The bounce rate of a website can mean a few things, but it’s most commonly used to describe the number of visitors who land on a page on your site and then immediately click off. In my opinion it’s really kind of an overblown metric.
You’ve got a lot of people who run a site and they put Google analytics on it. That’s Google’s tool for tracking stuff on your site. You might want to put it on your site to see how many visitors come to it, where they’re coming from, and other measures. It’s a useful tool, but a lot of website owners don’t want Google knowing all this stuff about their site so they either don’t track things or they get another tracking tool.
Anyway, bounce rate is something that many of these tracking/analytics tools can measure. And it doesn’t really mean what most people think. Most people think it means the number of people who land on your page and then click the back button. So they click on your site, think it sucks, and then click out and are done with you. And it does measure that.
But that’s not the whole story on bounce rates. It also measures the number of people who land on one of your pages and click on a link that takes them off your site. So if you’re running Adsense and someone lands one of your pages, they might read your article, think it’s great, and decide to click on an Adsense ad because it helps them find something they need. That actually counts as a bounce.
I only bring this up because so many people think of bounces as a terrible thing. But as you can see, they can have a positive experience on your site, yet you still count them as a bounce. Because of that, I don’t really think bounce rate is a metric that’s looked at as much by Google. I think they care more about the time spent on your site, which is another metric that Google Analytics and other tracking programs can measure. I’m sure bounce rate is factored in there too, but I know there are many online web owners who freak out about a high bounce rate and jump through hoops to try to lower it. You can do all you want to your site and your bounce rate is still going to be a higher percentage than what you think it should be. That’s just how bounce rates work. People count as bounces if they click off your site after visiting one of your pages. This happens all the time if they click on an ad on your page. They also count as a bounce if they close out their browser after visiting the first page on your site. They’re also probably counted as a bounce if they sign up to your newsletter right after landing on your site because once they click on submit within your opt-in form, many autoresponder systems will take them to a weird URL hosted by their company. It’s not on your site.
The same with a shopping cart. Those aren’t usually hosted on your site so they probably look like a bounce. Plus you’ve got people who come to your page and they want to give it a ‘like’ on Facebook or tweet about it on Twitter. I’m pretty sure when someone does that after visiting one page of your site, it may get counted as a bounce too (because they went off your site).
So I don’t see how bounce rate is really the metric to be after. Time on site and other factors, like your links, seem more likely to be bigger factors in the ranking algorithms.