Time and time again on SEO forums, you hear the advice that to improve your rankings, you need to provide a constant source of fresh content and improve your bounce rate.
While there is some truth in this advice, it is mostly a myth as there are so many different factors when it comes down to how well your site ranks.
I’m going to show you the Google Analytics from two of my sites that would normally be considered to not be optimized SEO wise.
They share the following characteristics:
The content on both sites has been virtually unchanged since they were created.
High bounce rate
The bounce rate (ie: the percentage of visitors that leave the site after viewing one page within a certain period) is over 80%.
Short Visit Duration
Related to bounce rate is the amount of time a visitor spends on your site. Both of the sites have a average visitor duration less than 2 minutes.
Low Number of Visited Pages
Generally, the higher the number of pages visited, the better, as it indicates your website has content that is of interest to visitors. Both my sample sites have an average page views of less than 2 pages.
So given the sites have the characteristics listed above, let’s look at the following analytics for Site 1.
The analytics period is from October 2011 to the end of November 2013.
As you can see, the number of visits over that period has been steadily rising and there certainly haven’t been any drops in the number of visitors due to major Google updates like Panda and Hummingbird.
The other interesting stats are:
Average Pages per Visit: 1.25
Average Visit Duration: 1:36
Bounce Rate: 83.67%
To show how consistent these figures are, here are the stats from the previous month:
The corresponding stats for this period are:
Average Pages per Visit: 1.21
Average Visit Duration: 1:40
Bounce Rate: 86.61%
Similarily, here are the analytics for Site 2 (which is a much smaller niche)
Where the corresponding stats for this site are:
Average Pages per Visit: 1.28
Average Visit Duration: 1:39
Bounce Rate: 83.65%
Why are these sites ranking well?
So the obvious question is why do both of these sites rank well and have very consistent traffic if the don’t fit the general SEO advice on how to rank a site?
The short answer is returning visitors.
In each of the three graphs above, the percentage of returning visitors is around 40%.
The percentage of returning visitors is a very good indication to Google (and other search engines) that your site is useful to visitors as they have a reason to keep coming back.
There is also another related factor, and that’s the referral source.
In the analytics screenshot above, it gives a breakdown as to where/how visitors are reaching the site.
You can see the number one source of traffic is direct traffic. This means visitors are either typing the URL of the site into their browser or accessing it via a bookmark.
Number two on the list is Organic Search, ie: visitors coming to the site via search engine.
Referrals are the third highest source of traffic. In most cases, is visitors coming to your site via a link on another website.
Fourth on the list is Social. This includes visitors coming via Facebook, Twitter and other social media sources.
Given that less than 40% of visitors are coming via a search engine, this is also a good indication to Google that the site has something of value for visitors as most of them are arriving via other sources.
The Defining Characteristics
So now, you might be wondering what characteristics the two sites that I’ve given a breakdown of the analytics for have in common.
Simple answer is that they are both lookup services.
By that, I mean a visitor comes to the site, enters in some type of query, clicks on a button and sees the result.
There are many examples of lookup services, eg:
- Calculator sites – home loan calculators, temperature conversions, currency exchange rates etc.
- Query sites – search engines (general and specific), domain lookups etc.
- Generators – baby name suggestions, domain name generators etc.
- Voting sites – voting on popular social memes, current affairs etc.
The point is, these sites can provide a useful service to visitor that encourages them to return to the site.