Dwell Time: Definition, Impact on SEO and Tips for Improving It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Measuring dwell time can help a variety of people who use website creation see if their content is helpful to users. This metric can also affect the ranking of your website in relation to search engine optimization (SEO). Dwell time is an important metric, and learning about it can help you understand why you may use it. In this article, we define dwell time, how it relates to SEO, how it's measured, how it impacts SEO, the differences between it and bounce rate and time on page and tips you can use for improving it.

What is dwell time in SEO?

Dwell time is the time a user spends evaluating a webpage they've clicked on from the search engine results page (SERP) before clicking back to the SERP page. In relation to SEO, dwell time means that the longer a user views your page, the more likely it's been successful in providing the information the user wanted. Sometimes a shorter viewing time means the page is successful, like in instances when a user looks for a definition or weather report.

How do you measure dwell time?

It's beneficial to understand your dwell time metrics so you can see what works well and what can use improvements. Here's how you can measure your average dwell time on your website:

  1. Create or log in to your Google Analytics account.

  2. Click on "Behavior."

  3. Click on "Site Content."

  4. Click on "Landing Pages."

  5. Click to create a "New Segment" and select to only view "Organic Traffic."

  6. You can then see the metric under "Avg. Session Duration."

The primary dwell time metric is about two to four minutes, as the user is assessing the design and content. A session begins when the user enters your site, and if they keep the screen up but stay inactive for at least 30 minutes, the session ends.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: What Is Google Analytics? Definitions and Benefits

Dwell time's impact on SEO

Dwell time affects SEO because of the time a user spends on the site. If users frequent a site, it signals to search engines the content quality on that page is exceptional. Although, according to search engine sites, there are no exact parameters to use as a benchmark.

Related: Become an SEO Expert

Dwell time vs. bounce rate

A bounce rate is when a user clicks onto your site but leaves without clicking on any other page. It's the percentage of one-page viewings divided by all the viewings of your site or individual pages. Dwell time users come directly from the SERP, but not all bounce users come from the SERP. Although, if a bounce user comes from the SERP, they might click back somewhere else that isn't the SERP. For example, they could've typed a URL to leave or closed the web browser altogether. A few reasons you may have a high bounce rate are:

  • Slow-to-load pages

  • Misleading meta description

  • Blank page or technical errors

  • Low-quality content

  • Difficult-to-use site for mobile users

To be considered an actual bounce rate, the user usually spends less than ten seconds on the page. Upon arrival, the user almost instantly decided this wasn't what they wanted or it didn't satisfy their inquiry quick enough. If your web content is lengthy and the user spends 20 minutes reading it and then leaves, it may cause your site to have a high bounce rate, but it technically doesn't count as an actual bounce. This is why dwell time can be a more effective metric for you to decide whether your page's content is relevant and of quality.

Related: What Is a Good Bounce Rate? With Tips on How To Improve It

Dwell time vs. time spent on page (TSOP)

Dwell time affects time spent on page, but it's not the same metric as TSOP, which requires the user to make at least two clicks to qualify. TSOP measures the time any user spends on a page. If you have a low exit percentage, meaning users didn't click to leave your site and interacted with it, it can show you have a high TSOP. Here are a few ways to gather your TSOP information:

  • If the user scrolled the page

  • If the user interacted with the content, such as clicking links or a share button

  • If the user clicked onto another page

Gathering and analyzing this information can also help you determine if the users were active or idle. Active users would take actions on the site, while an idle user may have left their browser open, but they aren't actually spending time on the page.

Tips for improving dwell time

Here are some tips you can use to improve dwell time on your site:

Create high-quality content and an attractive site

When a user clicks on your site, they access the design and content right away to decide if this page is what they're looking for to satisfy their needs. Content that's useful, relevant and credible is likely what the user wants, but an attractive site that is simple and easy to navigate is what keeps them from clicking back to the SERP. Aspects of your website to consider when designing are:

  • Website color

  • Fonts

  • Button styles

  • Heading sizes

  • Image styles and sizes

  • Backgrounds

  • Navigation menus

Related: Content Creation: Definition and Steps to Develop a Great Content Strategy

Optimize site for mobile devices

Websites that are optimized for mobile devices can have a higher dwell time because it's convenient for users. Here are some tips you can use to optimize your site for mobile devices:

  • Test your site with free tools online

  • Use responsive themes

  • Choose a reliable hosting package

  • Increase your page loading speed

Increase page loading speed

Speed is one factor that determines if a user is more likely to stay or exit your website. Here are some tips you can use to increase the speed of your pages loading:

  • Optimize images and videos

  • Use a caching page speed plugin

  • Upgrade your web hosting package

  • Minimize HTTP requests

  • Use content delivery network

  • Configure server settings

Use internal links

Inserting internal links to your content to increase dwell time and SEO. Internal links are links you put on your page that link to other relevant content on your site. This way, the users can find more information about what they're looking for while staying on your site, which increases your dwell time. Internal links can improve your SEO because it helps search engines understand your site further and where to rank your site on the SERP.

Engage users

Users are more likely to stay on a site if there's something they can engage with to keep them on your site. While the users stay on the site, they're getting to know it more, which may increase their likeliness to return to your site at a later date because they're familiar with it. Engagement with users can include creating:

  • Quizzes

  • Polls

  • Q&A or FAQ section

  • Games

Create long-form content

Content requires at least 2,000 words to be considered long-form. The first two paragraphs are important to keep the user's attention because if you have high-quality content, users are less likely to click away, which can help improve your SEO ranking. High-quality content means it includes:

  • Thoroughly researched writing

  • No fluff, meaning all the sentences are purposeful and relevant

  • Cited statistics and claims

  • User-friendly format, meaning there aren't any large texts blocks and the content is scannable

Use videos

Uploading videos to your site can help maintain the user's attention. If the video is relevant, users may share the link to the video on social platforms, driving other users to your site. Videos are typically fast and convenient, which can help keep the user engaged.

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