My Google Rankings Dropped Due To Bounce Rate Attacks!

Jan 11, 2013 • 8:05 am | comments (36) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

bounce rateI love these myths that come up from places deep inside the paranoid SEO mind. A Google Webmaster Help thread has one webmaster claiming his rankings dropped in Google because his site was hit by a "bounce rate attack."

The webmaster wrote:

My website has recently seen a dramatic increase in bounce rate. Our bounce rate is typically between 1% to 3% on a monthly basis. However, starting in December our website has been attacked (for lack of a better term) by someone trying to artificially increase our bounce rate in an effort to decrease our search engine ranking- and they have succeeded.

Really?

Well, Google has said (believe them or not) that they do not use Google Analytics data within the ranking algorithm. They also said numerous times that they find bounce rates from the search results to a web page and back to be a spamable and noisy metric and don't use that also. And despite all this Google+ social stuff Google is working on, they currently barely use those metrics in the search ranking algorithm.

So to think a bounce rate attack can have a direct impact on your rankings, well, is not proven by what Google tells us.

Now, of course, you don't have to believe what Google tells us and then the bounce rate attack theory can work.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for bounce rate

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Comments:

franz enzenhofer

01/11/2013 01:36 pm

yeah, "bounce rate attack" is a pretty stupid term. as bounce rate is just a symptom we see, not a cause. but: google has stated more than once, that they are using "usage metrics" / "user metrics" in some way (and this since 2002 according to the "i'm feeling lucks...." xoogler book). what metrics? we don't know. we might never will. but "we should look out for the users". so, they use something. also google states, that one of their reasons to why they don't open source (or at least "give access to") their ranking algorithm is: that there is no un-spam-able metric. the logical conclusion must be: an attack using user/usage metrics might be possible. note: i didn't reed the original webmaster world thread, i never do, i have barry for that.

ethalon

01/11/2013 01:46 pm

Franz, you should really read that thread in full. It is a good read and one of my favorite contributers there, Suzanneh, is giving all kinds of good information. I would feel like a jerk if I didn't mention that fedesasso is also being helpful and informative. If you had read the thread you would see that the reason for this particular problem is a double implementation of the analytics code on-site. It is one of the webmaster central threads that I think should be held up as exemplary user-based help. Thanks for the post Barry; everyone should click through the link and take a few minutes to read the discussion and store the information in that 'trouble shooting' part of your meat-computers.

Andy

01/11/2013 02:06 pm

Bounce rate doesn't have to be analytics related. They can very easy track the people they send to site x and record the time until this person visits again and does a similar search or clicks on a different entry. I would be surprised if Google doesn't use this metric in some form because its one of the most powerful relevance metrics they can get their hands on. Bounce rate is more effective than any authority link. If you get a link from New York times labeled "candlelight dinner", but bounce rate for this kw says 90% compared to another site that does not have any links but bounce rates of 20-30% on that kw, if you would be a search engine owner, what would be your preferred ranking order? With all bots stopping technology they have available to them via adwords/adsense, they should be easily able to figure out bounce rate spamming.

Barry Schwartz

01/11/2013 02:09 pm

Andy, I mentioned that and Matt Cutts said that was a "noisy" and "spammable" metric.

Andy

01/11/2013 02:37 pm

I realize that you can send traffic (people/bots) through google to the target site, then kill them off to fake a great bounce rate but google could just use their own data, like only g+ logged-in people that go through searches and also come back after some time, then track this time frame to get in idea of site relevance to factor that in their rankings.

Suzanne Hiscock

01/11/2013 03:00 pm

Thanks for the kinds words, ethalon! You're right, Fedesasso did a great job covering the math aspects. I'm not mathematically inclined. But really, the math shouldn't have even been a factor. Two instances of Analytics (trackPageView()) = false low bounce rate. We all like to think our sites are great, but a 1 or 2% bounce rate? Just not realistic. :-)

ethalon

01/11/2013 03:01 pm

So then somebody runs a script to do the same thing but on a browser that is logged in to G+. I am sure you can make the appropriate time delays/behavior variability and use a whole bunch of fake G+ profiles. It's not like the vast majority of people with a G+ profile actively use it, or even know they have one in the first place, so activity on G+ isn't an accurate measure of 'fake vs. real user'. Also, there are nowhere near enough people using G+ to make bounce rates from these users anywhere near reliable indicators of anything... ...except maybe ranking SEO blogs and Google Employee habbits.

