Dwell time, albeit one of the important metrics that get referenced in a lot of articles, social media posts and PowerPoint presentations, yet a large segment of the SEO community gets it wrong.
You might have a lot many questions to ask.
What is the dwell time?
Do search engines really use it as a ranking factor?
If they do, then how it affects your website?
SeoEaze has put together this detailed post so that we can clear all your doubts about the mysterious Dwell Time and how it affects web ranking.
History of Dwell Time
Textbook definition of “dwell” is different depending on you consider it a verb or a noun. In verb form, it means, “live in or at a specified place”, while the noun form describes it as “a slight regular pause in the motion of a machine”.
In SEO we can’t use both these definition as they are which is why we are going to focus more on the synonymous side of things as we try to grasp the concept of dwell time.
The SEO community has used this phrase for a while and you probably might not be hearing it for the first time if keep up with the latest developments in the community.
Duane Forrester from Bing has referenced to dwell time before saying:
“While it may feel like you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating the content on the website, quality is in the eye of the visitor, and short page dwell times can indicate the content is not capturing the visitor’s interest. … If your content does not encourage them to remain with you, they will leave. The search engines can get a sense of this by watching the dwell time.”
While it can be difficult to understand the logical and algorithmic concepts behind the dwell time, but once you do, it starts to make much more sense and you immediately recognize why it is so important in determining searcher satisfaction.
What Is Dwell Time?
Simply put, Dwell time is the length of the time a visitor spends on a particular webpage once they have clicked on the link in SERP page. Then they click back to the SERP. The last part is important.
You already have done this a lot of times. Dwell time is that brief moment when you reach a webpage from SERP to stay on the page to evaluate its quality. Either the page provided you with the answer you were looking for instantly or it was such a failure that you hit the back button immediately.
The value of this metric to search engines is so obvious. The more time a visitor spends on the webpage consuming the content, the higher the probability that the content on the page satisfies his needs as well as engages him.
We know it is a generalization to a great extent but in the broadest sense, it seems to be a valid reason to pay attention to the dwell time. Also, the vice versa of the same holds, the less time spent on a webpage, the less satisfied the visitor is.
But for facts and figures, such as looking up for the weather, the shorter dwell time means entire satisfaction, which is why it is trickier to work with this metric.
So it can be deduced that this is a metric that’s not easy to apply to a broad application of a concept but can be used for ranking at some level.
How important is dwell time for ranking webpages is a relative and must be considered with a lot of other factors. This is why you must not chase the dwell time as it is not the constructive use of your time.
However, you must focus on making broader improvements on your website so that you are easily able to increase user engagement will be worthy of your time. Focus on such factors and as a result, the dwell time will inherently increase.
Know what Dwell Time is not
On the internet, there is such an enormous amount of misinformation about dwell time, then it often leaves you confused, lost or worse, misguided.
Therefore, before we go any deeper, it is important for you to know what dwell time is not.
Dwell Time is not the same as Bounce Rate
A bounce happens when a reader only visits one page on your site and then leaves.
The bounce rate hence is the percentage of all the single-page sessions divided why all the sessions for your website.
All the visitors who bounce, not necessarily come from the SERP.
Dwell Time is not the Average Time on a page
Some people also use dwell time interchangeably with the average time on a webpage.
But they are not the same. The average time, well, is the time someone spends on your website on average. That doesn’t mean the person reached the page via SERP, he might have come through social media, email or some other source.
Dwell Time is not Session Duration
The session duration is not dwell time as well. It is how much time someone spent on your site in one session.
As we mentioned dwell time has a requirement of the searcher again ending up on the SERP, but if a session didn’t begin with a search, it is highly unlike to end with one.
Dwell Time and Click-Through Rate are also not the same
The organic search click-through rate is the percentage of searchers who clicked on the link to your webpage out of the total number of users who saw your link in the SERP.
It is often mistaken as the dwell time but it must not be. Dwell time is only about what happens after the click and has nothing to do with what percentage of searchers click.
Dwell Time is also not the RankBrain
This is probably the biggest misconception among people.
We have already covered RankBrain in detail .
In simply terms, RankBrain uses the historical data from your older searches to predict the previously unseen queries. It is an AI algorithm that gathers the user’s search result interaction data.
That’s just opposite to what dwell time is.
How can you make use of Dwell Time?
First, you need to realize that there is no one improvement that can positively impact dwell time.
But still, if we have to advise you to focus on one factor, that would improve the overall experience user experience and useful content delivery on your web pages.
Don’t engage in anything that your users don’t like. It includes popups, auto-roll videos, giant header images, too many ads between content and so forth.
Make sure that it is easy and obvious to find the information from your content when visitors see your web pages.
Search engines always keep reminding webmasters of “above the fold” content and keeping it clean. All of this to keep the user’s experience at the highest.
The search engines are aware that if a visitor is landing on a webpage through them to almost immediately come back to the SERP, he will blame the search engine for the poor experience. And if the pattern repeats itself several times, it simply builds frustration among searchers. The search engines will do everything to avoid such an experience
Now that you understand the whole concept of Dwell Time we would like to close with a pretty self-explanatory statement:
Don’t Dwell on Dwell Time
Essentially, dwell time is one of the metrics you must be aware of but it is not something you can act on particularly. If you are already taking all measures to keep user experience and engagement high, you will have no problem improving the dwell time as a side effect.
Fix all the common problems such as mobile-friendliness, slow page loads, high bounce rate and poor user experience.