If you are here, you’re probably familiar with the most common content marketing metrics, right?
So we’re just going to cut to the chase and tell you about the star of this blog post: dwell time.
But what is dwell time exactly?
It is a metric that is studied along with others to determine the quality of a site by how long people spend on it.
It specifically measures how much someone who is searching for your type of content liked your site as a result.
If your dwell time is low, there may be specific changes needed to get that number up.
Dwell time affects Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and that’s what we’re going to understand now.
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What Is Dwell Time?
Imagine that you’ve just searched on Google for the best examples of interactive brand experiences.
You’ve clicked on our post, read the sections you wanted to read, and then returned to the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) three minutes and 55 seconds later.
That is the dwell time of our page, considering this specific situation.
But let’s give this metric a proper definition: dwell time is the amount of time that goes by from the moment a person clicks on a search result to the moment they return to the SERP.
In theory, a high dwell time is great for you, because it means people are enjoying your content.
Are Dwell Time and Bounce Rate the Same Thing?
Bounce rate and dwell time have things in common, but they are certainly not the same.
If someone goes to one page of your site and then leaves it at any point without ever clicking on anything on it, that’s the bounce rate.
With the bounce rate, the person could have spent a lot of time on the site — even hours. But if they leave without clicking anything, it is considered a bounce.
On the other hand, the dwell rate is a measure of time.
Someone who spends a lot of time on your site generates a good dwell rate, even if they don’t click on anything.
Another important difference is that, unlike the dwell time, the bounce rate deals with users who came from a SERP and also other websites.
What Is the Difference Between Dwell Time and Time on Page?
The time on page measures the amount of time that a user stays on the page before they leave.
It’s that simple.
This metric isn’t just about search engine traffic either. It measures the time spent when the viewer is coming from anywhere else.
This helps you to see patterns in your traffic as a whole.
Dwell Time vs. Bounce Rate vs. Time on Page
As you could see, all three of these metrics are about the quality of your page.
Having its numbers right can give you a lot of insights into the user’s experience on your site.
And if you want to complement the results given by these metrics, you can use event tracking methods that help you see how readers are really spending their time on your page.
These include whether the readers scrolled on the page, whether they played videos or clicked on buttons or whether they proceeded to visit another page on your website.
This shows you how people are interacting and not just how long they had your page open in a browser.
If you don’t have event tracking, this metric will include people who simply had the page open and then went to do something else.
Why Is Dwell Time Important for SEO?
There are many reasons why this metric is important for SEO.
It demonstrates the quality of a page
Dwell time can tell you a lot about whether people are finding what they’re looking for on your site.
A short dwell rate could mean that users are leaving disappointed. It could also mean that the design isn’t very effective.
When people click back into the search engine, they want to check better results. Basically, your SEO strategy led people to your site, but the content wasn’t what they were expecting.
Because of that, you need to change.
Maybe improve your content so it can be aligned to the user’s intent. Maybe rethink your keywords to better match what people are looking for.
Search engines could be using dwell time in their algorithm
There is nothing written in stone confirming or denying that.
This means that search engines could be detecting small dwell times and assuming that for a specific keyword, your site simply isn’t a good match and deserves to rank lower.
How to Measure Your Dwell Time?
If you are using Google Analytics, you can set up the metrics so that your dwell time is estimated.
In your Analytics account, go through “Behavior” and click on “Site Content”. Then go to “Landing Pages” and “New Segment”.
Click on “Organic Traffic” and “Apply” so that you only get the views coming in through search engines.
The metric you want is called “Average Session Duration”. It’s no dwell time, but it is as close as it gets.
If the dwell time is high, you may be giving people what they expect when they click on your site from their search.
If it is low, there are likely a few rounds of experimentation and testing in your near future to try to raise the rate.
You can also do your own testing by timing the amount of time that you spend on sites run by your competitors.
This can help you to see trends that cause you to click out and content that makes you stay for longer.
Time your own dwell time and record the data. Then, you can think about which factors played into the lengths of the dwell times.
Is there an average dwell time on websites?
There is no one length of time that you should strive for.
Whether users stay a long time or leave is only helpful information when taken in averages.
You may have outliers who spend a very short time or a very long time on your site, but the better number is the average time that people spend there.
➤ The length of the content on each page has a lot to do with the dwell time as well as the overall quality of the page.
If you are facing poor dwell times, you may simply not have enough content on the page to keep people engaged for long.
➤ There are also different subjects that will result in longer or shorter dwell times.
For instance, sites that have DIY instructions may keep people for longer because they need access to all the steps as they are doing the project.
➤ The difficulty of the content is another important factor that will influence your average dwell time.
➤ The density of the subject matter and the number of references can also affect this time.
As a general rule, it’s not good to have a dwell time of 30 seconds or less, and a dwell time that is more than two minutes is a good one.
The average dwell time is generally considered to be in between these times.
But remember: these are just basic averages that cover many different topics.
How to Improve your Dwell Time?
If you have a dwell time that’s low, or you simply want to get your dwell time higher, there are things you can do to keep people on the page longer.
When someone first arrives on your page, you want to capture the attention of that visitor and get them to engage with the page.
It’s important to grab that attention quickly, or the user may click out to see if there are better sites for their topic.
Loading needs to be fast
To get that first bit of attention that hooks users, the page itself has to load quickly.
If it’s taking more than two seconds to load, you will have already lost people to its slow speed.
Design needs to be captivating
The design on the page should be appealing and yet fairly simple so that the user can see where the content is and what the page contains.
Using a clean layout will be a layout that is more user-friendly.
Ads need to be used with wisdom
When you have a page that is quick, easy to use and responsive, people are more likely to both spend time on the page and to look at the rest of your site.
This may not happen if they are bombarded by pop-ups or have content that is hard to find because of all the ads.
Content needs to be available to users
To increase the dwell time, you should also have plenty of content available to users.
This includes a number of links to your other pages — something that can be done with sidebars or text links.
Links can help to keep people more engaged as well as showing that the site is an authority on the subject.
You can also use widgets that will tell your audience what is most popular on the site and what the latest content is, for example.
Your website needs to be easy to read
Another way to help with your dwell time is to give users the content in a way that is scannable and digestible.
Few people want to read a website the way they read a book.
Often they want to find out the answer to a question only by looking at your page.
While your content has to be suitably complex and long enough to look good to the algorithm, it also has to be structured in a way that people will read it.
Shorter sentences and paragraphs can help with this factor, as can adding in sub-headings and using lists in your content.
It can help to have the information available in different ways so that each user can choose how they get that information.
Charts, infographics, videos and pictures will all help your users to get the information they want without feeling that they have to slog through a lot of content.
Your stuff needs to be good
One of the most important factors is simply the quality of your content.
When users click onto your site, the content they find should be worth the time it takes to read it.
If the design is greater but the content is underwhelming, you can’t expect people to stay there for long.
In the end, they visit your site for its content. That should be the number one priority on your site.
You need good information that is relayed well and that is engaging.
If you aren’t sure what the topics should be for each page, start with keyword research so that you know which terms people are using to find content like yours.
Wrap Up: What is Dwell Time? Something that Matters for SEO
As you were able to see, dwell time is an important metric that maybe you weren’t paying too much attention to.
And you should because it influences how well your pages are ranking.
If some SEO things are still not crystal clear, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
Download our free guide and learn how to reach top Google results!