Click Consult

01/11/2013 03:01 pm

You also have to remember that if you click back after visiting a site briefly and then click "don't show results from this site" this could also be used as a bounce metric somewhere down the line. It might not just be used for personalising your results. - AW

Andy

01/11/2013 03:54 pm

You could do that with fake profiles but it will be easy for google to create author profiles and only count data from trusted profiles. Regarding 'scripts', tell me where I can buy a script for a few hundred bucks that auto-generates me an income on adsense on a long term basis or a script that generates fake clicks on my competitor adwords.

ethalon

01/11/2013 04:07 pm

It was a hypothetical and I apologize if I wasn't clear or seemed that I was saying I use and/or know where to acquire similar information. On your point about 'trusted profiles': There are nowhere near enough G+ profiles out there (trusted or otherwise) to use as a reliable source of data. In an ideal Google world, there would be, but there aren't. Vic can dream, but it isn't happening any time soon.

Chase Anderson

01/11/2013 06:53 pm

Correlation causation. Look at your data or your backlinks or your site quality. It's 1,000x more likely that you just have a bad site for one of these other reasons. The 1% bounce rate number provided is suspect in itself. No one has a 1% bounce rate on a 'typical' site (one that doesn't auto load additional pages or pop-ups or force entry via a click). Case and point: -The words "Home staging" is used 30 times on the homepage -Could anyone find a single link to this site? -Your site doesn't rank for anything of value why would it be under attack? Additionally, I think it's funny that when someone launches a crap site, Google is so bad at detecting their terrible site that they get away with it for months or even years and then suddenly when they finally get their deserved rankings they think it's a conspiracy.

Jasonmailley

01/11/2013 07:11 pm

If that assumption was true, a lot of blogs would lose their rankings because most of them are designed in a way that renders high bounce rates and make that data segment totally unrelevant.

Mythbuster

01/11/2013 07:33 pm

Barry you MORON, how is it a myth, unless you can prove it as false? What Google says has zero credibility, they are chasing the almighty dollar and favoring brands (aka their adwords advertisers)

ethalon

01/11/2013 09:18 pm

Just use your head for a few minutes and maybe the 'bounce rate as ranking metric' discussion will become clear to you. Or is it more fun to just rant and rave?

Jeremiah Fowler

01/11/2013 10:25 pm

Google is an evil piece of shit these days. Funny how they trash 80% of websites and then offer you Google Ads as the only way to compete with the monopolies. Also funny how their ad revenue went up like 40% after their "rape and pillage penguin, panda or whatever else they are calling profiteering". I proudly stopped using google ads and general search. Let them burn the fields for a short term gain.

Black Friday

01/11/2013 11:18 pm

Seems to be an oddly low bounce rate number too... 1% bounce rate? I don't know any site that has a 1% bounce rate. That seems crazy low. Maybe I'm wrong... I recently had a site where there was a bug causing analytics to report a 6% bounce rate and when we fixed the issue the bounce rate when to a more realistic 30%. I wonder if this is an "attack" which would have no point anyway, or if they actually made a change to their site or analytics that is reporting a more accurate bounce rate now.

sestuff

01/12/2013 12:47 am

Google toolbar anyone? That is a good indicator and if people remember, Matt said at one point (don't remember the exact conversation) that they can tell when a real visitor is using Google. He said this when he discussed the block site feature. It has also been said that they can detect fake G+ accounts. I also believe that they use bounce rate as some type of indicator regardless of whether they admit to it... Maybe they don't analyze the actual "bounce rate" but instead may analyze how people interact with your site. In this case, Matt would be telling the truth to some extent. It all depends on our definition and their definition of bounce rate. I have seen some rankings which only user interaction can explain, but whether this particular site is suffering from a low bounce rate is a different story... Especially since it would be ridiculous to hurt a site's ranking entirely based on a high bounce rate for just a few queries. Especially since high bounce rates can occur due to Google serving up irrelevant results.

Barry Schwartz

01/12/2013 04:12 pm

You feel better after calling me a moron?

