, and pricing starts at $150,000 annually.

There are 24,235 companies currently using GA 360.

That equates to $3,635,250,000 per year (on the low end.)

Using bounce rate as a ranking factor is not in Google’s financial interest.

Bounce Rate Can Be Easily Manipulated

Some of you may still not be convinced.

You may have even noticed a correlation between average position improving and bounce rate decreasing in your daily practice.

While bounce rate and average ranking may correlate, they certainly are not dependent on each other.

What happens when you increase your bounce rate? Do the rankings fall back to where they were?

Bounce rate is easy to manipulate, and you can try this experiment yourself.

You will need to increase and decrease your bounce rate for this test while comparing the average position for a search query over time.

Remember that the bounce rate is sessions with zero secondary hits / all sessions.

So, all you need to do to reduce your bounce rate is send a secondary hit.

You can add a second pageview event using Google Tag Manager.

Do not make any other changes on-page or off-page; chart your average rankings over three months.

Then remove this extra pageview tag.

Did your average rankings increase and decrease in unison with modifying the bounce rate?

Below is a graph of a quick version of this study on my own site; one that shows no correlation between bounce rate and average position.

Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?Image created by author, June 2022

Our Verdict: Bounce Rate Is Definitely Not A Ranking Factor

Is Bounce Rate A Google Ranking Factor?

No, bounce rate is not a Google ranking factor. Bounce rate is not a reliable measurement of the relevance of webpages – and Google has repeatedly said it does not use it for rankings.

With big industry names like Rand and Backlinko putting their weight behind bounce rate as a ranking factor, confusion is understandable.

Experts have tested this user signal with varying results.

Some experiments may have demonstrated a correlation between bounce rate and SERP rankings in certain situations.

Other experiments haven’t done that, but people reference them as if they’re proof.

“Confirmed ranking factor” requires a high degree of evidence. No one has proven a causal relationship.

You need to watch out for this in SEO, even when reading trusted sources.

SEO is complicated. Google representatives and industry pros love to joke that the answer to every SEO question is: “It depends.”

We’re all looking for ways to explain success in SERPs. But we need to avoid jumping to conclusions, which can cause people to invest resources in improving unconfirmed metrics.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction? Let’s Bust Some Myths! [Ebook]



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How to Achieve 7-Figures with Your Law Firm Website

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How to Achieve 7-Figures with Your Law Firm Website

Many law firms are simply leasing space when it comes to their online marketing.

Whether it’s Google pay-per-click (PPC) ads, Facebook Ads, or social media, these channels often yield only temporary wins. Once you pull the investment, your results go away entirely.

Your website, on the other hand, can be a 24/7 selling tool for your law firm practice. It can effectively become your greatest asset, getting leads and cases while you sleep.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to turn your website into the ultimate marketing tool for your law firm practice and generate seven figures in revenue for your business.

A Well-Optimized Law Firm Website Can Yield Huge Results

With your law firm’s website, you can use content marketing to your advantage to generate lucrative results for your business. Content and SEO allow you to attract users organically and convert traffic passively into new cases for your law firm.

As an example, a high-ranking webpage in a competitive market getting 1,000 users per month can get huge results:

  • Convert visitors at 2-5% = 20-50 leads.
  • Convert even 10-20% of leads = 2-10 cases.
  • Average $8000 revenue per case = $16,000-$80,000 monthly revenue from one page.

Over the course of a year, this could lead to high six-figures to seven-figures in revenue!

The Foundations Of A Revenue-Generating Law Firm Website

At its core, your law firm website should serve to speak to the needs, struggles, and interests of your target audience. It should be laser-focused on your practice area, who you serve, and what you have to offer.

With this in mind, a well-crafted website content strategy should define:

  • Your business goals (the cases you want).
  • What competitors are doing.
  • What pages to write and keywords to target.
  • How to use your content budget.
  • Your editorial calendar.
  • The purpose/intent of each page.
  • PR and backlink strategy.

Below, we’ll dive deeper into how to develop this strategy, build out amazing content, and achieve your seven-figure revenue goals.

1. Define The Cases You Want

The first step to developing a successful website marketing strategy is to define the types of legal cases you want.

This activity will help you determine the types of people you want to reach, the type of content you should create, and the types of SEO keywords you need to target.

That way, you end up marketing to a more specific subset of potential clients, rather than a broad range of users.

Not sure where to set your focus? Here are a few questions that might help:

  • Which of your cases are the most profitable?
  • What types of cases are you not getting enough of?
  • In what markets are you strongest?
  • In which markets do you want to improve?
  • Are there any practice areas you want to explore?

At the end of this activity, you might decide that you want to attract more family law cases, foreclosure law cases, or DUI cases – whatever it is, getting hyper-focused on the types of cases you want to attract will only make your website marketing even stronger.

2. Identify Your Top Competitors

One of the best ways to “hack” your website marketing strategy is to figure out what’s working for your competitors.

