There is so much data and information available in the digital marketing world that it is difficult to know which metrics are worth tracking and optimizing. These are ”vanity metrics” and simply a waste of time. But what is dwell time?
Dwell time happens to be one of the most important metrics you should pay attention to.
On this page, we’ll take a look at what dwell time is, how it affects your website, and how you can improve the average dwell time of your users.
Understanding Dwell Time
Simply put, dwell time is when a visitor spends on a given page before returning to the SERPs.
Anyhow, dwell time and “time on page” are not always the same thing. Those are crucial distinctions to make.
Time on the page refers to the time a user spends on a given web page before browsing off the page, anywhere else.
On the other hand, Dwell time specifically refers to the time a user spends on a page before returning to the search results page.
This is why visitors should be careful when looking at the “Time spent on page” metric on many analytics platforms like Google Analytics.
The time spent on the page is calculated based on two clicks. The first click is for the user navigating to a particular page, and the second click is for the user navigating to another page on your site.
If the second click returns the user to the SERPs, or if there is no “second click” (the user manually navigates to another URL, closes the window, etc.), the bounce rate of the page increases, and Google reports “time spent on page” as 0 – regardless of how much time the user spent on that specific page.
It’sIt’s easy to see why this is problematic: if a user lands on one of your pages from the SERPs and spends thirty minutes consuming relevant, valuable, and well-constructed content, but then presses the “back” button. Because they found the answer to his question successfully through your page, your bounce rate will increase anyway. Also, you won’t have an accurate measure of the time spent on the page to work.
This isn’t a ”real” bounce because the user got precisely what they wanted from your page.
This is why dwell time is so important. The thirty minutes the user spent on your page is thirty minutes of the present time but will not be recorded as thirty minutes of “time on page” by Google Analytics.
Does dwell time affect your ranking?
This question is a bit open, but there is some evidence to support the idea that Google is using dwell time as a sort of ranking signal.
A few years ago, Google introduced two characteristics to the SERPs. First, some search results offered users the option to “Block all <website> results.” Second, some results appeared with a “More by…” section below, listing additional articles by the same author.
Although again, it’s hard to be sure, many SEO professionals believe that these two functions were triggered based on dwell time.
A low dwell time would cause users to “block all results” based on the assumption that low dwell time = unnecessary content.
Likewise, a longer dwell time would reward authors who create quality content by listing related content under the main outcome.
Unfortunately, both of these attributes have since been taken down by Google. But their existence in the first place seems to indicate that Google measures dwell time to a minimum and probably uses it as a ranking signal.
How to increase dwell time
This one is quite simple: post better content.
It’s easier said than done, but increasing the dwell time is that simple.
If you want a website visitor to stay on your page, make sure you answer the search query that got them there. If the content seems relevant to them at first glance, they’ll be more likely to stay on your page and read it all.
Anything that captures a user’s attention and enables them to engage with your content can increase page presence time.
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