Dwell Time is a Critical Ranking Factor – Stop Ignoring it

As the SEO landscape becomes increasingly competitive, it’s important not to overlook any ranking factor. Especially one as crucial as dwell time.

If you’re not familiar with what dwell time is, don’t worry, because you’re definitely not alone. In this article, I’ll be breaking down exactly what dwell time is, why you should start paying close attention to it, and easy strategies to improve your rankings.

What is Dwell Time?

Dwell time is the total duration a user spends on your website after clicking on a search result link, before exiting out of your website, and returning back to the search results page.

Take the following example.

An insurance prospect wants to know what the term premium means. They run a quick search, and click on the first result. Unfortunately, it takes them to a page that is littered with pop ups, and content that is less than helpful.

After 5 seconds, they click the back button, and return to the results page. Meaning, the dwell time is 5 seconds.

Why it Matters

Search engines care about two things, making money, and providing their users with the best possible experience (mainly so they can make more money). For search engines, dwell time is one of the most important ranking factors because it offers a firsthand account of the quality and experience your site provides its users.

How do we know it’s important?

According to Bing’s own webmaster blog, they offer the following information:

While it may feel like you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating the content on the website, quality is in the eye of the visitor, and short page dwell times can indicate the content is not capturing the visitor’s interest. Something about the content is not grabbing their attention.

Short dwell times mean your site is providing users a poor overall experience, something search engines want to avoid at all costs. Longer dwell times, on the other hand, signal a positive user experience, something search engines love.

Quick Wins to Improve Dwell Time

As a website owner, you may be asking yourself how to improve user dwell time. The truth is, it begins with the overall experience users have when they interact with your site. There are some quick and easy changes you can implement today that will improve user experience, which will in turn, increase dwell time.

Better and Longer Content

Don’t just publish content for the sake of publishing content. Instead, invest time, energy, and even some money to create compelling and original reading material for your users.

There’s something known as the 15 second rule.

The 15 second rule gets its name from the average amount of time a user will spend on a website. That means, you have 15 seconds to capture the attention of your visitor before they decide whether or not to extend their stay. Improving the quality of your content is a great way to get users to keep on reading.

Another great strategy to increase the amount of time users spend on your page is painfully obvious, but important nonetheless. Write longer content.

Make sure to focus on the primary content first and foremost, but also try to expand on the topic to create longer content. When you have longer content, it improves dwell time by forcing visitors to stay on the page longer.

User Experience

If you’ve ever tried to look up a recipe online, you’ve surely come across more than a few websites that make you work to find the actual recipe. Typically, cooking sites will bury the recipe deep down the page, making you scroll past paragraphs of nonsense before getting to the good stuff.

Sure, the content is longer like we recommended in our first tip, but at what cost?

The purpose of content is to provide value to your users, and do it quickly. If you’re answering a question with your content, answer it quickly and concisely.

Another trend, that is thankfully dying out, is littering your page with ads and call to actions to get users to perform a desired action. The problem is, ads and pop ups detract from the overall experience, and is a quick way to get visitors to leave. There’s nothing wrong with having a prominent ad or call to action on the page, just don’t go overboard.

Include Videos and Visuals

This one is self explanatory. If you have a Youtube channel or a great design team, use them on your advantage. People love visuals and videos, especially when they find interesting and useful information in a fun way.

Pro tip: If you have a particularly popular video or infographic (one that has a ton of interaction or views), you may even want to consider building an entire page around it.

Videos and infographics are far more engaging than content alone. So, if you have time or money to invest in them, it’s one of the fastest ways to improve your dwell time, and increase your organic traffic.

Improve Page Speed

This tip is especially important, because page speed is a ranking factor on its own. When it comes to dwell time, page speed also plays a role because it will determine whether or not a user will even stick around to see what you have to say.

Increasing load times for your website can seem like a daunting task at first, but you’d be surprised with some small changes that have a huge impact. For example, optimizing and serving scaled images is a great way to improve site performance.

If you’re operating on a WordPress site, there are tons of plugins available to help with site speed. However, if you’re using a third party company to handle all your website needs, it’s well worth your time to have them speed things up for you.

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