Sudden Increase in Bounce Rate: Should You Worry?

When Bounce Rate Leads to Drop in Traffic and Ranking
Image Credit: Al-Bab

I recently joined a forum topic where several publishers, even SEO experts, are worried about a sudden spike in their websites' bounce rates and that of their clients.

I check through the conversation to see if there were solutions provided that solved the problem. Nothing worked from any of the suggestions.

In the end, many contributors concluded, perhaps, it's due to recent Google algorithms.

Below is the picture of the situations with these publishers and SEOs.
  1. Some experienced a jump from 32%, insanely to 90%
  2. For some, traffic and ranking was not significantly impacted
  3. For some, it resulted in drops in rankings and traffic by more than 56%.
  4. Someone reported a rise from 16% to 70% which was similar to another whose bounce rate rose from 12% to 82%.

In this post, I want to carefully handle all possibilities for the rise in bounce rate you might experience. I will equally let you know if you need to worry or not. And for the cases above, tell you what those affected had done that didn't work and what I suggested that worked.

We Seem to Forget the Basics of the Bounce Rate

While checking the conversion on the forum, there was something I observed among the contributors, whether an SEO consultant or lay-publishers. They all seemed to have forgotten the primary definition or basis of the bounce rate.

Since a higher bounce rate doesn't particularly mean a bad result as detailed in my post, "Bounce Rate: Does It Matter For Ranking and SEO", why do we all forget to interpret rightly?

If your website experienced a sudden spike in the bounce rate percentage, you may need to work mentally to know why before looking outwardly.

For instance, your bounce rate may not be because your content value has dropped or users' experience had been negative, lately. After all, it is the same content that was earlier given you a lower bounce rate. It could just be because of any of the following:

1. You Now Have More Complete-Resource Content

Especially if your website is not a decade old, pushing many posts that are self-sufficient in recent times might have led to visitors being fully satisfied with your content. As a result, they don't have reasons to check other posts or interact with other parts of your blog before they navigate away.

This may not happen in the early days of your publication especially when you don't have more posts. But as you continue posting more resourceful content, your bounce rate may spike after two years or so.

Here, you're likely not going to experience a drop in traffic and ranking notwithstanding.

2. You've Moved to Direct-Answer Content

I've noticed that as publishers get deep into blogging, they switch from long-form content to direct-answer posts. How to, what-to, when-to, etc type of content may increase as you keep posting. The direct effect of an increase in direct-response posts is a surge in the bounce rate.

Once readers are satisfied with your responses, that may limit further interactions with more pages.

Here, though, the bounce rate may surge, you may not drop in the search results or traffic.

3. You're Writing Less Linked Posts

If you're safe from the two above, check if you're adequately and efficiently linking your content across the board. If you grow too lazy in linking your old posts with the new ones and vice versa, visitors may have nothing to interact with. And once they're done reading, they navigate away for more results - not necessarily better ones.

This may cause you to lose the position in the ranking and traffic because Google uses quality internal links as a ranking factor.

The bottom line is that a sudden spike in the bounce rate may really be positive. If you fall to any of the above, you should know where to worry or what to consider as a good sign.

When Bounce Rate Leads to Drop in Traffic and Ranking

Traffic and ranking work together. You don't have one without the other.

If your bounce rate has actually led to a drop in ranking or traffic, it may be due to any of the following:

1. Recent Google Algorithms

One of the games you can't possibly beat Google at is its algorithm updates. Every publisher is bound to be hit. Google might have detected some impurities in your website's SEO, content, or activities such as link-building.

If this is the case, then there is little or nothing you can do. I'd shared my experience with you in my post, "Google Algorithm: Can It Be Avoided? What to Do If You're Hit?". In that post, I gained back my traffic after being hit with just a few minute touches.

You may just need to keep updating your content after checking for what your competition is doing better. With time, you'll be back to your ranked positions or better.

2. Better Publishers are Shrinking You

Readers, even returning, grow to see newcomers and better writers. The time your bounce rate was low might be favoring you because these people are not seeing better writers. With time, they will see new arrivals and their works.

And since their clicks determine our positions in the search results, they may be bouncing back to read from those who are writing better than you.

I'd personally noticed that when I experienced a sudden rise in the bounce rate, some of my competition might have done better. If my posts, previously in position 1, end up in 10, it may be high time I checked those who had done better to take over. In most cases, they had just updated their posts.

And seriously the only solution is for me to add some sugar to my posts too.

3. Google Might Be Trying Competition

Google ranking is about win-win. If they should allow you to stay at the top, you can maintain that position forever. But here, it doesn't work that way. Google usually gives new writers and content some chances too.

That statement may sound unfamiliar. Yet, it's the truth. You might have noticed that after being above the competition for a few months, Google might drop you for someone below you - with you or the competition doing anything different. You both didn't update the post, yet he came above you suddenly.

As soon as another person drops a few posts, Google ranks them temporarily to see if visitors will love them too. You may be facing the spike in the bounce rate that very trail period. Within a few weeks, if these people are not up to par with you, they will be dropped and you're back.

4. The Audience is Being Contended With You

After dominating Google search results for a long time as detailed in my post, "Simple But Effective Tips to Dominate Google Results", visitors get so accustomed to your domain to the extent that they keep reading the same points with the same styles over and over.

Readers can grow too contended with you - with time. Now, they want to give others a try. These people may land on your pages and get out as soon as they can. Not because they don't like your points, but they may want to see what others are putting forward too. This may lead to a spike in your bounce rate and a temporary drop from ranking.

As obvious, with time, if you really deserve them, they won't have a better place to go than you. This will bring you back to your deserved position. Here, all you need is to keep doing the good work - they will come back!.

Conclusion

An increase in the percentage of bounce rate is nothing to worry about except it affects your rankings and traffic. There is a positive side to when the percentage grows suddenly as well.

However, where your bunce rate rises in the same proportion to a drop in the Google SERP and traffic, you're more under the spell of Google algorithms or interactions and reactions from visitors. In which case, you just have to be competitive and keep the good work going. With time, you should be back.

Do you think a sudden spike is more than that? Do you have a better experience to share? Share your views in the comment section below.

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