Dwell time is the SEO metric that you need to track

I did a quick google search this morning.

When the results page loaded, I spent some time clicking through the first page of the sites to find what I was looking for. When I couldn’t find my answer, I clicked back to this results page to see the next one.

This process took me to the bottom of the page until I refined my search and started the process again.

I didn’t know then, but I was actually contributing to a powerful metric – dwell time.

When we talk about metrics, we usually focus on demographics. We ask questions like: Who is looking at your website, where are they located and what are their interests? These interests help marketers make informed decisions about campaigns that are tailored to their customers’ interests.

Dwell time is the metric that goes through various search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s the time I spent reading these results pages before returning to Google to see other results.

Below you will learn more about what dwell time means and how useful it is.

What is dwell time?

Remember that the dwell time starts and ends with the SERP.

Put simply, dwell time is the time it takes for a user to analyze a webpage before clicking back to get to search results. If a webpage has low dwell time, it likely means that the page does not match the user’s search intent.

It’s important to note that dwell time and bounce rate are two different things. Bounce rate is what happens when a user clicks on a page and then leaves the site almost immediately.

On the other hand, to be considered dwell time, the user must click on a page of the SERP, stay for a while, and then either click back to the SERP or otherwise exit the page.

When you use search engines, take your time daily without thinking about it. I can already remember two different cases in which I contributed to the dwell time before lunch today.

In essence, dwell time metrics can tell marketers whether their web pages are attracting the attention and needs of browsers. It can tell you what to include on web pages and what to exclude.

For example, suppose you are writing a blog article titled “Social Media Tips and Tricks.” You notice that the piece has a high click-through rate but a low dwell time.

Upon closer inspection, you can see that the rest of the articles on the SERPs have extensive information on planning social media, creating posts for social media, and the social media websites with the highest conversion rates.

Most likely, you thought your post was looking for a user’s search intent when it wasn’t. This is why most readers return to the SERP for an alternate source.

This can also lead to indications of an improvement in UX. For example, if you have slow loading time on your webpage, it might show it in the dwell time metrics as a user might exit your page if it takes too long to load

This metric can, among other things, lead to important decisions you make about your site.

Next, let’s examine how the dwell time is calculated.

How is the dwell time calculated?

In Google Analytics you can determine your dwell time based on “Average session duration”Here you can find out how long visitors stay on a website on average. It is measured by the total duration of all sessions or visits divided in seconds by the total number of sessions.

A session begins when a user visits a website. The session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity or when the user leaves the company. The inactivity threshold is in place so you can get an accurate report on your metrics without experiencing false inflation.

You can find this metric already calculated for you in Google Analytics, displayed in minutes and seconds. You’ll find it in two places in particular: When you log into your Google Analytics home page, the home page will show “Average Session Time”, which is the average time one of the accounts you tracked was in Google Analytics:

Duration of the session on the Google Analytics homepageTo examine Average Session Time or Dwell Time for individual landing pages or blog posts, click Behaviors on the left side of the screen, then click Site Content> Landing Pages:

Then behavior landing pages to determine the session duration

Here the dwell time is shown in the table as “Average session duration”.

Average session duration for individual landing pagesIt is important to note that “Average Session Time” may represent the length of stay, but the two are not the same. Dwell time can only come from the SERPs, while average session length can also measure a person’s time on the page after arriving from another landing page, social media page, or email link.

Fortunately, you can account for this difference by simply adding an “Organic Traffic” segment to ensure that only landing page metrics that are related to the SERPs are shown.

Adding an organic traffic segment in GA

You can use “Average Session Time” to analyze which landing pages are performing well and which may be better in terms of dwell time.

But what is a “good” average session? Let’s get into that next.

Average time spent on websites

The industry benchmark for the average dwell time is between 2 and 4 minutes. It usually takes about this time to explore a website and get a feel for the design.

