Jun
27
2012

Script that “Fixes” Google Analytics Bounce Rate and Time on Site is a Bad Idea

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I recently was alerted to a script that purports to “fix” Google Analytics bounce rate and time on site calculations. The “fixed” (lower) bounce rate is claimed to result in significant increases in Google rankings.

Here is the script:

 

As Stephen Watts explains: “Once this code is installed, your site will update Google Analytics every 10 seconds under the Event Category “Time”, the Event Action “Log”, and the Event Value will be based on the pattern of 0:10, 0:20, 0:30, 0:40, 0:50, 1:00, 1:10, etc.”

This is not a bounce rate fix – it will artificially lower the bounce rate, because only users who leave in less than 10 seconds would be considered bounces. Basically, it manipulates the data to make bounce rates look better.

I know some people say their rankings went up after implementing this script, but I would tend to assume it was a coincidence. Even if it wasn’t a coincidence, it would be a loophole or maybe even black-hat, since the script is manipulating data to make GA report a falsely low bounce rate.

Users of this script say Google Analytics is inaccurate because it reports a visitor who reads a single page for 5 minutes then leaves as a bounce. That IS a bounce, though. The definition of a bounce is a visitor who leaves a site without viewing more than one page. This script seeks to redefine a bounce to mean “a user who views your website for less than 10 seconds”.

Now, this script might have some use from a time on site standpoint, but there is another way to get time on site without counting bounces – just use an advanced segment to view time on site for only non-bounce visits.

Edit: It sounds to me like the script was created with noble intent (tracking time on site for single page visits), but is now being used in a less noble way to artificially manipulate bounce rate reporting to the webmaster’s advantage.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this. I reached out to @BrianCray on Twitter who originally posted the script and showed him the scam the two guys were pulling with his script.

    His response is classic:
    “meh, that’s the interwebs for ya :)”

  2. Ben, thanks for the info! It sounds to me like the original author may have had a valid intent (get time on site data for 1 page visits), but the script is being used by others to manipulate bounce rates instead.

    Love his response. Seems everything good, someone, somewhere on the internet will find a way to abuse it.

  3. In a lot of ways SEO reminds me of my online gaming days. As soon as a game would release a patch there would be people trying to crack it so they could run cheats. SEO is very much the same. As soon as someone says theirs a signal Google may be looking at there are going to be people trying to manipulate that data.

    Luckly Google is making it harder and harder for these black hat SEOs to do such things.

  4. Couldn’t be more wrong about this being “manipulative” of Google.

    Google gives out it’s own version of this script to more accurately track true bounces vs. people who read one page of your site and really engage with it (e.g. stay more than 10 or 30 seconds).

    http://analytics.blogspot.com/2012/07/tracking-adjusted-bounce-rate-in-google.html

    Here’s what Google says:

    “There is a solution to this – something that we call “Adjusted bounce rate”. You implement a small tweak to your Google Analytics code, which executes an event when a user has spent over a certain amount of time on the webpage. Depending on the website, the time can range from 10 seconds to few minutes – you should decide for yourself the amount of time you consider the user to be sufficiently engaged with your website or product.

    Once the event is executed, the visitor is no longer counted as “bounce,” even though no additional pageview is recorded. This will mean your bounce rate will show users who have not spent a required “minimal time” on your website – the ones who have really bounced. Here is a modification to the Google Analytics code that you need to make (on the example of the latest, asynchronous code):

    ***

    We hope this small fix will allow you to track and understand the users’ behavior and quality of the traffic coming to your website more accurately, and make more informed decisions. One thing website owners should be vary of, though, that not only the function may slow down the users’ experience, even insignificantly, but will also increase the volume of hits your site sends to Google Analytics, which might bring your usage over the limit (currently set at 10 mln hits per month). As such, this fix should only be applied when necessary and justified by the concept of the website and the landing pages.

    Posted by Alexey Petrov, Google Analytics Insights Team”

  5. Jeremy:

    Interesting that Google offers a similar script. There is a legitimate use for the script, but not not for increasing search rankings. Using the script to make Google Analytics report lower bounce rates to supposedly boost your search rankings is not a legitimate SEO tactic, IMO.

    ~Adam

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