The quest for the most valuable search engine optimization (SEO) metric is an ongoing debate among digital marketing experts. In SEO, there are a plethora of elements that you need to track, audit and manage to improve your search rankings. These include organic traffic, dwell time, bounce rate, time on page, session duration and page speed. Which one should you prioritize?

In this article, we focused on the significance of dwell time in SEO and how you can use this data to develop better conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategies.

Dwell time has been a topic of discussion in the SEO community for some time. Many SEO experts consider dwell time an integral Google ranking signal. However, not everyone agrees with this claim.

With a lot of controversy revolving around the importance of dwell time SEO, one question remains: Is dwell time a Google ranking signal? If so, how does it change the digital marketing game?

Let’s delve deeper into the role of dwell time in SEO. In this post, we discussed:

•  What is dwell time
•  How it differs from bounce rate and time on page
•  Why dwell time matters in SEO
•  How to calculate dwell time
•  How to improve your website’s dwell time

Read on and discover why dwell time SEO is one of the most valuable engagement metrics you should be tracking.

What is the Difference between Dwell Time, Bounce Rate and Time Spent on Page?

There is a thin line between dwell time, bounce rate and time on page. A common misconception about these three metrics is that they are all the same. To understand the difference between each SEO factor, you must first learn about pogo-sticking.

Pogo-sticking is the back-and-forth process of visiting a search engine results page (SERP) and a specific search result until the information needed is found. To simplify, it is when online users click on a link on the SERP but instantly bounce off the page because it does not contain the information they are looking for.

Here’s an illustration of how pogo-sticking works:


The goal of improving your dwell time and other SEO engagement metrics is to stop pogo-sticking and yield better search engine rankings.

Let’s look at each SEO engagement metric:

Dwell Time

This SEO factor refers to the amount of time that elapses when a user clicks on a search result and returns to the same SERP. Dwell time is a user- and SERP-based metric that calculates a combination of SERP click-through rate (CTR), user engagement and session duration.

Dwell time calculation and interpretation vary by business type or intent. For example, websites with thin content, such as real estate companies and eCommerce stores, have naturally low dwell time. This is because it takes less than 5 minutes for page visitors to get the information they need on these types of websites. On the other hand, content-oriented sites can expect a higher dwell time because the amount of time spent reading in-depth articles is relatively longer than the aforementioned.

Bounce Rate 

This pertains to the percentage of visitors that leave a web page without taking action, such as making a purchase or clicking on a link. Like dwell time, there are no specific good or bad average bounce rates because they vary by niche, user intent and device type.

Here are the general bounce rate range indicators:

Poor≥ 71%

A high bounce rate may be an indicator of a poor website design or a lack of dynamic content. But this is not always the case. To others, such as weather forecast sites, a high bounce rate may be a good thing. This means the information needed by the user was immediately found.

Let’s look at the average bounce rate for various industry websites presented by Conversion XL:

Bounce rates

Time on Page

This is a measure of time spent on a given page when an online user accesses a website. This metric indicates whether or not page visitors interact with your content. A high exit percentage means most visitors did not find valuable content on your website.

One of the best ways to determine the average time on page is to use event tracking methods that measure the following:

•  Page interaction (i.e., link clicks, video views, social shares, etc.)
•  Navigation from one page to another
•  Scroll depth

Understanding these engagement metrics is integral in boosting your SEO efforts and converting more page visitors to customers. Additionally, learning what is dwell time will give you a clear idea of how to develop your content strategy and maximize your conversion opportunities.

Why Dwell Time Matters in SEO

Page visitors exit your website for several reasons. These may be:

•  The site is spammy
•  The content is misleading
•  The content has a lot of grammatical errors
•  Slow page loading speed
•  The website is not mobile-friendly
•  Too many pop-up windows
•  Among others

Dwell time can be used to determine how long a particular web page caters to visitors’ interest. It acts as an indicator of the quality and relevance of your page content. The longer time visitors spend on your web page before returning to SERPs, the higher the value your page delivers to the online users.

To simplify, let’s look at this model:

Dwell Time

For content-oriented websites, higher dwell time means your page content captures the online user’s search intent. This is a valuable insight since optimized content is one of the most important ranking signals that search engines consider. It helps generate quality backlinks, build thought leadership brands and, more importantly, improve search rankings.

Is Dwell Time a Google Ranking Signal?

As of writing, Google has not yet confirmed that dwell time is a ranking signal. However, this does not mean that you should disregard it in your SEO efforts. Dwell time serves as a user engagement metric that helps search engines determine a website’s page relevance and usefulness.

Understanding how to calculate dwell time and leverage this data can help boost your SEO strategies and provide better user experience for your page visitors. Learn more about dwell time calculation and achieve your desired results in no time.