You will see this industry standard in Google Analytics when you search for benchmark metrics. To find these metrics, go to Audiences, then Benchmarking on the left side of the screen:

Find benchmark data in Google Analytics

Then choose whether you want to view industry standards for devices, channels, or locations.

For our purposes, let’s look at the industry standard for “Business & Industrial” for all devices. As shown in the small numbers below the larger percentage, most companies have an average session between 2-3 minutes (the second number is shown i.e. 02:43):

Average dwell time benchmark dataMost marketers agree that it rarely happens that the average session length is 10 minutes or less than a minute. So when you’re looking for a destination, the average is usually anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes.

When looking at metrics, it’s a good idea to look at all of the metrics for a complete picture of your website’s performance. If you rank high on the SERP it means your SEO is great. However, if your website does not provide useful information, your session duration may be below average.

In order to provide customers with a holistic experience, it is important to research the importance of session duration.

How to improve the residence time

A low dwell time indicates that a user who searches a search query on Google and then clicks on your website is disappointed with what they find there. For some reason this was inconsistent with what he was looking for or failed to provide the full answer it needed.

There are many ways to combat this.

1. Make sure your introduction matches the reader’s intent and is in line with good UX practices.

First, check out your introduction to our UX at the top of the page. Is it easy to navigate and does the text describe what the reader will find on the rest of the page? Best of all, does it help the reader find what they’re looking for quickly – either with a table of contents or by using short paragraphs and bullets to make the content more digestible?

User experience can be an integral part of low dwell time, especially at the top of the page – since readers who aren’t impressed with the above-average user interface won’t stick around for long.

The content is also important. You may have short dwell time if your introduction is confusing or doesn’t get to the point quickly enough. Alternatively, your content may not match the user’s intent.

Check out other high-ranking articles on the SERPs for a better picture of why this reader is looking for this topic. Intention is important.

Consider the following example: You can see that you have a small dwell time on your article “Deleting a topic in WordPress”. If you click inside the article, you will find that the introduction focuses on why WordPress could be a good web hosting solution, as well as statistics to support the claim.

Except … readers who just searched: “How can I delete my WordPress theme?” Chances are, you already have an account and don’t need to be convinced of the tool’s strengths – all you need to do is delete a topic.

If your article does not go down well with readers right from the start, this can make a significant contribution to the short dwell time.

2. Make sure the page is quick and clean.

A slow loading time has a strong deterrent effect on a long dwell time. If your page is taking too long to load, readers likely won’t stay long.

Once readers scroll your page, if they find the images are not loading properly or it’s a nondescript experience, they may choose to leave.

This means that having clean code and following SEO best practices for fast load time (including compressing your images and caching your web pages) are critical to increasing your dwell time.

Make sure the page loads quickly and efficiently across browsers and devices. A good mobile experience is crucial here, as a lower dwell time on the cell phone contributes to a lower dwell time overall.

3. Have a good internal link.

The dwell time is ultimately the amount of time someone stays on a page before returning to the SERPs. So, including links to your other blog posts or landing pages is a great opportunity to keep them busy on your website for longer.

Follow link building best practices to build the right infrastructure for both the SERPs and the user experience. The key is to make sure your links are relevant to the topic at hand. For example, a social media blog post should link to other posts on Instagram or YouTube – not website development.

4. Embed multimedia elements.

Many readers may get tired of reading too much text. So split the page up by embedding videos, podcasts, pictures and other multimedia elements to keep your readers motivated.

Aside from improving dwell time, embedding these elements in your page can increase traffic to your brand’s other types of content. For example, embedding a YouTube video in your blog post (if relevant) can help increase your YouTube channel views. Alternatively, including a link to a podcast episode can increase the audience.

Ultimately, dwell time is a sign that the quality of your content or the page’s UX is not good enough to keep readers interested. Think about how you can update your content to better suit the reader’s intentions based on the other SERPs, and follow other best practices on the page to increase the dwell time and keep your site visitors excited.

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