Google bounce factor research data is in
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I have been promising this article for a while but was waiting till I had more data in. I have done extensive research and I feel I have now done enough research to atleast provide a basic understanding of this new technology and its effects on your site and mine, how we can combat any problems this may cause our site and how we can actually benefit from it.
The data I will be presenting will be based on my own research, and research done by other participants at SeoChat and 100 anonymous participants who were kind enough to donate their time.
I hope this article helps you better understand what effects Googles behavior factoring has on you site. Please be sure to post your comments and thoughts.
Okay first of all lets go over to SeoChat and notice a experiment which was started by a distinguised member gazzahk and the goal of this experiment was to determine if clicks to a site in the Google results can have a positive or negative effect on a Google ranking. Here is the official thread for the experiment.
Experiment #1 – Do clicks effect Google rankings?
To experiment this theory we asked the audience for particpation and got about 65 who stated they were participating. We took a site and page which was not currently being used for anything and which we were sure would asas not get any new backlinks.
We then found a phrase for which our test site ranked around the bottom of page 1(#10,11) for. We asked users to do this search and click on the result for this particular site. The site in the experiment was not using Google Analtyics so Google could not(I don’t think they could ) determine what the users did upon clicking into the site UNLESS they returned to Google which all participants were forbidden to do.
It took about 2 weeks to see a significant change, also not all participants entered at the same time which I believe helped keep the experiment looking natural.
At first we only saw a change of one or two positions so the site stuck around positions #10, 11, 9 and 8. But after about two weeks the site started improving much more considerably, moving upto position #4 and even reportedly #2.
Keep in mind two important things for this experiment. First this was a small scale experiment produced on a phrase which was not competitive at all. Secondly probably aside from the participants there were no other searches for this phrase so in Googles eyes 99.99% probably even 100% of the searches for this result ended in that exact site. This told Google that the other results were probably not what he searchers wanted so Google began moving it up.
I attempted to re-produce this experiment on a much larger scale for a medium competition level keyword with about 100 participants and I could see absolutely no change in positioning so my conclusion is that this particular factor, that is the Quality-Click-Analyis factor has a very small value and you will likely only see results if the majority of searchers are clicking that exact site or if the majority of clicks to other sites result in bounces.
So for those of you who were thinking about hiring Indians to click on your sites positions in Google you can forget that idea, I don’t see anything much less than 5-10K indians changing much j/k
So the results of that experiment are the following:
- For a company keyword search you will likely see your rankings rise based on the fact that most searchers will click your listing as that is what they want.
- For a medium competition level keyword 100 participants all over the world clicking on one listing did not make a noticable change in ranking, probably because there were far more searchers clicking the other listings.
- Likely the majority of clicks going to one site for a particular search would help google determine that site deserved a higher position.
- Hiring Indians to click your listings probably won’t help you much
Experiment #2 – Google bounce factor… does it exist?
Okay this experiment was slightly different. On top of asking participants to click a specific listing we told them to spend time at the site, browse around a bit, click links, pretend to be reading etc – Basically act as though you love the site in a natural manner.
On this site unlike experiment #1 Google Analytics was installed on all pages. Like experiment #1 the site/page was not being used and no links were gained before(about 1 year), during the process or even afterward. Never were the sites linked to for any of these experiments. We used three sites for this experiment as well as the data from three sites Google Analtyics accounts which were kindly offered by three webmasters at SeoChat.
For this experiment I had another 100 participants who helped make this experiment possible. I had hoped for something like 500 people and did not expect a significant negative or positive change in ranking based on just 100 participants.
Okay let me explain what this experiment was trying to prove. We were trying to prove that the Google Analtyics data was/is being used to effect sites rankings in Google. We wanted to prove that the Google Bounce factor actually exists and that visitor length on a site plays a part in ranking or the loss of a ranking in Google. So what did the data say? Read on…
I had the participants do their part of the experiment over a weeks time, similiar to the first experiment. They would click the listing, spend on average 7-10 minutes at the page and then would proceed to click related links(inside the site. No outbound links) on the site and eventually spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour on the site. They would then exit to a page on the site that was not watched by Google analytics but was still on the site. This way Googles last notice of the movement of that user was still on the site.
For the first week we saw no change and were beginning to think the phrase was too competitive and that more users were needed. After about a week we started seeing some changes. After a week and a half the site jumped 47 positions from about 80 to about 33. We believe that with continued experimentation we could have ranked it on the first page.
During this time, while the experiment was being concluded the bounce rate was down to 13% and the average visit length went from 1 1/2 minutes to 12 minutes.
After the experiment ended and users stopped clicking into the site we watched as the sites bounce rate began to go back upto about 75% and the visit length to return to about 3 minutes. After about 9 days we saw the site return to a little better than it was before the experiment(around 78) – Again nothing was done with this site/page except for the experiment. It was basically a dead site.
So based on this site and my own research on my own sites I have determined the following.
- The Google Bounce Factor does indeed exist. Too many searches resulting in a click to your site which then result in a bounce could negatively effect your site.
- Somehow lowering this bounce rate, by providing what the users want most likely can indeed have a very positive effect on your site.
- Visitor length likely has a small effect on your rankings as well however in all experiments we could not accurately determine this as a fact. So it still remains speculation. However we are now positive the bounce factor does exist.
- Google Analytics data is INFACT used by Google to manipulate results in their search engine. By using Google analytics your data could have either a negative or positive effect on your site.
- The overall bounce rate for the site and each individual bounce rates for each of your keywords plays a role.
Many of you are probably thinking you should remove the Google Analytics code from your sites and stop using their service. This is debatable. It really depends on your sites data, is it that bad? If your bounce rate is much higher than 65% and closer to 75% and your average visitor length is very low I would recommend removing the code for now. Maybe use Clicky Web Analtyics 2.0 for a while until you can get your bounce rate lower. Also if you have a high bounce rate I would try and figure out why, try and fix the issue and then maybe you can use Google Analtyics again.
I am not sure on this, I have no evidence yet to support it but I also believe the data from your Google Analytics account may be used for Google Adwords positioning too. I don’t do enough PPC to test this however. If a Google Adwords guy would like to test that theory be sure to let me know the results.
Many webmasters have expressed their concern that this type of ranking factor could influence webmasters to hire users to click their listings just to raise their rankings. Well we have already determined that it is highly unlikely you will gain any ranking even remotely competitive based only on clicks however taking into effect whether or not the majority of users bounce and how long they stay on the site can have a effect on your rankings.
However the data also indicated that this isn’t a one-time thing. The data overall and overtime can continue to have an effect so you may lose your rankings if the bounce rate gets high again.
This research is based on the SeoChat experiment, my own sites and about 5 other sites who were kindly donated for use in this experiment. I awant to personally thank all those who participated their time, their sites and their analytics info. It was a great help in making this experiment possible.
If you have comments/questions please let me know.
If you have recently lost a ranking in Google I would be happy to take a look. Send an email to randy[@]1st-rankings.com
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