By “competitors” we mean law firms that are working to attract the types of cases you’re trying to attract, at the same level at which your law firm is currently operating.

I say this because I see many law firms trying to out beat and outrank the “big” fish and this can feel like a losing battle. You want to set your sights on your closest competitors, rise above them, and then get more competitive with your strategy.

Here are a few ways to identify your closest competitors:

  • Conduct a Google search of your legal practice area + your service area (e.g., “family law Kirkland”, “DUI lawyer LA”, “Denver probate attorney” etc.). Take note of the top-ranking domains (i.e., websites).
  • Use SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to search your domain name. These tools will often surface close competitors to your domain.
  • Using the same tools above, conduct organic research on your domain to see what keywords you are already ranking for. Search these keywords in Google and see what other domains come up.
  • Use these tools to determine the domain authority (DA) of your domain. Compare this to the other top-ranking domains to see which domains have an authority score that’s similar to your own.

Be sure to look at your known business competitors as well.

These may or may not be ranking well in Google Search, but it’s still worth a peek to see if they are targeting any high-priority keywords that your website should be targeting.

3. Conduct A Content Audit Of Your Website

Your next step is to conduct an audit of your current website. This will allow you to take stock of what content is performing well, and what content requires improvement.

First, start with your main service pages.

Use SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs again to review the rank (position), performance, and keywords of each page. Identify any pages that are ranking low, or not at all.

Then, find “low-hanging fruit” pages. These are the pages that are ranking around position 5-10. They require less effort to optimize to reach those higher rank positions – compared to pages ranking at, say, position 59.

Next, use the same tools to conduct a “gap analysis” (most SEO tools have this feature).

This compares your website’s performance to that of your closest competitors. It will show you a list of keywords that your competitors are ranking for that your website is not ranking for at all.

Finally, create an inventory of what pages you already have, which need to be revised, and which you need to create. Doing so will help you stay organized and stay on task when developing your content strategy.

4. Plan Your Content Silos

By this step, you will have a pretty good idea of what pages you already have, and which pages are “missing” from your strategy (based on the list of keywords you are not yet targeting).

From here, you will plan what’s called “content silos”.

Here is the basic process:

  • Review an existing service page (if you have one) and optimize it as best you can. Ideally, this is a page that’s already performing well and is otherwise a “low-hanging fruit” page.
  • If you don’t have any existing service pages, create one based on one of your high-priority keywords. Again, these should be a keyword that is meant to attract your preferred type of cases.
  • Next, build a “silo” of content around your main page. In other words, create new pages that are topically related to your main service page, but that target slightly different keywords (ideally, “long-tail”, lower competition keywords).
  • Add internal links between these pages and your primary service page.
  • Over time, build backlinks to these pages (through guest posting, PR, content marketing, etc.)

Below is an example of a content silo approach for “personal injury:”

Image from author, November 2022

5. Identify Supporting Topics

As part of your website content strategy, you’ll then want to create other supporting content pieces. This should be content that provides value to your potential clients.

FAQs, blogs, and other service pages can support your main pages.

For example, if you are a DUI lawyer, you might want to publish an FAQ page that addresses the main questions clients have about DUI law, or a blog post titled “What to Do When You Get a DUI.”

There are a few tools you can use to research supporting topics:

  • Semrush – Use this tool to identify untapped keywords, content topics, and more.
  • AlsoAsked – Identify other questions people have searched for relevant to your primary topic.
  • Answer the Public – Use this search listening tool to identify topics and questions related to your practice area.

Below is an example of how the full content silo can come together for “Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer:”

Accident lawyer content siloImage from author, November 2022

6. Build An Editorial Calendar

Once you have all of your content ideas down on paper, it’s time to develop your editorial calendar.

This is essentially a plan of what content you need to create when you want to publish it, and what keywords you plan to target.

This can be as simple as a Google Sheet or as fancy as a project management tool (like Monday.com or Asana).

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Always prioritize main pages. These should be the first content pieces you create on your website.
  • Create or revise your main pages and monitor their performance. Use Google Analytics and other SEO tools to keep your eye on how your content is performing.
  • Depending on budget and urgency, you might start with all main pages, or go silo by silo. Determine which service pages are most important to you. You can create all of your main pages at once, or develop the entire silo as you go.
  • Keep a record of your target keywords. Just because you “optimize” for them doesn’t mean your content will automatically rank for your target keywords. In your editorial calendar, keep track of the keywords you wish to target – by page – so you have a record of your original SEO strategy.

What Makes A Winning Law Firm Website Strategy?

The key to achieving seven figures with your law firm website is content.

Content allows you to target your ideal clients, attract your preferred cases, engage your audience, and so much more.

A well-thought-out content strategy will empower your website to achieve more for your business than any other marketing channel could!

Above, I outline a few steps to developing this type of winning strategy. But, achieving excellence takes time.

I recommend keeping your eye on the prize, monitoring performance, and making updates as you go along.

This will help you reach your desired result.

More resources: 


Featured Image: PanuShot/Shutterstock



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