You may have seen dwell time be mentioned in marketing and SEO articles, across social media and in seminars. However, it can often be one of those ‘buzz words’ that gets thrown around with little to no explanation or understanding behind it.
What exactly is dwell time? Is it even used by search engines? Does Google use it as part of its ranking algorithms?
Let’s dive into what dwell time is, how it’s used and whether you need to do anything about it:
What is dwell time?
Dwell time refers to the length of time that someone spends looking at a page on a website after they’ve clicked through from search engine results, but before they click back to the SERP.
It’s a common habit and you’ve most likely even done it yourself. It typically occurs when you have clicked through to a website following a search, briefly assessed whether it has given you the information you need or not, and if it hasn’t you click back to the search results. Alternatively some sites may give you exactly the information you’re looking for.
Dwell time is a valuable metric to assess for both website owners and search engines. Generally, the more time you spend looking at the content on a page, then the higher the probability that page satisfied your needs. The opposite remains broadly true as well – the less time you spend on that page, the less satisfied you could be.
It can depend entirely on the intent of the searcher, though. For example, if you’re just searching for the weather, then a cursory glance should be enough to give you the information you’re looking for. So it that instance, a shorter dwell time would mean quicker satisfaction.
This means the importance of the metric is entirely relative and can only be considered alongside a mix of other data. It is a metric that’s used and would hold a value applied to rankings at some level. It’s important to consider dwell time in general, although improving the overall engagement and quality of content on your website would be far more important.
What Dwell Time ISN’T
Dwell Time is often completely misinterpreted. It can often be bundled with metrics that are irrelevant and can be confused entirely.
Dwell time isn’t bounce rate. A bounce refers to a user viewing a single page and leaving your website without completing any other interaction. Your website’s bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions divided by all the sessions. The people that bounce also don’t come from a SERP.
Dwell time also isn’t the ‘average time on page’ metric. Whilst it may seem like the two are one and the same, average time on page is simply that – the amount of time someone spends on one of your pages, on average. The user could have clicked through to the page via a backlink, social media post, a website or any number of other sources that isn’t a SERP.
Guess what? Session duration isn’t dwell time either. That’s right. Session duration measures how long someone has spent on your website. If the session didn’t start from a search, it certainly can’t end back on the SERP.
You also can’t publicly access Dwell Time with any third-party analysis tool. It’s a metric that is contained within search engines, for search engines. You also can’t directly impact dwell time in a positive way.
What you should be focusing on is improving user experience on your website overall. This means delivering quality content, good structure, smooth navigation and a whole heap of other elements.