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Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Dwell Time When Optimizing Your Website for Google

Achieving and maintaining high Google search rankings is typically the end goal for all search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns. According to a study conducted by SISTRIX, one in four Google users click the highest-ranked website. In comparison, only about one in 40 users click the 10th-ranked website. When optimizing your website for Google, though, you shouldn’t ignore dwell time. This simple metric can influence your website’s Google rankings in multiple ways.

An Introduction to Dwell Time

Dwell time is the length of time search engine users stay on your website before returning to the search engine results pages (SERPs). After performing a search, a user may find and click your website. If your website doesn’t satisfy his or her needs, the user may go back to the SERPs. Dwell time refers to how long the user stayed on your website.

Some users may stay on your website for five minutes or longer before returning to the SERPs, whereas others may stay on your website for only a few seconds. Regardless, dwell time is the length of time users stay on your website. You generally want a high average dwell time, meaning most users are staying for long periods before returning to the SERPs.

Effective tactics for increasing dwell time include: 

• Add engaging videos that are at least one minute long to content. 

• Add attention-grabbing images to content. 

• Conduct a speed audit to find and fix problems that are making your website slow. 

• Create in-depth, long-form content. 

• Refine content so that it’s laser-targeted and relevant to your website’s keywords. 

• Make sure your website is optimized for mobile traffic. 

• Include plenty of internal links in content that point to your website’s other pages. 

• Avoid doorway pages that serve as nothing more than a gateway to other, content-filled pages. 

• Avoid intrusive ads, especially pop-ups, that disrupt users’ experience

Google Knows

While Google doesn’t have access to all types of visitor engagement-related data, it knows your website’s dwell time. Google can tell which users click your website, and it can tell when those same users return to the SERPs. By measuring the duration between these two activities, Google can calculate your website’s dwell time.

There’s no way to hide your website’s dwell time. You can prevent Google from tracking other types of visitor engagement-related data, such as session durations and bounce rates, by not installing Google Analytics. But you can’t prevent Google from tracking your website’s dwell time. Whether it’s high or low, Google will know.

Indicates Relevancy

Dwell time is a key indicator of relevancy. It indicates how relevant your website is to the keywords for which your site ranks. A high dwell time indicates a high level of relevancy between your website and the keywords that users search for to find it. Users are finding their desired content or information, so they are staying for long periods on your website.

Google rewards relevant websites with high rankings. In an article published at google.com/search/howsearchworks/algorithms, Google explains that its ranking algorithm is built around relevancy. Google’s algorithm works by identifying the intent of a keyword — what users are trying to find by searching for it — and ranking the most relevant websites at the top for that keyword.

With a high dwell time, Google will perceive your website as being relevant. It will notice that users stay on your website for long periods before returning to their SERPs. With its relevance-focused algorithm, Google may then bump up your website’s rankings.

Affects Backlinks

Another reason you can’t ignore dwell time is its impact on organic backlinks. Your website’s dwell time will affect its ability to attract organic backlinks. A high dwell time will usually result in more organic backlinks, whereas a low dwell time will result in fewer organic backlinks.

Before linking to your website, other bloggers and webmasters will probably view your site’s content. They’ll want to know that your website’s content matches the interests of their own audiences. Only after vetting your website and viewing its content will they link to it. A high dwell time means users are staying for long periods, and some of these users may operate a blog or website. Therefore, your website will attract more organic backlinks.

You can always build backlinks manually, but organic backlinks that you attract rather than build carry the most weight in SEO. A high dwell time will help you attract more organic backlinks. Bloggers and webmasters alike will stay longer to view your website’s content. Assuming your content is relevant to their audiences, they may share it through an organic link.

Affects Conversions

Your website’s conversions will also be affected by its dwell time. Conversions are a measurement of your SEO campaign’s success. Your website might rank comfortably in the first position of the SERPs, but without conversions, you won’t be able to capitalize on its high rankings.

A high dwell time can increase your website’s total conversions as well as its conversion rate. Whether it’s an e-commerce transaction, an app download or a lead submission form, most conversions consist of multiple steps. If users leave your website shortly after clicking it in the SERPs, they probably won’t have enough time to complete the necessary conversion steps.

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to calculate dwell time. Neither Google Search Console nor Google Analytics will reveal your website’s dwell time. With that said, you can use the latter service to find your website’s average session duration. Google Analytics provides data on how long users stay on your website. Average session duration isn’t the same as dwell time, but you can use it to acquire a better understanding of whether your website is satisfying the needs of search engine users.

Whether or not Google uses dwell time as an algorithm-encoded ranking signal is open to debate. Some SEO professionals believe that dwell time is a direct ranking signal in Google’s algorithm, whereas others believe it’s not. Regardless, dwell time is bound to play a role in your SEO campaign. It indicates relevancy, affects backlinks and affects conversions.

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What is a Dwell Time

Last Updated in March 2022 by Lukasz Zelezny