What Is Dwell Time And How Does It Impact SEO

Dwell time is one of those SEO terms you may be quite uncertain about. Does it have to do with time spent on a page? Or is it something quite different? Let’s break it down! 

What Is Dwell Time?

Dwell time is the amount of time a person spends on a page after they’ve clicked through to it from the search engine results page, before going back to the same SERP.

It’s a metric used by search engines to determine whether or not the page a user has clicked on has given them what they were looking for, and whether or not they should continue to rank it at its current position. 

Note however that short dwell time does not necessarily mean that a page is not the best result for a specific search query

For example, if you are looking for an answer to a simple question, like how many degrees to wash towels on, you can find it in a matter of seconds when you open a page. You may then click back to the SERP, and click on another result just to double-check. If you do this repeatedly, you will in effect be pogo sticking.  

What Is The Difference Between Dwell Time And Time On Page?

Dwell time may seem the same thing as time on page, but it is actually a different metric. 

Dwell time is only measured when you click on a page in SERP, spend some time there, and go back. It’s also measured by search engines, and not a website’s analytics. 

Time on page is measured from the moment you land on a page to the moment you leave. You could have landed on it from social media, a link from another website, or even from an email. 

What Is The Difference Between Dwell Time And Bounce Rate?

A bounce means a visitor has viewed only one page on your website and has left. Bounce rate is the percentage of people who have viewed only one page on your website, divided by the total number of sessions. 

These people did not all arrive from a search engine, and they may not have clicked right back to it either. They may have closed the page, or they could have gone to another website. 

In that sense, dwell time and bounce rate are not the same thing. 

What Is The Difference Between Dwell Time And Session Duration?

Session duration measures how much time someone has spent on your website, which makes it similar to dwell time. 

However, these visitors could have visited several pages. And if they have not arrived from search, there is no way for them to go back there, therefore dwell time and session duration are quite different metrics. 

Session duration can also be measured by Google Analytics, which is not the case with dwell time. 

What Is The Difference Between Dwell Time And a Visit?

Dwell time is the amount of time a visitor spends on a page before going back to the SERP. A visit is an individual who has arrived on your website. 

Dwell time is measured in seconds or minutes, unlike visits. 

Technically, every time you measure dwell time, there’s also a visit to be counted. 

Is Dwell Time a Google Ranking Factor?

We don’t know. Google themselves, or at least their very own Gary Illyes, has claimed in a Reddit AMA in 2018 that it is not:

reddit AMA from gary illyes

However, a lot of SEOs believe that Google does use dwell time as a ranking factor, although there is absolutely no proof to that effect we can rely on. 

In any case, it’s not a metric you should be too worried about. If you want something to obsess over, bounce rate, average time on page and pages per visit are all much better candidates. 

How To Calculate Dwell Time

There is no way for you to calculate dwell time. It’s a metric that only search engines can measure. 

What you can do is look at your average engagement time in Google Analytics. This will tell you how much time visitors are spending on a page. It will give you the same information dwell time would, except that you won’t know from looking at this figure alone whether the user has bounced, visited dozens of other pages, or returned to the SERP. 

screenshot of google analytics metrics

What Is The Average Dwell Time? 

According to Hubspot , the average dwell time is between 2 and 4 minutes. However, they are basing this number on the benchmarks for average session duration from the old Universal Google Analytics. They aren’t actually measuring dwell time. 

Only a search engine could tell us what average dwell time is for different types of websites, which is not information we are ever likely to have access to. 

How To Increase Dwell Time

Here’s what you can do to increase your dwell time (and average engagement time):

  • Make sure to match the search intent of the keywords you are targeting
  • Don’t use clickbait titles: your visitors may end up disappointed if they don’t find what you promised 
  • Write the best content you possibly can: aim to provide value, write in a clear way, and rely on your expertise and experience. Match your visitor’s knowledge level and address their specific pain points. 
  • Don’t bury the lede: provide the information a searcher is looking for at the very top of the page. Be as concise and direct as possible. 
  • Provide additional, more in-depth information further down the page. Write clear headings that tell readers what other answers they will be able to find. 
  • Make sure you tick all the important user experience boxes: improve website speed, ensure your website is easy to navigate, and make your pages look great. 
  • Provide engagement opportunities: add useful videos to your pages, ask readers to contribute to the conversation or sign up to your newsletter. 
  • Add relevant internal links to your pages, so that visitors have further to go if they want to explore. Link Whisper can help you automate this process and save you a lot of time and effort. 

Wrapping Up 

Dwell time is not a metric you should be too concerned about. It’s something search engines use, but apparently not to rank websites. Tracking time on page and bounce rate, as well as pages per session and conversion rates will be of much more use to your website and business. 

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