Bounce Rates, SERPs, and Quality Ranking

If you’ve been hanging around recently, you may have noticed that I’ve gone through about three website templates in the last week.  I’m analyzing Google Analytics like a hawk, and my main goal is to get people to look around the site for just a little bit longer when they land here from a search engine.

Why?  I’ve become pretty confident that bounce rate matters when it comes to a domain or URL’s final SERP positions.

The Evidence:

In Google’s Webmaster Tools, you can see a list of search terms and keyword phrases that bring traffic to your site.  For a week, I searched these phrases that correlated to my highest revenue potential, and I kept track of where they were located.

One phrase caught my attention in particular:  It was bouncing between #9 – where it brought traffic – to #23 where no one could find it.  A few mornings ago, I saw it at #9 again and quickly went to my web host’s latest visitor stats.  Within an hour, two people clicked on the link and viewed the page.  Unfortunately, both of them “bounced” back to the search engine in less than 30 seconds of looking at the site.

After this, I went back to Google and searched for the phrase.  My site was coming in at #34 just an hour after being on the front page!  This was the lowest I had seen it yet, and since then its been stuck regardless of link building efforts.

The Problem for Authors in Multi-Media Environments:

First and foremost, I consider myself and author and independent publisher.  I write my articles, I put them online where people can access them, and I promote the work.  Heck, I even have to go and figure out a way to monetize the writing – its a pretty wide-ranging process compared to authors who can just focus on writing.  Well, those writing jobs aren’t really available in that older, more traditional sense.  That’s the first problem.

The other major problem for writers is that the internet is a true multi-media environment, and people want compelling visuals to go along with their compelling prose.  Internet authors need to provide the visual experience that surfers want, and a bland template can force people to hit the “back” button on their browser without a second thought.  Its like an instinct, if a site looks cheap you can usually expect the content to be pretty cheap, too.  I like to think my content is better than my visual capabilities, but a lot of people will never stick around long enough to find out.  Thin sites with pleasing presentations seem to win every time! 

Just imagine combining quality with quality – who could compete!?

SERPs and Quality – the Final Verdict:

If you want the best SERPs, you have to have it all.  Your site needs to deliver the content people are looking for, or at least links to that content in a place people will see.  Surfers demand speed – and the search engines stay in business by giving the surfers what they want.  Sure you need backlinks and on-page optimization, but these factors are gradually declining as visitor-tracking by the major search engines increases.

The next frontier in SEO will be a bit better for surfers than older roles that have given SEO professionals a bad name.  Going forward, SEOs will need to combine functionality, professional design, and top-quality content.

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