Bounce Rate – Does Bing Provide More Relevant Results?

I am personally finding better results when using the search engine Bing recently. However, Google still has a huge gigantic market share of search results and I doubt that will change anytime soon.

I realize that my opinion is subjective – what does “better results” actually mean? Well to me, it means I am getting results that are relevant to what I am actually looking for and that is helpful to me based on my search query in the first couple of pages of search results. What does it mean to you? My own opinion was unscientifically confirmed when I took the “Bing Challenge” as well.

I wondered if there was an objective way to determine the “quality” of search engine results or the relevancy of them, based on data that I have. And for that, I turned to Google Analytics and used the data that Google provides me with.  I’m also thinking that the measure of bounce rate might be an interesting measure to use. For visitors that are referred to sites from either Bing or Google, which visitors stick around more often and which do not? There are some suggestions in the SEO world that Google uses the bounce rate of visitors to a site as one of the many factors in their search results algorithm to determine rankings for any search term.

According to Wikipedia:

Bounce rate (sometimes confused with exit rate)[1] is an Internet marketing term used in web traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.

[…]

A bounce occurs when a web site visitor only views a single page on a website, that is, the visitor leaves a site without visiting any other pages before a specified session-timeout occurs. There is no industry standard minimum or maximum time by which a visitor must leave in order for a bounce to occur. Rather, this is determined by the session timeout of the analytics tracking software.

 

So, I’m using Google Analytics as the tracking software. Presumably, the bounce rate that Google uses in their tracking software is based on the same definition if there is one, that they would use in any part of their algorithm that uses Bounce Rate as a factor in their SERP’s.

I examined 6 different websites, all in totally different niches that I have access to their Analytics reporting. Four of those sites are directly controlled by my business, while the other two are clients of mine. The results were interesting to say the least. And the results beg the question: “Is Google truly the best search engine providing the most relevant search results for the user’s search terms and phrases?”

Is it possible that indeed, Bing provides superior results?

There are problems however, with using Bounce Rate as a measure of whether or not a URL was relevant to a search result. We’re told that the lower the Bounce Rate, the better. If we assume this is true, then Google has a bit of a problem.

On the other hand, a high bounce rate could mean that a searcher found exactly what they were looking for when they clicked through to a URL from a search result. If they found exactly what they were looking for; an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, or an article of interest that gave them pause for thought, they might not be clicking around the site they landed on for more information.

But let’s assume for now that a low bounce rate is preferred and how the Google engineers may have determined that a low bounce rate is a preferred as a measure of relevancy.

Let’s take a look at the data Google provides. This is for the dates between August 29, 2012 and September 29, 2012. These six sites have in common that they get a minimum of 1,000 unique visitors per month, with a few of them significantly more than that.

Site #1:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 35.94%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 16.83%

Site #2:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 41.16%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 37.07

Site #3:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 21.47%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 14.56%

Site #4:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 6.98%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 3.61%

(Above numbers are very enviable no matter who wins and I was very surprised at how low it was)

Site #5:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 11.88%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 26.43%

Site #6:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 44.31%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 23.81%

In five out of the six website analytics data that I took a look at, there was a significantly lower bounce rate with visitors coming from Bing than those who arrived via Google’s search results. Granted, Google also provided a significantly higher number of referrers overall, but it generally matches the market share of each search engine.

So, if Bounce Rate is a determining factor in how well accepted a site is to a visitor, is it not interesting that Bing Results seem to indicate that they are providing better results overall as visitors are finding for whatever search term they used, some motivation to stick around more than Google users?

Of course, the answer could be more complex as perhaps the demographics and some other characteristic information of the users need to be taken into consideration as well. Having said that, although I’ve provided results for the top six of the websites that we monitor Google Analytics data for, the results are typical for all of the sites that we monitor.

I’m curious as to what you find when you compare the Bounce Rate of visitors to your site that have been referred by either Google or Bing. And how would you interpret these results?

I am also curious as to how these numbers stack up against each other from periods prior to the major Panda and Penguin updates. I took a cursory look and interestingly to me, there was not quite as much of a spread between Google and Bing – which indicates to me that in Google’s “quest for quality,” they haven’t achieved it in their war against whatever they are warring over and making significant changes in their SERP’s (yes, two of the above sites were hit by either Panda or Penguin).

 

Google – The Stupidity of Even Thinking Of Backlink Penalties…

… for links that are so called “dodgy” or from “bad neighbourhoods.”

I have seen so many web masters now worrying about their backlink profile, and for good reason. Google has not been very clear about how a bunch of backlinks that they don’t trust, could affect your own site’s search engine rankings. In the past, Google has indicated that backlinks would not hurt you. The belief was that Google would simply discount links its bots would find while indexing the internet, that their algorithms placed little or no value on.

I think Google and its web spam team are a bit messed up if they think that they can penalize websites that have dodgy links linking back to it, as if the website owner or someone they may have hired, are the ones responsible. Let me explain why:

Years ago, I was pretty anal about going through my website statistics. It wasn’t just the top referrers I was interested in, but it often amused me to check out the large numbers of referrers I’d get that would only refer perhaps one visitor in the entire month. My curiosity was due to the fact I was always interested in any new links my site might have received. It was kind of neat, to me, to see that some site in my niche, with a Russian domain extension, and that had content similar to my niche, had discovered my site and thought it worthwhile to link to.

