Bounce Rate vs. Pogo Sticking: Which Has More Influence on the Google Ranking

The bounce rate is still considered an important user metric by many SEOs. A high bounce rate is often viewed as a negative signal. It is not that simple. But it only looks really bad when a website is the victim of so-called pogo-sticking.

A bounce (or jump) is always used when users visit a website and leave it again after the first-page view. If something like this happens more often, the bounce rate increases. A view that is still widespread among SEOs is that a high bounce rate should be viewed as a negative user signal because leaving a page quickly indicates quality problems. That, in turn, could then cause Google to downgrade the page in the ranking.

However, there are many situations in which such user behaviour does not automatically imply dissatisfied users. It always depends on the context and the situation. For example, if a visitor to the website would like to find out more about a specific topic and find the appropriate information directly on the page, leaving the page quickly can also be a sign of high quality.

When looking at the bounce rate, it is not only the individual call of the page that is decisive but also the clicks of the user before and after.

Pogo sticking indicates dissatisfied visitors.

This becomes clear in the following example situation: The user searches Google for cheap umbrellas. On the search results page, he clicks on the first search result and ends up in a shop that sells umbrellas, but which cost significantly more than the user would like to spend. So he goes back to the search results page and clicks on another search result. There are umbrellas in the desired price range, but you can only pay there by credit card. However, the user would like to order on account. Once again, he goes back to the search results and finally clicks on a final result. There he finds it.

What has been described here is called “pogo-sticking”, i.e. jumping back and forth between the search results page and search results. In this process, there is a combination of signals that are actually interesting for Google and can provide information about the quality or relevance of the pages visited. The first two pages were only visited briefly and left straight away towards the search results page (high bounce rate combined with the selection of other search results). This sequence of clicks shows Google that the first two pages did not meet the user’s wishes. If something like this happens more often, it can happen that Google downgrades these pages and the third page from the example ranks higher.

Another cause of pogo-sticking can be inappropriately worded search queries. For this reason, Google has recently started making suggestions for alternative search queries if users quickly return to the search results page after a click.

How can you recognize pogo-sticking?

Pogo sticking must, therefore, be viewed as an alarm signal for website operators. Should this occur frequently, it could be a sign that users are rejecting a page for certain reasons. In order to be able to recognize pogo-sticking, one would need a combination of different data:

  • The search queries that bring users to a page
  • The respective length of stay for visits with specific search queries
  • The jump destination when users leave the page

Unfortunately, Google Analytics now provides almost no data on search queries. The search queries and clicks are displayed in the Google Search Console, but there is no connection to the duration of the visit, the bounce rate, etc. Also, the bounce target that is then accessed is mostly unknown.

The only solution is to look at the traffic that comes to the website via the organic search and to take a closer look at the length of stay and the bounce rate. In addition, the click rate (CTR) for certain search terms from the Google Search Console can provide valuable insights – especially if you look at the CTR over time. If it increases, it can be a sign of growing trust. If it decreases, it can be a signal that users are dissatisfied with the page.

Conclusion

The bounce rate in itself says very little about the satisfaction of users with a website. Pogo sticking, on the other hand, is a clear indication that a website does not deliver what visitors expect for certain search terms. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to capture and measure pogo-sticking. However, by combining several key figures, at least signs of this can be seen.

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