Dwell Time: What It Is And Why It Matters So Much

Lady at computer

Google has analytics software built into 69% of the top 1m websites in the world, a browser with 43% market share, email software with 15% of the market, and a video product with a billion users. What’s more, having a Google Account and login makes using these a better more personalised experience. Not to mention a search engine with 79% market share.

All of this means data, huge amounts of it. Google knows which content people visit, how often, how long they engage with, what they did before and what they do next. Given their objective of listing the best content on the web for any given search in order or quality and relevance, could you imagine them not using that data?

The days of relatively simple algorithms are behind us. A new era of AI and machine learning is upon us and it’s why the digital marketing industry is starting to learn more about and care about emerging ranking signals like Dwell Time.

What is Dwell Time?

Dwell Time is believed to be the part of the ranking factors algorithm that measures the quantity and quality of engagement a user has with content discovered via search.

The precise formula of Dwell Time is not known but there is consensus on the most likely component parts.

  • Session Duration: This is the amount of time users spend on a page or website before leaving or visiting other content
  • Bounce Rate: If you click on a search result, visit only one page and leave, you’ve bounced
  • Click through Rate (CTR): When search and get returned a list of search results most people click the first result, with the second result being the second most popular and so on. The percentage of people that click on your search engine listing is your click through rate.

You’ll be able to see this metrics in your Search Console data and your Google Analytics accounts.

What is a good Dwell Time?

What is a good Dwell Time is a good question but not perhaps the right one. I think a better question is: what’s a good Dwell Time for a page that answers a specific query? This takes into account that all content is measured relative to other content on the web.

In the same way, you want better content and more domain and page authority than your competitors. You also want a better Dwell Time.

How do you increase your Dwell Time?

You just need to look what is likely to go into the algorithm to work out how to improve your Dwell Time.

  1. Relatively High CTR: Starting with the search results itself, try and get a better CTR than your competitors by having a better more appealing Page Title and Description, and if your brand is well known, use its equity. This means treating your Organic Search listings like paid search ads.
  2. Relatively High Session Duration: When a user lands on your page you want them to stop, read, scroll, read some more, and generally engage with your page in every relevant way possible. This creates a conflict for those ultra-efficient landing pages that are designed to make you click the ‘Apply Now’ button. So SEO, Content and CRO teams are going to have to collaborate.
  3. Relatively Low Bounce Rate: To have a user only visit one page might be detrimental. This is why understanding consumer journey’s, next clicks and supplementary content is important. This means the creation of relevant supplementary content, great internal linking, speed, design, and usability.

Dwell Time is only part of the puzzle

What I like about Dwell Time is it brings the quality content debate front and centre. Try ranking without it. But it’s only part of the puzzle.

Pages still need to be relevant, websites still need to be technically optimized, links and other external ranking signals need to be present.

But I am in no doubt that making Dwell Time a big part of your search strategy is critical going forward.

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