If you want to win with SEO, you must know the answer to the question, “What is dwell time?” You should also know how dwell time impacts SEO and how you can improve your dwell time calculation to perform better with search.
The topic of dwell time is regularly covered in articles and at conferences, and yet many marketers are secretly whispering, “What is dwell time?” to their colleagues because of the confusion around the term.
In this article, we’re clearing up the confusion around the term and sharing hot tips on how you can impact your web pages’ dwell times in the best ways.
Dwell Time: What It Is
What is dwell time?
The dwell time is defined as follows: the amount of time between when users click on your search result on a search engine results page (SERP) to the moment they click back to that SERP from your website.
Essentially, it measures the dwelling time of each user that gets to your page via search. It’s how long they linger on your page, sandwiched in between the moment they found you on the SERP to the moment they return to that SERP.
It’s safe to say that a user visit under a few seconds is not ideal — we’d all like for people to stay on our pages and engage for longer.
Here’s an example:
You head to Google to find a good shop for used tires in Orlando. You type in “used tires Orlando” as your search term, and the third result for a local tire shop looks promising. You hit the link to their page, take a look around on the homepage and notice that they only sell new tires, so you head back to the SERP to either redefine your search or browse the other results.
That time spent in between your click and your return to the SERP was your dwelling time on that page.
We’ll get more specific and share how you can perform dwell time calculation a little later.
Dwell Time: What It Is Not
So, if that’s what it is, then what is it NOT? While the dwell time meaning is similar to bounce rate, time on page, session duration, and click-through rate, they are not all the same.
Here’s a breakdown of these seemingly similar yet different concepts:
Bounce occurs when someone is only on one page of your site before they leave. Essentially, it’s the percentage of single-page user sessions divided by the number of total sessions for either your website or that specific page.
The thing is, these users that bounce don’t necessarily come from SERPS, so it can’t be the same as dwell time. That means it’s a slightly different metric.
Even if they did come from a SERP, there’s a good chance they went somewhere else after they left — not necessarily back to the same SERP.
Average Time on Page
Average time on a page only tells you how long someone spent on a given page. It has nothing to do with where they came from or where they go after, so it’s not the same as your dwell time calculation.
Session duration is also not the same as dwell time, as it measures how long someone spent on your website, again involving nothing about how they got there or where they’re going afterward.
Another misconception is that it’s the same thing as click-through rate (CTR), which counts the number of clicks your search result gets as a percentage of the users who saw the same SERP.
Dwell Time’s Impact on Page Rank
Only search engines have access to know users’ dwell times, meaning it’s not a publicly available metric. You can use Google Analytics to look at average time on page, session duration, and CTR metrics, but users’ dwell times will not be shown to you.
Still, you can understand what impacts it and how to boost it.
How does dwell time impact your page rank? Your dwell time calculation may play a role in your rankings calculated by Google, but the tech giant isn’t very transparent about how.
In fact, they’ve never officially admitted that dwelling time affects your rank, though they’ve vaguely alluded to it in passing at conferences.
What Impacts Dwell Time?
Because Google is mostly silent on the issue of dwell time, we have to make our best-educated guesses about what impacts dwell time and how site owners can improve theirs.
We’ve discovered a few strategies that can help attract users to your search result and keep them on your page for longer before going back.
Producing Better Long-Form Content
One of the most logical ways to improve dwell time is to produce more engaging long-form content to keep visitors on your page longer. The more content there is on a page, the longer it takes to read, thus increasing users’ dwelling time.
What is long-form content? It should be around 1,200-2,000 words, but you shouldn’t write fluff to reach that word count. Quality matters here just as much as quantity does. The best-performing long-form articles are highly optimized for their keywords, well-researched, and include reliable sources.
Most importantly, they offer value to the user, whether in the form of entertainment or information.
Another key to maximizing your dwelling time is creating a better user experience for everyone who lands on your page. Here are some of the easiest ways to optimize your site’s UX:
Fast Load Time
If your page takes longer than a few seconds to load, your visitors are more likely to leave. Try to keep your load time under three seconds at the most. However, the sites that perform the best on Google usually have a load time under two seconds.
