The Long-Term Impact of a High Landing Page Bounce Rate – It Could Hurt Your AdWords Quality Score

4 min. read | Last updated: March 12th, 2015

In the past I’ve given reasons why bounce rate should not be your Conversion Optimization goal. That is still true from a conversion optimization perspective. Your bounce rate does not directly represent revenue and is only an indicator of a potential problem. Your bounce rate should not be the goal you track in your conversion optimization tests. (Read the article linked above for more about what you should optimize for instead.)

However, if you advertise with Google AdWords, bounce rate is important. Since (by definition) you’ve paid for each visitor from paid search, each lost visitor costs you dearly.

In addition to the immediate cost, there’s long term harm caused by a high bounce rate, as we’ll discuss today. A high bounce rate can negatively impact your Quality Score. You should most definitely reduce your bounce rate for paid search traffic sources, especially traffic from Google AdWords!

What Creates Your Quality Score

As you may know, Google uses its Quality Score as one of the factors that influences how high your ads rank in their search results. With a higher Quality Score you get a more prominent ad placement at lower cost.

As with all of Google’s algorithms, the company is constantly adjusting how Quality Score is measured to make it a more accurate gauge of the appeal of your ad & landing page combination. They don’t publicly share everything that they include the the algorithm, but do give enough hints to guide us.

The basic inputs Google is known to consider in Quality Score include:
• The relevance of your ad to your keywords and landing page content
• The amount of useful content on your landing pages
• The historical click-through rate of your ads, display URLs and account
• “Other relevance factors” (according to Google’s own criteria)

Your Bounce Rate is a Quality Indicator

Included in that last point, “Other relevance factors”, Google may be watching your bounce rate. While they may not be able to look directly at the bounce rate for all of your pages, they do have a lot of visitors’ behavioural data available. For example, they can estimate your paid search bounce rate without tapping into your web analytics tool by monitoring your “Return to SERP Rate”.

The Searcher Return to SERP Rate

We know that Google can watch how often searchers click on an ad, then hit their Back button and return to click on a different ad. I call this the Return to SERP Rate. To Google, that can be an indicator that the first landing page was not a high quality experience. If you get too many searchers returning from your landing pages to the search results, Google can assume that your landing pages are not high quality. If they can assume that, your Quality Score is likely to decline.

They couldn’t have weighted that factor very heavily in the past, though, since it was an indirect assumption. That inaccuracy is presumably why they are now gathering direct feedback from users.

New Direct Hit to Your Quality Score: The “Block These Ads” Link

Google now allows your landing page visitors to choose to block your ads. Similar to how you can block ads or news feeds on Facebook, your visitors can now tell Google to block all AdWords ads from your company!

As an example, I did a search for the search term “Nikon Coolpix“. A partial list of the Google ads I saw is below.

After clicking on the Amazon ad, I arrived at Amazon’s landing page, then clicked the back button. That’s when I saw the slightly revised set of ads, below.

Notice that within the Amazon ad, there’s now a link to “Block all ads”.

What does this mean?

Your Visitors Can Block Your Ads and Hurt Your Quality Score

If your landing page experience gives a bad impression to your visitors and doesn’t satisfy their search, they can now block you. This will send a direct signal to Google that your ads aren’t relevant. Google then has a very strong data point to downgrade your Quality Score!

How to Reduce Your Bounce Rate

You need to get serious about reducing your bounce rate to improve your quality score. Here are the top ways to reduce your bounce rate:

  1. Optimize your landing page conversion rate – If you optimize to improve sales, leads and revenue, your bounce rate will naturally decrease. The added benefit is that you will get more revenue-producing actions from your marketing spend. We can run landing page optimization tests for you and reduce your bounce rate as we have for many other clients. Here are landing page optimization case studies for examples.
  2. Customize your landing pages for your search traffic – By making your landing pages more relevant to the traffic source, your conversion rates will improve and bounce rate will decrease. We include this as part of the landing page testing we can do for you. Contact us for more information and to get a quote for full service landing page optimization.
  3. Re-structure your AdWords campaign – Is your AdWords campaign optimized? Are you sure you are spending your AdWords budget in the most efficient way to maximize your results? If you’re not sure, we offer an unbiased AdWords Campaign Audit service. Since we won’t try to sell you on managing your AdWords campaigns (we do the results analysis, not campaign management), you can be sure the advice we give is unbiased. You will be able to sleep better at night and get a reduced bounce rate.


Chris Goward

Founder & CEO

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