Congratulations! Your website placed ‘runner-up’ in a relevance contest.

Oh, you didn’t notice? Don’t worry. Contests like these happen billions of times every day, behind the scenes. And no one pays attention, really. Apart from the odd search engine algorithm.

One of the things search overlords use to rank this contest is ‘Dwell time’.
Let’s look at how improving yours could give your website a boost.

Dwell time

You might have heard this term thrown around when you’ve been looking to optimise your website. Maybe you’ve been told that if you want to improve your position on Google, you’ll need to improve your dwell time.

But what does it actually mean, why does it matter and how would you make sure yours is doing well?

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What is dwell time?

Dwell time is the length of time a person spends looking at a webpage after they’ve clicked a link from the search engine results page (SERP). It measures the length of time they linger on a page before they decide to click back to the results page that they came from.

It’s important to differentiate between ‘dwell time’, ‘bounce rate‘, and ‘time on page’ here. While they all sound like they could be measuring the same thing, they’re actually very different metrics.

Dwell time is NOT how long someone spends on your page before they exit the page or switch to another. Nor is it the time someone spends on your page after they’ve clicked through a link on social media or an ad.

This metric specifically refers to the time someone spends looking at your page before returning to the SERPs.

Rapidly bouncing back and forth from the search results to a website, then back to the results, then another website is a phenomenon known as Pogo Sticking.

Why does dwell time matter?

Dwell time is a great indicator to understand whether a webpage is correctly satisfying the reason why the user was searching for the page in the first place.

A shorter dwell time can indicate that the user’s query was not fully satisfied after viewing the page. Whereas a long dwell time can indicate the user’s query intent was adequately satisfied because it suggests they’ve hung around on the page long enough to get the information they needed.

You’ve probably experienced this yourself. If you’ve ever searched for something, been disappointed by the first result you clicked on, and resorted back to the results page two seconds later – you would’ve contributed to a short dwell time on a webpage. Pogo Sticker!

So, it matters because it’s a good indication that your site is serving its users.

Will a good dwell time affect my ranking?

There’s been no official statement on whether dwell time is a definite factor in the way that search engines like Google will rank your page. Nonetheless, dwell time is widely believed to play a role in rankings.

This is because, back in 2017, the head of Google’s artificial intelligence initiative, Google Brian, said this:

“Google is now integrating machine learning into [the process of figuring out what the relationship between a search and the best page for that search is]. So then training models on when someone clicks on a page and stays on that page, when they go back, or when they are trying to figure out exactly that relationship.”

So it does look like dwell time could influence things. Plus, other search engines like Bing have said they definitely consider dwell time in their rankings. That’s why it’s a good metric to get to grips with.

How do you calculate your dwell time?

Read the rest of the article and find out here.