Visually Appealing Content
Your content should be scannable for users looking for quick answers. An easy way to do this is by formatting sections with visual distinctions like bulleted lists, headings, and sub-headings. Perhaps most importantly, keep your sentences and paragraphs short and sweet.
It should be easy for your visitors to find just what they’re looking for via your site’s navigation. Navigation bars are helpful for smaller websites, while a large drop-down menu (or mega menu) is more convenient for large sites with tons of pages.
If your site won’t load or work with the four main browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera), users are more likely to leave than wait or try a new browser.
Mobile phones account for almost 56% of all SERP clicks, so if your web page is not optimized for mobile, your dwell calculation will likely take a hit.
Backlinking within your website is another excellent way to improve dwelling time and keep your users on your site. Relevant links offer more resources and related pages for them to browse. For example, when a user comes to your page for one blog but then jumps to another blog post, your service page, and finally your contact page, that will do great things for your dwell time calculation.
The key here is only adding relevant internal links. Stuffing your content with links just for the sake of having them there isn’t the right move. Instead, every link should be added in with a purpose and be directly related to its anchor text to not lead users astray or betray their trust by linking to irrelevant, unhelpful content.
The comments section of your blog is a surprising place that can make an impact, meaning that boosting engagement here can keep them on the page for much longer.
To boost this engagement, start by opening up the comments section and creating an initial post as the website owner. Making the first move will entice users to follow suit. When they see that you’re responding to comments and interacting with users in the comment section, more and more users will begin to participate.
You should participate weekly or even daily to keep the comment section buzzing, but it’s worth the investment to improve your dwelling time.
If you’re wondering about a dwell time secret to improve your calculation in addition to the four listed above, it has nothing to do with the written content on your page.
Adding interesting visual elements within your text can keep users on a page longer and thus enhance your dwell time calculation. If you want to take it a step further, add pictures, graphics, videos, and other forms of media to keep things interesting.
Some people are more apt to read a passage, while others tend to click on a video to watch and listen instead. There are several types of learners, so adding videos and photos is a great way to appeal to those who aren’t reading learners but are more visual or auditory learners.
Ideally, your video should be short enough to hold their attention but long enough to add to your dwelling time significantly. Most video marketing experts recommend somewhere between 60 seconds and 90 seconds.
How to Calculate Your Dwell Time
At this point, we’ve covered the dwell time meaning, gone over ways that you can impact your dwelling time, and explored a bit about how a dwell time calculation affects page rank. Now, let’s dive into the question you’ve all been wondering: “What is a dwell time calculation?”
The first step to figuring out your dwell time calculation is knowing that there is no real way to measure it for sure. However, you can still make sense of what your dwelling time might look like by using the Average Session Duration insight on your Google Analytics page.
Here’s how you can get a general understanding of your dwell time calculation:
- First, log in to your Google Analytics account and look at what’s on the screen in front of you.
- You should see a button that says “Behavior.” Click on that.
- Then, you’ll see a button that says “Site Content.” Click on this button.
- Click on the button that says “Landing Pages.”
- Once you’re on this page, go to “Create a New Segment” and select “Organic Traffic.”
- After you do that, you’ll see your website’s metric for your average session duration.
As we know, the average session duration is NOT the same thing as a dwell time calculation. So, why are we using it here? While session duration won’t tell you where a visitor is coming from or where they go after they leave your page, it will help you see which pages keep visitors there for a while and which pages are seeing much shorter visits.
With this information, you can compare the two types of pages and see what the low-performing pages have in common and what the high-performing pages have in common. For instance, if you notice that your pages with longer articles and videos embedded into the content hold visitors for longer sessions, then you can start to incorporate those elements into your other pages to improve session length and, ideally, dwell time.
Get Yourself Positive Dwell Times!
Now that we’ve covered the dwell time meaning and shared a little about how this calculation impacts your page rank, you might start using some of the above strategies to impact your dwell time positively.
Now, when you hear one of your colleagues whisper, “What is dwell time?” you can help them out with your newfound knowledge.
If you still have questions about dwell time or how to evaluate your site effectively? Reach out to our experts today!