How to Calculate Dwell Time

Dwell time calculation is done using Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager (GTM). Google Developer Expert Simo Ahava discussed in his blog how to calculate dwell time by uncovering bounce metrics for page visits that originate from SERPs. You may also view this YouTube tutorial for an easy step-by-step guide.

The process of dwell time calculation involves embedding a code on GTM. The code is divided into two parts. The first one detects whether the online search came from Google and then adds the #gref to the URL. The second part detects when the page visitor returns to the same SERP. It calculates the dwell time and feeds information to Google Analytics.

Five-second dwell time may indicate that your content is incomprehensible and does not provide useful information. Dwell time between two to three minutes may signal that you have highlighted the most relevant data on your web page and your content answers the user query. Five minutes or more means your content offers engaging, helpful resources to the page visitor.

How to Improve Dwell Time

There is no magic bullet when it comes to improving your website’s dwell time. However, there are some practices that you can adopt to attract more visitors to your web page. Follow this simple guide on how to improve dwell time:

1.  Understand Search Intent

Knowing why your target audience performs an online search and what information they need is vital in building a robust content optimization strategy. The first step is to perform an in-depth audience analysis and extensive keyword research. Doing so will help you target the right keywords and develop content that covers relevant topics and addresses user queries.

2.  Hook Your Page Visitors Right Away with an Interesting Intro

According to a survey conducted by HubSpot, 43 percent of online users skim blog posts, while only 29 percent take the time to read the content. These numbers highlight the importance of creating a powerful introduction to glue skimmers into your page.

Use the preview, proof, transition (PPT) formula to improve your dwell time SEO. PPT is a proven content introduction formula designed to show readers that your page content contains the information they need.

3.  Create Engaging Content

A successful content marketing strategy is built around a clear understanding of what your target readers want. You need to know everything from their desired tone and content format to the type of information they are looking for.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

•  Create action-oriented content
•  Use bullets to emphasize important points
•  Use subheadings
•  Write long-form content
•  Provide facts and links to credible sources
•  End with a powerful conclusion

4.  Maximize Internal Linking

Internal links help build authority, facilitate website navigation and increase page interaction. Maximizing internal links, however, does not mean spamming your web pages with irrelevant links. This practice is highly discouraged because this can get you penalized. The key is to identify the most important and relevant pages on your website and strategically use anchor texts.

5.  Focus on Readability

Readability is about making your site content clear and understandable for search spiders and online users. Remember, content marketing is critical to the success of your SEO. Follow these tips to improve your content readability:

•  Keep sentences clear and concise
•  Use active voice
•  Write in a conversational and professional tone
•  Use proper formatting and hierarchy
•  Drop the jargon
•  Use transition words

6.  Improve Site Structure

Design your page so users can easily find what they need. Categorize your content, keep your site design simple and focus on readability and navigability. Finding the balance between web design and SEO is crucial to increase your dwell time. Learn more about how to improve your site structure in this post.

7.  Insert Engaging Visuals and Videos

Image optimization can increase organic traffic by 106 percent. Using the right visuals and videos that support your content, you can capture your target readers’ attention, keep them on your website and compel them to explore other web pages. Images and videos also boost your content shareability and drive more leads and traffic.

Some tips to keep in mind:

•  Use JPEG or PNG format
•  Create unique images
•  Ensure the colors match your branding
•  Beware of copyright
•  Customize image file names
•  Optimize alt tags
•  Compress images

8.  Improve Page Speed

According to Google, 53 percent of mobile users leave a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Pages with longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and lower dwell time. Don’t let this be the case for your website.

Optimize your site images, use content distribution networks (CDNs) and improve your server response time. These practices help speed up your website and drive higher conversions.

9.  Ensure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly

Statistics show that 52.2 percent of site traffic is generated from mobile devices. This means more than half of your page visitors are using smartphones to acquire the information they need. With a mobile-optimized website, you can have higher pageviews per visit, increased dwell time and lower bounce rates.

Attract more page visitors by keeping your website simple and navigable. Eliminate the need to zoom in on the screen to access content and ensure your website adapts to any screen size and device.

10.  Avoid Clickbait Headlines

The last thing you want is having disgruntled page visitors leave negative reviews about your website. Aside from decreasing your dwell time, clickbait titles annoy prospects, attract the wrong visitors and make your bounce rate soar. Additionally, it will hurt your search rankings.

Focus on producing great content and improving user experience. Note, however, that creating useful, compelling content doesn’t mean losing your creativity. The key is to craft headlines and meta descriptions that directly address your target readers’ questions and utilize keywords strategically.

Improve Your Website’s Dwell Time and Increase Your Search Rankings

There are various ways to measure the success of your SEO campaign, and dwell time is just one of these metrics. By understanding what dwell time is and how it can impact your digital presence, you can develop better ways to improve user experience.