The short answer to the question “What is a bounce rate?” is that it is a measurement of the length of time that visitors to a web site spend on a given page. For those involved in internet business, the more important question is “What significance does bounce rate have on my making money?”
In the early days of the Internet before search engines matured to the extent that they learned to penalize bad web sites, for many webmasters the goal was to have people spend as little time as possible on a given web page. The idea was often to make a web site so offensive to the senses that visitors would immediately seek escape, often clicking the convenient ads plastered over 80% of the page to facilitate that escape – thus making money for the site owners.
In the current era, focus on bounce rate has shifted 180 degrees and webmasters now focus on the correlation between bounce rate and commercial activity. The correlation is that the longer a person stays on a given page, the more interested that person is in the subject of the page, therefore the more likely the person is to be interested in ads or links associated with the subject of that page. There are a couple of key factors that affect how long a person spends on a given web page.
This is probably the #1 factor involved in extremely short visits. The most accessible example of this is probably Myspace. When people would get set up their Myspace walls, they were allowed to throw psychedelic colors, flashing video and blaring music together into a confusing jumble that was all but impossible navigate and took minutes to load into a browser. The fact that Facebook, with its far simpler design, easily took virtually all of Myspace’s internet traffic is a clear vote by the internet community that clean and simple is preferable to complicated and active.
Aside from personal sites, virtually all websites exist to make money in some fashion. People are aware of this and tolerate ads – to a point. While the tolerance varies in different demographics, it is a simple fact that too many ads on a page makes people leave the page sooner. People understand that webmasters want to make money. That said, they don’t want to be beaten about the head with commercial links. There is a tacit agreement between internet surfers and webmasters. The webmaster can make money, but the surfer wants a good experience.
The key factor to a good visitor stay and healthy bounce rate is interesting and relevant content. If there is nothing a visitor wants to read, no video he wants to watch, no pictures he may find interesting – there’s nothing to keep him on the page.
Web surfers respond to commercial links. They buy things and explore ads. They do these things when they are interested in the subject. By creating a comfortable environment and filling it with content that gets the minds of visitors on the subject of the page, webmasters can ensure that stay times increase and conversion rate also rises.