However, I also discovered that there were some pretty bizarre websites linking to me that had at least one click through to my site as well. At first, I could not understand why a website located in an Asian country that seemed to be all about popular Asian singers, would be linking to my fly fishing site.

There were also times when I would go to a web page that had supposedly referred some visitor to mine with a link, and there was no link there at all, although there would be links to dozens of other sites. Odd that a website would place a link to my page, someone clicked it, and then the link is removed.

But this does not always happen where the link is removed. So what could be the point of this? Most of these sites that seemed totally irrelevant to mine also appeared pretty junky with low or zero PageRank, while my site had a PR of 2 or 3 at the time (4 today).

Well, it struck me one day while I was doing a search for something, and Google returned some site’s Awstats in their results: Perhaps there are some website owners or some so called SEO people who set up systems to create links from their sites to better quality sites, then automate clicks on the links, thus generating a referral in the other sites’ statistical and website analytical packages. Knowing that many websites have their website statistics packages configured so that Google can easily discover and index them, this could provide hundreds and thousands of backlinks to their site from higher quality sites.

That was the only reason I could think of; otherwise what was the point of some ugly website about the hottest Indian Singer, or some corny adult porn site doing with a page of links that included one to a fly fishing site? I would see sometimes hundreds of these types of referrers in my analytics programs (back then, I was using a website analytics package called “http-analyze,” developed by the German company, Netstore.de. I don’t think they continue to do any development on website statistics), however, there are many many websites configured with Awstats and similar packages that are not password protected and that Google has indexed.

I have never hired outside SEO help for that website, so I absolutely know without any doubt, that any link to that site was not anything I did or ever asked for, from these “bad neighbourhood” or irrelevant websites.

And now I’m supposed to worry or be concerned about this? I’m supposed to be concerned that some other website has linked to me, clicked on the link, with possibly the sole purpose of Google indexing my Awstats installation, and finding a link back to their website? And hundreds of them doing this to my site?

That’s insane. I was speaking with a website owner of a very high quality site, aimed at a very professional niche, who advised me that they had recently received a “Unnatural Link Warning” letter in their Google Webmaster Tools. They said, “Ian, I did some checking and found a bunch of really gross pornsites linking to us, and I have no idea why. Even the pages that they have the links don’t make sense.”

This particular website that they own has a PR of 5. Is it possible, that a network of low quality adult sites, could be creating the links themselves to this site and other sites, just for the purposes of getting a link back to theirs from any analytics packages that Google might be able to crawl? It very well could be the case. And if Google is seeing this, and somehow it’s causing a flag, then Google really needs to rethink their whole idea of penalties for websites.

I have a concern that Matt Cutts and the Google Web Spam Team have got such a hardened attitude toward what they call “Web Spam,” that they have gone way overboard, in their attempts to solve what they see as a problem, hoping to give themselves a pat on the back, but in the end, there is that old George Doubleya Bush attitude of brushing off collateral damage they have caused.

I do care if my websites have links that are linking out to dodgey websites. It does come up at times; I might have written an article, referring to something on another site and linking to it, but over time, that domain has since changed hands and now is nothing like what it was when I first wrote the article. I have to keep my eye on that kind of thing. But does Google now expect me to also keep an eye on who is linking to me??

That is just insane. Just as the idea of a “disavow link” button in GWMT’s is insane – I don’t have time for that, do you? Who has time to go and look at every link, and manually “disavow” it? That’s just ridiculous, and many website owners are not even savvy enough to know what they might or should do.

What do you think?

Google Penguin Update

About an hour or so ago, I happened to check my twitter feed and noted that within the two minutes prior, he had tweeted the following message:

“Minor weather report: We pushed 1st Penguin algo data refresh an hour ago. Affects <0.1% of English searches. Context: http://goo.gl/4f7Pq

~ https://twitter.com/mattcutts/status/206232437427154944

Many of us in the SEO world were expecting that this would occur soon, and a monthly update seemed like a reasonable assumption. So far, on all the sites I’m looking after, there have been zero changes in rankings as a result of this particular update.

However, in other parts of the web, I’m reading that some were drastically affected with huge drops in rankings in Google search.

At this point, I have no comment to make as there is not enough information, especially with the fact that at my end, nothing has moved either way. I’ll have to wait to have some conversations with those that did experience major movement.

Did your site experience any major movements up or down since the evening of May 25? What sort of search results are you seeing now that is different than what you were seeing prior to this update?

And if your site did move, do you have any thoughts on the erasons for it?

It’s A Penguin – Google’s Latest Update

Are “Panda” updates over this latest one Google has released being named “Penguin?” I mean, the next update, will it be a Panda 2.9, or a Penguin 1.1? A penguin it might be, and sometimes penguins can be cute, but they are slow, clumsy, and they can’t fly. Penguins can swim, but the Google Penguin update has sunk a lot of people and websites.

