Columbus website design firm's interpretation of a Google bot

Bounce rates, bots and bad websites

There’s two things we’ve been looking into lately regarding Google Analytics:

  1. What is the average bounce rate for a website? (the time between someone comes to your website and leaves it)
  2. What percentage of visits to your site are bots? (bots can come and go artificially reflecting a high bounce rate)

The reason these questions are important, is because the more time someone spends on your website, the better Google sees your site as a credible site, and the better ranking it gives the site.

These are relatively obscure issues for most folks, they’re big issues for those of us who live in the world of web design and SEO.

And really, the shouldn’t be obscure issues for anyone in charge of their company’s website. As a Columbus Ohio web design firm, we think about these things a lot.

Bounce rates

We see our own bounce rates vary between 40% and 55% and we thought at was unusually high. But we had no idea. So we looked into it and wrote an entire article about bounce rates, which you can read here.

But a quick overview of that articles was: bounce rates, like golf scores, are better when they’re lower. They concluded bounce rates of:

  • No website has a 0% bounce rate
  • 20% bounce rate: if your website has this, check for errors in reporting,
  • 26% to 40% is excellent,
  • 41% to 55% is average, and
  • 56% to 70% higher than average

How long is the average visit to a website?

The other question that has been on our minds for along time, is how long the average visit to a website is. 

At one seminar we heard the speaker say “Most visits to website are less than 10 seconds anyway…” And we were going to ask her what she meant by that, but within 5 minutes after that statement, we had to vacate the premises. No, not just us, everyone! Turns out the seminar was in a tent on the grounds of a golf course, and when the thunder and lightening started, they had to shut down the seminar. And since there was no indoor space for us to move to, that was the abrupt end to that session.

What determines how long someone stays on your website? Good content, good images and an offer that means something to them.

As you might imagine, (and think of how you look at websites) people make decisions in the first few seconds. Having seen tons of crappy websites, we know most  are useless, and we react quickly to avoid wasting time on bad ones. And while people will continue to leave your website every second that passes, though at a slower rate than others left in the first 30 seconds.

And keep in mind, 2 minutes is a huge amount of time to spend on a website! So if you have a handful of folks who do that, you’re doing well.

Side note: you should set up your Analytics so your own visits from your own office doesn’t count as a visit, because that would definitely skew the Analytics.

Read more about ”evidence-based user experience” see this blog about the subject here.

How can Google tell if someone spends 5 seconds or 5 minutes on a page?

Since bounce rates are figured when someone comes n and leave on the same page, what if someone lands on your blog post, read the entire blog over a 5 minute period, then leave?
In that case, they certainly came in, then left, on the same page. However, they found something they were looking for. In this case, it counts as a bounce, and because of that, Analytics counts it against your site.

There is one way Google tells how long a person is on a page, which to have that person do something on that page that tracks their time.

When someone lands on a page of your website, a time stamp starts. If you could get them to click a link, say to email you, go to another website for more information, or to another page in your site, the time stamp would show the time they landed on your page, and left your page. And if they were on that page for say, 5 minutes, Google’s Analytics reads that, and in that case, it wouldn't count as a bounce.

So there need to be a second interaction the page someone is viewing, so Analytics knows it lasted for 5 minutes, and counts in your favor.

Don’t worry about bots visiting your website.

And related to that, what percentage of visits to your site aren’t actually for people, but from bots that crawl the internet?

Turns out Google at least, is pretty smart the way it calculates the bots visits from the real people visits. How does it do that?

Basically, people view your site through a web browser, and bots don’t: they just scan the code behind-the-scenes, to determine what is on your website. And Google’s Analytics can tell how many viewers re looking at your site through your browser. Which equals people.

There are good bot and bad bots

You want bots to be crawling your website. There are "good" bots from Google, Bing, and other search engines that figure out how well your website is built, and if it meets all the criteria that makes for a good website.

The bad bots could be:

  • copying the content of your website to republish it illegally somewhere else on the web,
  • posting spam comments on your blog, or
  • showing advertisements to some of your visitors.

To read how Google’s bots access your website, to index your pages, click this link.

You can have professional web design or SEO firm do a web audit to determine of a bad bot is coming form a certain IP address and block that IP address from scouring your website.

If a bad bot is taking up your bandwidth, then you might want to do something about it.

And if you like the things you read about in our blogs, maybe drop us an email letting us know.