Dwell Time: Does this really matter for SEO?

Dwell Time isn’t a popular term in SEO but it is surely one of the most discussed SEO terms by SEO experts recently. In this article, I will explain what is Dwell Time and then I will also discuss why you should know about it. I will also explain the importance of Dwell Time in SEO.

What Is Dwell Time?

“Dwell Time is the term taken by a person from clicking on a search result on SERPs to returning back to the SERPs.”

Most of us do this a lot of times daily. For example, You searched for a term on Google. You clicked on the first result and visited the page. After checking the content of that page, you clicked on the back button to check other results on the search page. The time taken by you after clicking on the first result to coming back to search results is the Dwell Time for the website you visited.

If the page has valuable information, I am sure you will spend a long time on the page but you will instantly click on the back button to check other results of that page doesn’t offer the answer to your query.

In the same example, let’s say you spent just 10 seconds on the website appearing on the first position of search results and came back to SERPs again. Then you clicked on the second result and this time you spend more than one minute there.

Why did you spend more time on the second website? It could have a better user experience or better content. In general, one can say that the more time users are spending on a page before returning back to SERPs, the higher probability that page satisfied visitors.

Dwell Time Is NOT Bounce Rate

Several people argue that Dwell time is basically the bounce rate but it is not. A bounce is when someone views only one page and leaves your site and the bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions. Not people who bounce go back to SERP. Some click on external links added to the page and some close the page.

Is Dwell Time Important in SEO?

Here comes the most important discussion. Does Dwell Time really matters?

Yes, it matters.

Bing uses Dwell Time in their algorithm. Here’s what I found on an old blog post by Duane Forrester, the then Senior Project Manager at Bing.

If your content does not encourage them to remain with you, they will leave.  The search engines can get a sense of this by watching the dwell time.  The time between when a user clicks on our search result and when they come back from your website tells a potential story.  A minute or two is good as it can easily indicate the visitor consumed your content.  Less than a couple of seconds can be viewed as a poor result.  And while that’s not the only factor we review when helping to determine quality, it’s a signal we watch.

Bing blog

This blog post was published in 2011 and it is said to be the first mention of Dwell time on the web.

There’s no official statement from Google on dwell time. But I can say that Google is also considering dwell time as one of the ranking factors and there’s a reason why I think so. The head of Google Brain, Nick Frost mentioned something related to dwell time in a conference back in 2017. Here are his words.

Google is now integrating machine learning into [the process of figuring out what the relationship between a search and the best page for that search is]. So then training models on when someone clicks on a page and stays on that page, when they go back or when they and trying to figure out exactly on that relationship. 

Nick Frost, Head of Google

That means Google is also using machine learning to understand the quality of a page and dwell time is important in this.

Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their search algorithms. Some are major ranking factors while some are minor. Google has never openly accepted but it seems dwell time is a minor ranking factor. According to a study by WordStream, Google started considering Dwell Time starting after the rollout of the RankBrain algorithm.

There’s a reason why I said dwell time is a minor ranking factor. If you give importance to dwell time, you are assuming that the longer a person stays on the website, the better content is there. But this generalization doesn’t work fine for all kinds of websites. There are several kinds of websites where a short time on the page means satisfaction. For example, I searched on Google for the departure time of a train or AQI data of a place. There could be several simile examples where longer time on the page isn’t possible because users get their answers in a few seconds.

How can you check Dwell Time for pages on your website?

There is no report in Google Analytics or the Google Search Console where you can see. Dwell Time. But you can check your site’s “Avg. Session Duration”. It will give you an idea of how much time people are spending on your website.

Open Google Analytics Dashboard and click on “Behavior” -> “Site Content” -> “Landing Pages” to see the avg time report. Here make a segment for “Organic Traffic”. Now you see the average time spend on the landing pages of visits from SERPs.

Dwell Time for pages on your website

Here see the pages where people are spending less time. You can then think of fixing those pages for keeping people engaged for a longer time.

What is the good Dwell Time?

There is no certain answer to this. It depends on several factors like niche, type of content, search query and more. But it should be less than 10 seconds. Even if the page is offering instant answers to a query, the person will at least spend 10-15 seconds on the page.

How to learn SEO

How to increase Dwell Time?

If you really don’t want to be pushed down in SERPs, you need to keep your visitors for a longer time on your site. There are a lot of things you need to do for this.

The first thing you need to focus on is to decrease the load time. If the page takes time to load, most people click on the back button. I am not going into the detail of how you can reduce the load time, but you need to follow this for sure. You can use PageSpeed Insights to confirm how Google sees your website. If your website has a low page speed score, you need to improve it.

You also need to improve the user experience. When I say user experience, that means your pages shouldn’t contain irritating ads and there should be good readability.

Understand search intent and write the content according to that. If you are selecting some keywords to write a blog post, write the content people are looking for. The content that solves the query of users. Your content should be clear where users can easily find the answer they are looking for.

Embed relevant Videos in the content. It can significantly boost your page’s Dwell Time because most of the visitors will spend a few more seconds watching the video.

You can also use a proper interlinking strategy to keep people on your website for a longer time. The ultimate goal should be on increasing user engagement.

Wrap Up

While there is no clear mention by Google that they are using dwell time as a ranking factor, they hinted that Dwell time is important. So, you should try to improve dwell time while working on the SEO of your website. Even if Dwell time is not a ranking factor, longer dwell time shows the overall user experience of your website is good. While making a page and writing SEO-friendly content, you should always focus on offering value and consider search intent.


I am a tech blogger, traveler, and entrepreneur


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