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Your website’s design is impressively done, your contents are all up and published, yet there still seems to be a problem with your site. Many of your SERP (search engine results page) visitors don’t seem to spend much time there.
What seems to be the matter?
You’re experiencing low dwell time, and for most businesses, low dwell time means a low satisfaction rating by the user. If your visitor isn’t spending much time on your site, they may be looking for something that your site is not giving them.
But what exactly is dwell time?
Let’s say you want to learn a new language, French perhaps, so you type in the query, “French language lessons online.” The SERPs bring you a list of websites where you can learn. You check the meta description of one result and decide that it looks promising. You then click on the link, spend a few minutes checking out the site before you log back out to check if the other links from the SERPs would have a cheaper or more comprehensive French language course than the one you already saw.
That is dwell time. It is the amount of time a user spends on a given site right after clicking on a link from a search engine result before clicking right back out to check on other sites that came up on the SERPs.
What Dwell Time is Not
Dwell time is not to be confused with other terms such as bounce rate, session duration, time on page, or click-through-rate.
Bounce rate refers to the number or percentage of visitors who go to a particular site then leave after viewing only one page, while session duration is just what the term implies—the time a person spent on your site.
Time on Page is somewhat like bounce rate, but it refers to the average amount of time spent on one particular page on your website. Click-through-rate is the number of people who went to your website after seeing it on the SERPs compared against the total number of people who saw the same SERP but didn’t click on your link.
Does Dwell Time Matter for SEO?
There’s a bit of debate among SEO pros about how dwell time influences a website’s ranking—Google isn’t saying much—but some evidence suggests that it does. Several years ago, Google added a couple of features to the SERPs. The first feature gave the user the option to block all results from specified websites. The second allowed the user to select additional content from particular authors through the “More by…” section underneath the primary search result.
These two features don’t show up on searches anymore/ Still, their existence before does lend some credibility to the theory that low dwell time is equal to unsatisfactory content—hence, the option to block for users. And of course, Google is big on excellent user experience. More helpful content would be rewarded by the “More by…” links.
“Your goal should be that when a visitor lands on your page, the content answers all of their needs…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….A minute or two is good as it can easily indicate the visitor consumed your content. Less than a couple of seconds can be viewed as a poor result. And while that’s not the only factor we review when helping to determine quality, it’s a signal we watch.”Duane Forrester, Bing’s Senior Project Manager in 2011
So, in a nutshell, if a person visited your site and spent just a few seconds on it, it’s usually because they did not find what they were looking for. A few minutes on your site means they probably found your content interesting and stuck around to read some of it, while a quarter of an hour or more means they found your content very useful.
Of course, there are other factors at work here too. Someone might have found everything they needed on your page in just a few seconds, so they logged out. In that case, the low dwell time is not due to negative user experience. But for now, let’s assume that it is, so we can work on further improving your website.
How To Increase Dwell Time
So we’ve discussed how dwell time can be a significant factor in search engine rankings and how it can be a measure of the overall experience a visitor gets when browsing your site. Now we move on to how we can increase your website’s dwell time.
Before you begin, get an estimate of your dwell time by using the Google Analytics tool. It’s pretty useful in tracking all sorts of data about a website, including those metrics we’ve discussed before, such as bounce rates and time-on-page. Your next steps would be making sure that your site ticks all of these boxes:
- Your website loads fast.
Nothing will lose you, visitors, faster than a page that takes longer than two or three seconds to load. Check your site’s speed and work towards improving it.
- You write for your target audience.
Whatever your content is about, make sure that it connects with your target audience. If your target audience is the scientific community, then it’s all right to use scientific terminology. However, if your profile audience is the general public, be sure to write in a way that they will understand by utilizing layman’s terms.
- Everything is easily accessible, and the content stands out.
Your website’s content should be easily accessible, interesting, and well-designed. The primary focus here is to make navigation easy to figure out so that everything in your site flows seamlessly for your visitors.
You can also enhance your users’ browsing experience by adding some graphics to blogs, for example, which will help break up those long blocks of texts, and keep your visitor absorbed in reading your content.
A wall of long, solid text can feel overwhelming. You can break the text up by moving some to a second page if the content is extremely long.
While ads can help bring in revenue, wrongly positioned ad placements can annoy visitors. Place your ads somewhere visible without covering the screen.
- You are producing great content.
Your content should be worth your visitors’ time and answer their needs. What you produce should be valuable and should aim to be an “authority” on a given topic. Try to be as in-depth as much as possible.
Don’t forget to update your posts and keep them relevant. You don’t want to give people out-of-date information.
- You use internal linking.
You want to keep your visitors on your site longer and help them navigate their way inside. Internal links can possibly answer another query your visitor has, thereby providing him or her a better user experience. Internal links also maximize your site’s SEO, as it directs users to your other pages, causing traffic.
Whether dwell time is an efficient way of measuring ranking or not, increasing the amount of time your visitors engage with your site can only be viewed as positive because the most important factor of all is enriching your users’ browsing experience.
Pri Kruijen is an award-winning SEO and the founder of Brilliantly Visible. With over 10-years experience as an SEO, Pri has worked for well-known brands like Notonthehighstreet and has been featured by the Rising Tide Society.
She is also the SEO expert for a number of leading communities like The UK Alliance of Wedding Planners and Small and Mighty Co.
When she’s not teaching SEO to small business owners, she loves to cook up a storm in her kitchen, travel to new destinations and watching Spanish movies on Netflix.