If you’re trying to boost your website’s search rankings, you’ve probably stumbled across the term “dwell time”. This refers to the amount of time from when a user clicks on your website from the search results to when they return to the search engine results page or SERP.
Dwell time is a way of measuring the quality of your content. If your Google users typically spend several minutes looking at the videos and articles on your website, chances are they found something they like, which increases the chances of them engaging with your website by buying one of your products or services, sharing your content on social media, or signing up for your email newsletter.
Having quality content is also one of the most important ranking factors when it comes to SEO. Google wants to drive its users to websites with quality content – i.e. websites with healthy dwell time.
Let’s take a deep dive into the meaning of the term “dwell time” and what it says about the content on your website and your search rankings.
What Is Dwell Time?
Dwell time is the length of time the average search engine user spends looking at the content on your website before returning to the SERP. As soon as someone clicks on your website from the SERP, the clock starts ticking.
How long do they spend looking at the content you’ve published? A few seconds or several minutes? The answer speaks volumes about the quality of your content and what users think about your website.
Dwell time is not to be confused with other SEO-related terms such as your bounce rate or the user’s time on page. And, yes, SEO professionals create these different terms just to confuse you.
Let’s set the record straight and differentiate dwell time from some of these other terms.
- Bounce Rate: Your bounce rate is the percentage of viewers that click off your website, either by closing the page or going back to the SERP, instead of further engaging with your website. In terms of your bounce rate, it doesn’t matter how long a person spends looking at your content. The only thing that matters is what they do next.
- Time on Page: Your time on page score refers to the amount of time a user spends looking at the content on your website before doing anything else, such as heading back to the SERP, further engaging with your site or closing the tab all together.
Dwell Time and SEO
Before we can talk about dwell time and SEO, it’s important to remember that a person needs to click on your website from the SERP in order for any kind of dwell time to occur. Considering most of the clicks go to the top three search results, your website needs to be one of the top-ranking results before dwell time even becomes a factor.
If your website is still on the second or third results page when ranking for a particular term, you don’t have to worry about dwell time.
As you probably know, Google keeps its search algorithm under wraps. Aside from having quality content and links back to your website, most of us are still wandering around in the dark when it comes to ranking factors. But we still have a pretty good idea of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Google has been developing an artificial intelligence project known as Google Brain for some years that collects data on user behavior, especially in terms of how users respond to current search rankings. Nick Frost, the head of Google Brain, recently hinted at a relationship between this new machine learning project and how much time a user spends on a particular search result.
So, while Google hasn’t expressly stated that dwell time is a ranking factor, its machines are using it to learn more about how the company can improve its search algorithm.
What does this mean for SEO?
Obviously, Google wants its users to spend time and ultimately engage with its top-ranking search results. Otherwise, Google wouldn’t be an effective tool, and no one would be able to find what they’re looking for online.
So, if your website already has a top spot on Google and you want to keep it that way or you want to jump from position #4 to position #1, it appears that dwell time will, indeed, be a factor.
How Content Affects Dwell Time
Great, so dwell time appears to be related to SEO. So how do you increase your dwell time? The obvious answer is you need to give the people what they want.
No one is going to spend time on your website unless you have something to offer. This may be an expertly-written blog post, cute images of puppies or an informative video that engages the viewer from the get-go. It all depends on what the person is searching for.
Regardless of what kind of website you run, you need to make sure that your content appeals to the people clicking on your website from the SERP. If your website is currently ranking for a certain keyword, the content on that page should be engaging to the person searching for that same keyword.
For example, if your website ranks for the keyword “refrigerator maintenance”, your website needs to have content that people with a broken refrigerator will find useful and engaging – i.e. tips on how to fix a broken refrigerator.
This way Google’s robots will understand that your website deserves to have a top spot in the search results because people searching for this term are spending time on your website. Pretty simple, right?
Tips for Creating Engaging Content
Now that you understand dwell time and how it relates to the content on your website, it’s time to start engaging your readers.
If you choose the right keywords for your website and build up content that users searching for these terms want to see, you can earn a top spot on Google. Here are six tips for creating engaging content:
1) Clearly State the Premise at the Top of the Page
Put yourself in the shoes of one of these Google users. They’re looking for information and they enter a keyword into the search bar. Search results come up and they click on one of the top results. They see ads, headlines, and large paragraphs of content.
