Dwell time, the amount of time a user spends on your page before going back to the search results to find something else is an important user experience metric. It gives website owners an idea of how useful readers find their content and whether or not it meets their needs.
For this reason, it’s understandable that search engines just might consider dwell time as an indicator of how engaging your content is. After all, if users are clicking on your web page from SERPs and staying there for a considerable amount of time, it would mean that your content was able to meet their needs.
With this in mind, in this post, we’ll take a closer look at what dwell time is and how you can measure your website’s dwell time. We’ll also go over some of the ways you can increase your website’s dwell time.
Let’s get started!
What Is Dwell Time and Why Does It Matter?
Dwell time is officially defined as the amount of time between when a user clicks on a search result and when they go back to the search engine results page. In simple terms, it’s the amount of time a visitor spends on your website before they go back and look for more results. It was first used by the Senior Project Manager at Bing, Duane Forrester, in a blog post.
As a website owner, your goal is to make sure your content fully answers the visitor’s search query. If it does, the user will spend more time on your website and may even be prompted to take further action through your website.
For this reason, dwell time is an indicator of user satisfaction.
Think about it this way – you write great content, spend a considerable amount of time and effort on marketing it, and when your visitors finally turn up on your website, they scroll for a few seconds and leave. Turns out you don’t just have to get visitors on your website but also have to give them a reason to stay.
Search engines (like Google and Bing) also take this user behavior into account although it’s not officially a ranking factor. When users spend very little time on a website after clicking on its search, it gives search engines reason to demote it in SERPs. They could potentially do this because it signals that the search result wasn’t able to answer the visitor’s question and they had to go back and look for a different result. On the other hand, if a user does spend a considerable amount of time on a website, the search engine would improve its ranking in SERPs because it indicates that the visitor was satisfied with the content on that page.
One thing to note is that, although dwell time is not an official search ranking factor, you should not undermine its importance. Apart from indications that dwell time helps to increase your ranking in SERPs, it also improves the quality of content on your website – and that alone is a good enough reason to work towards improving your website’s dwell time.
How Do I Measure My Site’s Dwell Time?
To increase dwell time of your website, you will first have to measure it. Since it isn’t an official ranking factor, you probably won’t see it as a key metric in your analytics tool. So, how do you measure it?
While you can’t get an exact measure of your website’s dwell time, you can still get some estimates by using tools like Google Analytics. For those of you who don’t already know, Google Analytics is a tool you can use to analyze visitor traffic on your website. It helps you identify your audience as well as their behavior on your website. Using this tool, you can track all kinds of different metrics – including bounce rate and average time on page.
Google measures bounce rate by the number of clicks. For example, if a user visits your website’s homepage and leaves your website without navigating to some other page on your website, it’s considered as a bounce. High bounce rates can cause your web page’s ranking to drop in SERPs because the search engine thinks that the content on your page was not able to engage the visitor.
Now, bounce rate does not take the actual time spent on a page into account. Whether a user spends a second on a webpage or an hour, if they leave your website without clicking to another page, it is still a bounce.
Average Time on Page
There is another metric, average time on page, which tells you the average amount of time a user spent on a specific page. “Time on page” does not say anything about whether the user after spending X amount of time on your page next navigated to another page on your website or went back to the search page. The visitor might even have gone to some other website. The time on page metric doesn’t say anything about where your visitor clicked to.
Estimating Dwell Time
Knowing about bounce rate and time on page, it’s pretty clear that to increase your website’s dwell time, you will have to decrease bounce rate and increase time on page. This would mean that your site’s visitors are spending more time on a page before leaving it – thus increasing your website’s dwell time.
4 Ways to Increase Your Website’s Dwell Time
Here are some of the ways you can improve the user experience your website delivers so visitors spend more time on your website (increasing its dwell time):
#1: Capture the Visitor’s Attention and Keep Them Engaged
Since the objective is to make a visitor spend more time on your website, your website must capture the visitors’ attention quickly and keep them engaged with the content of the web page. Internet users prefer pages that:
- Are quick to load – in 2 seconds or less.
- Have simple yet visually appealing designs.
- Have a clean layout that echoes user-friendliness.
The absolute first thing you want to do is make sure your website loads fast. You should analyze your website’s speed using tools like Pingdom and work towards improving it with a caching plugin (like WPRocket or W3 Total Cache).
Your website’s content – whether it is text, images, audio, or video – should stand out and immediately capture the visitor’s attention. If your website is responsive and easy-to-use, it’s more likely that your visitors will be prompted to navigate around and search for more content on it.
This is precisely why content placement is just as important as its design.
You want your visitors to be able to browse through your entire site seamlessly. Using pop-ups on every page, for example, is pretty annoying. And if you display ads that cover the entire screen, they too can quickly become a nuisance for your visitors.
#2: Show Them What Else You’ve Got
Since you are looking to increase your website’s dwell time, why not take some steps to get them to read more content on your website? It’s easy and super effective.
You can do this by giving links to another page on your website either within the original content or through your sidebars. If you mention a topic in your article that you’ve previously written about, make sure you link to the second article from it. This not only increases user interaction with your website (decreasing the bounce rate), it also keeps them engaged in your page’s content (increasing the average time on page) and establishes you as an authority.
Another way of using internal links is to use plugins, widgets, and sidebars to guide visitors to the latest, popular and related content on your website.
#3: Create Digestible Content
Your site’s visitors come to you in search of a solution to their problem – don’t force them to read a book!
Ideally, your website should draw in visitors by giving them digestible and scannable chunks of information. It’s a good idea to use headings, sub-headings, and lists wherever possible. Avoid long and complicated phrases in your text content. Instead, use short, concise sentences. Generally speaking, you want your content to be at fifth grade reading level.
This will improve the quality of content on your website and result in improved dwell time.
#4: Understand Your Readers and Create High-Quality Content
To make visitors stay on your web page, you have to make the content on your website worth their time. Understanding your target audience and creating content that satisfies their needs comes first. Research keywords beforehand so you can focus on topics that are popular with your readers.
Your audience should find your content relatable and your tone of conversation friendly. Avoid using words that would make them open up a dictionary – or leave your page altogether. Instead, proofread your articles and replace long and complicated sentences with short and simple ones.
It’s also a good idea to make your content appealing to the visitors by using visual elements like images, videos, and infographics.
Although dwell time is not an official ranking factor, your website and the content you publish on it can certainly benefit from dwelling over it (pun intended). By focusing on improving the user experience your site delivers and the quality of your content, you can increase the dwell time of your website.
What are some of the ways you use to increase your website’s dwell time? We’d love to hear from you so let us know by commenting below.