Why Does Dwell Time Matter?

If you have tried everything and are still not ranking high enough on search engines, you may not have considered dwell time. Among the many other metrics like click-through rate and new user acquisition, you should pay close attention to dwell time. What is it and how does it differ from the other factors? We will get into that and more so that your website can appear higher up when customers are searching.


What is Dwell Time?

With the variety of metrics you probably are using to gauge the success of your website, you may have not seen dwell time. That is because Google and the other search engines do not specifically disclose this information. Do not worry, we will get into how you can get a good approximation of how your site is doing. For now, it is important to know exactly what is dwell time and, conversely, what it is not.

Dwell time is the amount of time a user spends on a webpage between clicking on a link from a search engine result page before clicking back to the result page. You should note that the user needs to go back to the original result page and not just simply close out of the window or go somewhere else.

What Dwell Time is Not

This metric may sound very similar to a lot of other ones you have heard of but let us make a few distinctions. Do not confuse dwell time with bounce rate. Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions divided by all sessions. This does not mean the user came from a SERP or search engine result page. Nor does this mean the user went back to a SERP. They may have just closed out the window or typed in a new web address. Bounce rate just tracks bounces or a single-page view on your site.

Let us also not confuse dwell time with the average time on a page. Similar to bounce rate, a user may not have gotten to your webpage from a SERP. They may have gotten there from a social media post, email link, or another webpage link. Even if the user found your webpage on a SERP, that does not mean they ended there. For dwell time, the user specifically came from a SERP and back to it.

Dwelling on a page sounds like session duration but it is not the same. Session duration is how long a user spends on your entire site and not just a specific webpage. Lastly, click-through rate is the percentage of people that clicked a link over the total number of people who viewed the page.

All of these other metrics are good indicators of your website’s performance and have their own merit. Even more, there are plenty of online tools that help you measure those metrics such as Google Analytics. But it is important to know the difference between them and specifically what is dwell time because search engines do not disclose the latter. You will need to use those other metrics to get an approximation.


Dwell Time Meaning

You might be questioning the significance of dwell time but let us tell you that it does matter. Consider this situation that everyone has experienced when using a search engine. The user enters their query and clicks on the first result. They quickly skim the webpage for the answer to what they are looking for but no luck. Or something about the webpage itself turned them off. So, they return to the SERP and click on the second result. This time they find exactly what they are looking for and stay on the webpage for much longer. Search engines are taking note of that whole experience and how long the user spent on each page.

How are search engines processing this information? Well, they are all thinking under the same assumption. The longer a user spends consuming the content, the higher the probability the webpage satisfied what the user was looking for. The same goes for the opposite. The less time a user spends on a page and hits the back button, the less likely it is that it helped the user. That is the essence of dwell time meaning.


Search Engines and Dwell Time

Search engines are just doing their job and trying to provide the best experience for their users. They certainly do not want to frustrate the user or be blamed by them. So search engines use dwell time as a factor when presenting search results. They do not want a webpage that historically has had users clicking on it and jumping immediately back as a top result.

There are a few exceptions such as a short dwell time actually being a good thing. For a weather website, a user hopping on the page and quickly finding the weather forecast equals a more satisfying experience. While a long time on that site sometimes means the user is having trouble finding the desired information.

Dwell time meaning is tricky, that much is for sure. But if you are reading this, it is safe to assume you are looking for ways to keep your customers on your webpage for a longer period of time. There is no magic amount of time a customer should spend on your webpage. However, here are a few rules of thumb. A time under 5 seconds seriously says that something is wrong with your webpage and it is probably not your content. A time of 5 minutes says that the customer found your content useful and digested it.

Dwell Time SEO

Lets us discuss ways to improve the amount of time your customers are on your webpage with dwell time SEO. Or better yet, factors that will keep customers from immediately leaving. Throughout these suggestions, keep in mind relevance and high-quality content. These are what the search engines are considering and so should you.

Better Content Equals Better Dwell Time

Creating better content for your webpage is crucial to keeping customers on your site. Notice we said better content and not longer content. Yes, longer content can lead to a longer reading time. But writing all those extra words will be useless if the user already left your page and is onto the next result page. Including extra details and information in your content when necessary will definitely help hold your reader’s attention. Just do not waste their time by shoving in filler. Remember you are aiming for your content to be relevant and high-quality.

Also, be selective with your keywords. Many businesses cast a wide net when using keywords so that their webpage appears higher on the results page for any scenario. If the user clicks on your page and it has little to no relevance to what they are searching for, search engines are going to factor that in for the next time. You should try to avoid being considered clickbait. You will improve not only your general SEO but your dwell time SEO as well.

If it makes sense for your content, include a comments section and encourage your readers to engage. Having customers leave a comment will not only increase the time they are on your webpage but helps add to your own content. Many users not only read the article but what previous users said. This is an easy way to improve your own content with the help of your customers.


Better User Experience Keeps Users on Longer

Like we previously mentioned, a dwell time of under 5 seconds may indicate that something is wrong with your web experience rather than the content. We have all been on a webpage and left before the bottom of it was fully loaded. In fact, that might be one of the reasons you left. Load speed’s importance is increasing as users’ patience decreases.

Try not to include a pop-up that will disrupt the user during their search. You already succeed with them clicking on your page, you do not want to turn them away by cutting into their experience.

Aesthetics and readability are key. Have you been on a website that looked so bad that you left? You do not want to be one of those. The overall design and look of your webpage play a big role in how much the user will trust it. Make sure you look like a quality source.

You can accomplish that in a few ways. Chunk your content into sections so that it is easier to read and less intimidating for the reader. A preview or intro of the article should be placed “above the fold” or in the top section of your webpage. This is the first thing they see to determine if they will continue reading.

A picture is worth a thousand words. A video can only be worth even more. Utilize visuals and embed videos into your content when appropriate. The duration of a video can help with your dwell time by adding on top of the read time of your content.

Implement These Techniques to Hold Your Audience’s Attention

Hopefully, you were already pretty familiar with some of the best practices we suggested, as dwell time should not massively change your SEO strategy. It should be a consideration along with the many other metrics you are utilizing to measure your website’s performance. Creating relevant, high-quality, and engaging content will help improve all your metrics and not just how long a user is dwelling on your page. Find out ways SEO Design Chicago can optimize your on-page SEO through a full analysis and strategic changes to your website.


  • Do search engines use dwell time?
  • How to improve dwell time?
  • Is dwell time the same as bounce rate?
  • Where to find dwell time?
  • Is a short or long dwell time better?

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