This content might contain the answer they’re looking for, but they don’t have time to read and absorb all this information. Either they’re going to skim the first few paragraphs or they’re going to click off the webpage and return to the SERP to find another, easier-to-read option.
This happens all the time when people are looking for info online. Even if your content answers the user’s question, they might not be willing to sort through the page to find the info they’re looking for.
That’s why you need to clearly state the subject and premise of the article at the top of the page. It could be an in-depth headline that describes the content, bullet points with key takeaways or a skimmable intro paragraph that addresses all the topics on the page. Users will immediately know whether they’re in the right place or if they should return to the SERP.
If you’re targeting certain keywords with your blog posts and landing pages, don’t forget to address the user’s original question with your content. Again, put yourself in the shoes of the Google user and ask yourself what they’re searching for.
Are they looking for useful tips, information, entertainment, or a particular product or service? Whatever they’re looking for, your article or web page needs to be exactly that, otherwise the user will click off your website in seconds.
When it comes to information-based searches like “how to fix a broken refrigerator”, make sure your content speaks directly to the user’s concerns. As much as you love adding CTAs that urge the reader to buy one of your products or services or talking endlessly about the benefits of your products and services, the user is looking for clear, actionable information, not an ad for your business.
Answer the user’s question in full, with lots of helpful tips and advice, and your dwell time will increase.
3) Comprehensive Topic Overview
Look around the vast cosmos that is the internet and you’re bound to find plenty of other articles and blog posts that are similar to yours.
Sure, maybe you tweaked the headline a bit or changed some of the language in the piece, but from the reader’s perspective these articles are basically interchangeable. Simply rewriting articles that have already been published won’t affect your search rankings. In fact, you’ll just get lost in the shuffle.
If you want to surpass your competitors in Google’s search rankings, you need to do better by thoroughly and extensively covering the topic at hand. Users might have all kinds of questions about a particular topic, so you need to make sure your content covers a lot of ground.
Look at one of your competitor’s articles or blog posts that you want to emulate and take things a step further. Add supplemental information and resources to the piece that will benefit the reader as they search for information. Remember that the average first-page result on Google has over 2,000 words and longer posts tend to get more shares.
You can cover a topic extensively without boring the reader to death or filling up the page with endless chunks of text. Avoid adding fluff and break up the text to help the reader find what they’re looking for.
4) Leading the User Down the Page with Headers
Google users are fickle. If they don’t find what they’re looking for on your website, they’ll move on in a matter of seconds. If you cover a topic extensively and fill the page with all kinds of useful information, some users may have trouble extracting the information they need.
They might not have time to scour through a massive blog post just to find an answer to their question. That’s why you need to hold the user’s hand as they try to make sense of your content.
In the age of the internet, everyone knows how to break up large sections of text with headers, but you need to make sure that these headers are serving your readers. Your goal should be to help the reader find what they’re looking for and to lead them down the page, so they spend more time on your website, thus more dwell time.
Here are some tips for creating headers:
- All your headers should clearly define the subject below.
- Create a new header for every subject or idea.
- Use bold and italic text to highlight important points or phrases and grab the reader’s attention.
5) Use Logic to Organize Your Content
When you’re leading the reader down the page, don’t forget to organize your content with some common sense. The more generic ideas and subjects should be upfront as you introduce the reader to the topic at hand. Then, go into more detail as the reader works their way further down the page.
If you’re covering a lot of different subjects at once, you can even add a table of contents at the top of the page, so readers will clearly see how the content unfolds.
6) Use Visual Media That Engage and Inspire
Yes, images help you break up the text, but there’s no evidence to suggest that adding more than one image will improve your search rankings. If Google users wanted to look at a bunch of generic images, they would just do a Google image search.
If you add images and videos to your content, make sure they supplement the topic at hand. These images or videos should engage the viewer as they look for information. If you’re using images just to fill space, no one is going to be impressed with your content.
Boosting your dwell time is all about engaging your readers. From product searches to helpful tips and advice, focus on addressing the user’s needs with every piece of content you publish on your website. Be as straightforward and in-depth with your content as possible and your dwell time will increase.
If you’re looking for more information on how to boost dwell time with engaging content, get in touch with SEO Toronto for a free SEO consultation today.