If it weren’t for that, and the fact that this is not 1998, and it’s not Altavista we’re using in 1998, some of the search engine results are kind of “cute” but clumsy in a Penguin sort of way. In that regard, it’s an appropriate name.

Websites that have zero content ranking #1 for some search queries. Websites that have absolutely zero relevance ranking for some search queries. It’s cute.. and clumsy. And it sure doesn’t fly with a lot of webmasters out there. I’ve even read reports along the lines of, “I abandoned a website two years ago after not ranking it after some effort, it looks terrible, and now suddenly it’s on the first page of Google.”

It makes you wonder if the engineers at Google do any indepth studies themselves after such an update; why are they not seeing what others are seeing and can obviously see that there is a problem here?  But, Google has offered an olive branch – two of them in fact. The first one is to let them know if you were hit by this update in a negative way that you should not have been. The other thing you can also do is snitch on someone that Google didn’t apparently catch.

Obviously Google staff know that this algo update might not have really done it’s job in a graceful and completely meaningful way. But give them credit: for the first time ever, they have provided a form where you can let them know if you’ve been unfairly victimized by The Penguin.

And if you’re in a snitching mood, you can snitch to the Penguin here.

The majority of our web properties and our clients’ sites have sailed through this fine. There has been some slight movement – in some cases a couple of spots upward, in others a couple of spots downward (more due to Google giving more credit in their alogrithm to other sites than anything else, most likely), but one site in particular which I’ve discussed before just makes no sense at all. There are only two things I can think of, and if either of them are what has affected the site to this degree, something is definitely wrong and absolutely Negative SEO is now possible if Google does not fix it.

1. Two and half years ago, about 40 articles were submitted to EzineArticles. Those articles contained links to different pages as well as the front page of the site.  Shortly after, Google came out with an update that devalued Article Directories – and the site did drop a couple of spots at that time.

2. About six weeks ago, somehow Google discovered the server name and the IP address of the server the site resides on. It is shared hosting, and I have no clue how Google ever started to index http://xxx.xx.xxx.xxx/somedirectory/ and end up with a copy of my site – and then do the same with the server name – thereby not only triplicating content, but also showing in my GWMT account, an exponential increase in backlinks to the site in one week. But this confuses me as this site (and one of our properties did) did not receive any “unnatural back link building detection” messages.

The result? For a major search term for which the site used to rank on Page 1, about #7 on Google.COM and on Page 2 of Google.CA, you now have to go all the way to Page 55 (that’s Page – not the 55th result) of the Google SERP’s. That’s insane. This is a website that has existed for over 10 years, has always done well, has tons of great quality content, and I receive daily emails from visitors congratulating me on the quality of the website.

It has lots of links from other fly fishing, fishing, outdoor related, etc. types of websites that were put there by other webmasters who found the site and liked it, and linked to it.

For searches on individual fly patterns, that I published long before other people ever did, the site ranks nowhere. It makes no sense to me. And I’ll tell you what – this site is not well monetized, it’s not something I make a ton of cash off of, (yes, there is an E-bay store, yes, there are some other Amazon affiliate links to products, where appropriate, and yes, there is some Adsense but it’s certainly not a “money” site for me – none of these things are “in your face”).

It’s not about the money, it’s more of a “pride” thing. But not only that, it’s pretty obvious to me that genuine, quality sites can be taken out – whether it’s a Panda or a Penguin – and sometimes it doesn’t make sense.

So what do you think? Will you be filling out either of the forms Google has provided that I linked to above?

 

 

Has Google Jumped The Shark?

This morning, April 25, 2012, many of us woke to some really strange and poor search results in Google. Yesterday, I wrote about some experiences that I was seeing throughout the day here and here, but overnight it just got worse.

At least one of my sites which I know has good quality content (my visitors tell me so, not a search engine bot) seems to have taken a major dive in search engine results at Google. I’m still seeing some pretty weird results – and even seeing Ezine articles now ranking again for some search queries. Another property which seems to have gained is Squidoo.

But Google has really messed up on some things. And it is has affected webmasters around the world. Domains that have no content whatsoever are ranking for the #1 spot for some search queries. Google has also ranked sites for search queries that have no relevance whatsoever.

It’s quite bizarre obviously the quality of search in Google has decreased considerably. Having a bit of a headache today, I searched for

headache remedies

and up comes a very spammy website; the type that Google claims it is trying to eliminate: tons of ads above the fold and the content, and ads all around the content.

Thus far in my observations, Google’s “success” in dealing with ranking for EMD’s (exact match domains) is spotty. I’ve seen very good sites get demoted, brands that are not ranking at all, and poorly crafted sites with an EMD promoted.

It just doesn’t make sense. Surely Google staff realize just how poor of a job this latest update, which reminds me of Altavista results over a decade ago, is.

What are your thoughts?  Are you considering switching to DuckDuckGo (DDG) or Bing? I have to admit I am seeing results I like much better on those two engines, and I like the fact that DDG has a much better privacy policy than Google does. Would that also be something that is important to you?