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Unfashionable Bounce Rates: Fashion Industry Terms by Apparel Search

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Bounce rate 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. This is important to fashion websites because it is possible that some search engines utilize the bounce rate in the algorithms that determine which websites are displayed earlier than others in search results.

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who come to your website and leave without viewing any other pages on your website. If you look into your Google Analytics, you will see a percentage. If you’re average bounce rate, for example, is 75%, this means that 75% of the people who come to your website leave after only viewing the page they entered on, whether it was your homepage or an internal page.

As per our understanding, the search engines prefer that a website has a "low" bounce rate.  However, as we will point out below, this may not be a fair metric for judging websites.

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 (software such as Google Analytics).  It is a general consensus that bounce rates can be used to help determine the effectiveness or performance of an entry page at generating the interest of visitors. An entry page with a low bounce rate means that the page effectively causes visitors to view more pages and continue on deeper into the web site.  Although this sounds fine and dandy, doesn't this theory penalize websites that help direct viewers to other websites?  For example, Apparel Search is a "directory".  Our goal is to provide viewers with information about "other" companies.  It is not our goal to keep you on our website.  Our goal is to give you the information that you are searching for as quickly as possible and then send you on your way so that you can complete the task you had been investigating.

While site-wide bounce rate can be a useful metric for sites with well-defined conversion steps requiring multiple page views, it may be of questionable value for sites where visitors are likely to find what they are looking for on the entry page. This type of behavior is common on web portals, directories and referential content sites.

At Apparel Search, our goal is to provide readers with "answers" to their questions as "quickly" as possible.  If a company is looking to find clothing factories, we want them to find the clothing factory section quickly.  If they know that they need to purchase t-shirts from a t-shirt factory, we want them to find those specific manufacturers in a timely manner.  It is not beneficial to our viewers if they have to spend time searching many pages to find the information that they are researching.

In our opinion it is unfashionable for search engines to suggest to websites that they should achieve a low bounce rate (have viewers stay on sites longer).  If our viewers find information fast, they will bounce off our website fast.  This is good for our viewers, but gives us a higher bounce rate which gives a negative signal to search engines.

In other words, if we create a website that provides with you very quick answers to your questions, you would naturally not need to spend too much time on the website.  If that is the case, you bounce off the site quickly.

According to Google, "Bounce rate is the percentage of visits that go only one page before exiting a site. There are a number of factors that contribute to your bounce rate. For example, visitors might leave your site from the entrance page if there are site design or usability issues. Alternatively, visitors might also leave the site after viewing a single page if they've found the information they need on that one page, and had no need or interest in visiting other pages."  Learn more about bounce rate from Google.

Having a low bounce rate is good for some fashion websites.  However, for fashion directories such as Apparel Search, we don't mind having a high bounce rate because it means that our viewers have found what they are looking for and have moved on with their day.

We hope that Google understands this concern with bounce rates and adjusts their metrics so that directories are not penalized in their search results.

Written by ML 11/16/2013

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