Dwell Time: When Users Vote “Yes” For Your Website

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bounce rate

I recently wrote about bounce rate.

If you read the article, you know how important user engagement factors are. In fact, they are becoming more important by the day although Google still hasn’t officially confirmed this.

Dwell time, bounce rate, time spent on page, click through rate are all showing a strong correlation with higher rankings. In other words, if these stats are underwhelming, your website will not grow which we will analyze later on.

That being said, we need to address dwell time as perhaps the most important user engagement metric.

What is dwell time?

Dwell time represents the time spent on a website from the first moment you enter to the moment you exit. That being said, longer dwell time can be used as an indicator that your article has answered the query properly.

Unfortunately, there are so many different factors that go into the equation.

For example, having a short dwell time doesn’t mean your article is not providing a valid answer; it may simply mean that a user was looking for something else. Sometimes, query can be explained in several lines so there is no real need for a longer dwell time.

Like most other things in SEO, best way to analyze your results is by comparing them to other competitors. If your dwell time is slightly higher than the industry average, this is a clear indication that you’re a more authoritative and reliable source of information.

In order to understand the situation better, we will also need to compare dwell time with two other user engagement metrics: time spent on page and bounce rate.

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Dwell time vs. Time spent on page

Time spent on page is also referred to as session duration. If dwell time is the total amount of time a person spends on a website, time spent on page is the amount of time a user spends on an individual page.

To properly analyze user engagement, it is necessary to use both metrics.

  • Short session duration – Short dwell time = users don’t like the initial page and don’t trust or like your website enough to search further
  • Short session duration – Long dwell time = users don’t like the initial page but trust your website enough to search further
  • Long session duration – Dwell time is the same as session duration = users like the page but either don’t need anything else or don’t trust/ like your site enough to look for other content
  • Long session duration – Even longer dwell time = users like both the page and your site (best case scenario)

As previously mentioned, dwell time and time spent on page are not definitive factors. However, the correlation with high rankings definitely exists and you would be foolish not to consider it.

Dwell time vs. Bounce rate

 Bounce rate shows us how often visitors leave a website after seeing just one page. It is measured on a scale from 0 % to 100 %. Bounce rate of 100 % means that people never stay on your website after viewing the initial page.

Bounce rate is a relative metric. These percentages will vary based on a website type. For example, online shops will have a low bounce rate as people have to visit several pages to reach the product. On the other hand, blogs have high bounce rate as visitors are usually intrigued by a single, post.

Between these three (time spent on page, dwell time and bounce rate), bounce rate is least indicative. In other words, if a person left your website without visiting additional pages, that doesn’t mean he didn’t like the content.

Let’s analyze your stats.

  • High bounce rate – Short dwell time = users don’t like the initial page and don’t trust or like your website enough to search further
  • Low bounce rate – Short dwell time = users trust your website enough to search further but they didn’t like any of the pages they visited
  • High bounce rate – Long dwell time = users likes the page but they either don’t need anything else or don’t trust/ like your website enough to look for other content
  • Low bounce rate – Long dwell time = users like both the page and your website (best case scenario)

As you can see, the relations are very similar to time spent on page and dwell time. Only when we combine the two metrics can we truly understand the situation.

Current state of dwell time

Previously, I mentioned that Google is a bit conservative when it comes to all these user engagement metrics. Likely, this is due to the fact they don’t wish to incentivize black-hat practices.

Basically, there are ways to artificially increase the average dwell time (spam bots, tools, etc.). So, Google is probably trying to take it slowly and put less emphasis on it as a ranking factor for now.

Additionally, unlike links which are almost always a positive signal, it is really hard to analyze dwell time and what it actually means.

If a person is accessing your website just to get your email (thus decreasing their dwell time), that doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. In fact, this might even confirm that you’re running a good business if SEO experts are scraping your data.

There is even a good chance that Google is using a system meant to measure values and relationships of these stats. Together, they may form a composite ranking factor.

No matter how you observe this, higher dwell time is definitely better for your site. If a person is spending more than 10 minutes on it, you are definitely doing something right.

How to increase blog’s dwell time?

 Finally, we come to the most important question.

Ideally, your blog should have really long and interesting articles with images and videos on them. Thus, by the time user reads them, several minutes will already have passed. But, this can be an issue.

During the last couple of years, “Ultimate guides” became really popular and attracted a lot of attention. Although people still visit and read such pages, they are slowly becoming fed up with them.

Here are some of the best strategies that will keep visitors on your website and increase dwell time.

  • Truthful titles and meta descriptions

One of the main reasons why people leave a website shortly after reaching it is because the title promised them something else. Don’t ever do this!

  • Say goodbye to aggressive ads

Upon reaching a website, visitor may be littered with popups and ads before seeing a line of text. This is something that will agitate a person in no time.

  • Ideal content format

As mentioned, excessively long format no longer converts that well. Short format will also have a negative impact on your dwell time. Ideally, your articles should be up to 1500 words (there are some exceptions, of course) while videos should be around 4-5 minutes.

  • Comment section

It’s shocking that some website do not have a comment section. Comments allow visitors to interact and share their opinions. Ideally, a comment section should be easy to use without intricate registration procedure. A really good way to increase dwell time.

  • Share buttons

Similar to comment section, share buttons are something that can increase interaction and force reader to spend a little more time on a page.

  • Promote browsing

Your content shouldn’t be too long yet, you require long dwell time. Best way to do it is by promoting and linking to your other articles and videos (interlinking). Call to action is another good method that will promote browsing.

  • Easy navigation

If you already wish to promote other pages, make sure your visitors can easily find them. Add big menus, categories and filters positioned in a visible place.  Your audience will appreciate this.

  • Responsive website

Lastly, your website needs to be responsive, fast and mobile-friendly allowing use without stress.

When you sum it up, your website has to be good.

Bloggers also have to find a perfect balance between promotion and positive user experience. Visitor needs to do things which he likes while feeling good as he does them. When able, use small tricks (such as videos, share buttons and comment section) to increase user’s time on site.


There is still a lot of debate regarding dwell time.

Given that SEO revolves around predicting future trends and traits of future algorithms, dwell time is something that should seriously be considered.

Regardless of SEO, dwell time is something that actually tells you if your visitors are into your website. Even if improving the metric will not bring any additional positions in SERPs, it will definitely affect your conversion rate and profits.

Have you ever analyzed your website’s dwell time? What are your conclusions? Share it in the comments below!

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