I’m becoming more and more convinced every day that Google is diminishing importance on inbound links and increasing importance on visitor traffic patterns, particularly bounce rates. Google’s complex ranking algorithms are constantly in flux. It’s change or be changed.
Why would visitor bounce rates be more important than inbound links? For several reasons.
- No. 1, inbound links have been gamed much too often and in too many sordid ways.
- Rising traffic patterns mean that a site is growing in popularity and is an indication that site visitors may be helping a website grow by sharing pages and information from that site with their friends. Since many website visitors are not webmasters and therefore not capable of providing links, they can still “vote” on the quality of a page by bookmarking pages, sharing through e-mail, and through other user actions like return visits. Google likely considers all of that in its ranking considerations.
- Bounce rates are particularly telling because a visitor landing on a page, particularly from a search result, only to find something other than what was intended and leaving immediately means that the webmaster did a poor job of “marketing” that page in the first place.
Links are still important, but they are losing importance and will probably never have the same status that they had in 2005. Traffic patterns are becoming much more important and I think Google will only get more sophisticated in the way that it measures traffic and bounce rates.