Radiance Conseil

01/12/2013 07:30 pm

"Matt Cutts said that was a "noisy" and "spammable" metric" ->> Like backlinks ? And of course, we all know that backlinks are not used within the ranking algorithm... ;-) Manipulating bounce rate IS absolutely efficient to impact your rankings and it's for that reason that they recently added more security processes to detects bots playing with this setting.

Radiance Conseil

01/12/2013 07:34 pm

Completely agree, 1 - 2% bounce rate is rather revealing a technical problem to me rather than an interesting website. 15 - 25% is a normal yet very good range for bounce rate.

Danny Cutts

01/13/2013 02:43 pm

I don't trust anything google says... I prefer to do my own tests and get my own answers.

franz enzenhofer

01/14/2013 08:38 am

i never doubted that it would turn out to be some onpage/onsite/analytics issue. blaming google (algo update, penality, ...) and/or an attack should always be the last possible conclusion. after like two weeks of due diligence of what might have happened. anyway: i wanted to state, that even if a kind of "usage metrics" attack is very, very, very unlikely, it can not be totally rulled out by the statements given by google. i worked for some years in the poker industry, and lets just say, there is no lack idiotic, evil SEO "strategies" some people get into. but yeah, 99% of the time it is another reason (no attack, not a google change/penalty), and 95% of the time you just have to blame yourself. but can we generally rule out a "usage metrics attack vector": no

joeyoungblood

01/14/2013 05:50 pm

Didn't Duane Forrester say that 'dwell time' (i.e. the amount of time one stays on a page from Bing before returning to SERPs) would be used as a positive signal by Bing but not a negative? If so then it's possible that the 'noisy metric' could be used to boost a ranking but not adversely affect it.

Barry Schwartz

01/14/2013 05:51 pm

Google and Bing don't agree on many things.

Jaimie Sirovich

01/14/2013 07:38 pm

But you almost certainly don't have the data to test the hypothesis, so :(

Jaimie Sirovich

01/14/2013 07:43 pm

It's even easier to get a hit from IPv6 than it is to pick up a hooker in Thailand (no I haven't been there). Links are harder to get than semi-human-looking traffic from various subnets. Yahoo (when they had their own search product) has been gamed this way. Google's less stupid.

Robin331

01/14/2013 09:07 pm

Adult tube sites at google show us what looks like google using bounce rate/time on site parameters for sites ranking. In adult market lot of tube sites (with pirated content) ranks high right now on google, when blogs/etc tanked deeply. Most funny what all titles/descriptions is not unique on this tube sites.

Robin331

01/14/2013 10:22 pm

Many times I open many sites from google/bing search results in different tabs (first site, second site, etc). I know lot of peoples who do same things. So looks like dwell time is not so accurate statistics.

Robin331

01/14/2013 10:23 pm

barry just reporting things happen. Anyway we need to know what the new 'extremely brilliant' ideas big G have right now.

Neha

01/15/2013 04:53 am

If google is using analytics data for ranking then it is very bad, because analytics report can be bluffed easily, another way to decrease bounce rate in analytics just add event tracking in your analytics you can make bounce rate up to 2%. only.

RankWatch

01/15/2013 05:41 am

I have seen many sites from being a top ranker to a bounced topper within a few span of days. It could be that there are artificial fake spamming by someone to manipulate the bounce rates on a site. But as from my previous experiences, i have not seen this factor affecting site's ranking too much. But with Google, and especially with their new algorithms, you cannot say!!

High Core

01/15/2013 07:48 am

Sure they still use backlink to ranking factor...

dicrox

01/15/2013 11:06 am

1% is your normal bounce rate, that sounds impossible to me..

434332

01/16/2013 07:01 am

Didn't Duane Forrester say that 'dwell time' (i.e. the amount of time one stays on a page from Bing before returning to SERPs) would be used as a positive signal by Bing but not a negative? If so then it's possible that the 'noisy metric' could be used to boost a ranking but not

Gregory Lancaster

05/09/2013 06:33 am

1% bounce rate? what the!? I work with 60% bounce rate and thought that was pretty impressive!

Rafael New

06/20/2014 09:59 pm

To me a 1 to 3% bounce rate is almost impossible to achieve. Said this if google would take into account the bounce rate the when the google or bing bots crawl your site in less than a second per webpage they are "attacking" and that is not the case. It has happpened to me in some websites I run that when the bing bot came to visit us our bounce rate went up sharply and I do not think that caused our PR to drop

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