The Importance Of Dwell Time For SEO.

March 4, 2020

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It’s referenced in plenty of articles. It’s talked about on social media. It’s mentioned during conference calls. We’re talking about dwell time. But what is dwell time?

Dwell time is a metric worth considering. It’s the amount of time that a user spends on a webpage before returning to the search engine results pages. Among members of the SEO community, there seems to be a lot of mystery centered around dwell time. This metric is an important one. It’s beneficial to learn the ins-and-outs of dwell time.

Is dwell time really used by search engines? How does dwell time affect the rankings of a webpage? What can you do to improve this metric? If you’re having an issue answering these questions, then you should be well on your way to success by the end of this article.

, The Importance Of Dwell Time For SEO

Dwell Time: The Detailed Explanation

This is it. You’ve poured plenty of blood, sweat, and tears into the making of your webpage. In your eyes, this is as good as it gets. But here’s the thing: the quality of your webpage is in the eyes of the visitors. Dwell times give information to search engines about the engagement of your visitors. You want the full-attention of your visitors. You don’t want insignificant dwell times. This is why you’ll need to put some focus into learning this metric. Increases in dwell times could mean that you’re increasing the satisfaction of the visitors.

You’ve probably been in this situation yourself. You decided to do a quick search on the web. The SERP results are offered, you click on a link, and you immediately realize that this page isn’t ideal. You immediately click the “back” button. In contrast, maybe you immediately found the answer to your question on that webpage, and then hit “back” immediately. Regardless, this is an example of a short dwell time.

The above example shows how complex this metric can be. A short dwell time could mean that a visitor was unsatisfied, or it could mean that a visitor quickly found the answer that he/she was looking for. The latter would be a satisfying result. The significance of dwell time is relative, so you’ll need to consider other factors before jumping to the conclusion that a short dwell time is a negative result. However, in a typical situation, longer dwell times mean higher satisfaction.

Dwell time is an important metric that shouldn’t be overlooked by the SEO community. At the same time, you shouldn’t go overboard by focusing all of your time on this metric. For example, you can always look towards improving your website in other ways in order to improve the engagement of your visitors. Dwell times will naturally improve on this path.

End The Confusion: Dwell Time Differs From Other Metrics

Do you have a fairly solid understanding of dwell time now? While it should be straightforward, there is still a lot of misinformation about dwell time. Many people have confused dwell time with other metrics. We’re here to set the story straight. As a basic definition, dwell time is the amount of time a user spends on a webpage before clicking back to the search engine results pages. Dwell time isn’t a metric that you can determine by using tools from third-parties. Dwell time is determined by search engines only. Let’s cover some examples of what dwell time is NOT. Here are the common misconceptions.

, The Importance Of Dwell Time For SEO

Bounce Rate

Don’t confuse dwell time with bounce rate. What happens when a bounce occurs? Basically, this means that a visitor viewed one page of your site, and then left. How is your bounce rate determined? It’s a percentage found by dividing sessions of single-page views by the total amount of sessions on your site. Here’s the thing about bounce rate: it takes into account the users who didn’t come from search engine results pages. Also, a user may close the browser after visiting your page, instead of returning to search engine results. Dwell times are based on users who visit a page, and then return back to the SERP results.

Average Time On Page

It’s common to see dwell times and average times on a page used interchangeably. But this is not good practice. There’s a difference between the two. Just like bounce rate, average time on a page takes into account the users who come from sources other than SERP results. The user could have visited your page from social media. It could’ve been accessed by a link from a different page. Average time on a page is as the name implies. It’s the average amount of time that a user spends on your page. Dwell time always involves someone visiting your page from the SERP results, and then returning back to the SERP results.

Session Duration

Like the previous examples, some have confused dwell times with session duration. We know what dwell time is. But what’s session duration? Simply put, it’s the amount of time that someone spends on your page. Session duration is a metric which includes visitors who find your page from somewhere other than the SERP results. Just like the other examples, a user can find your page through other means. We know you’ve seen this a lot, but it’s pivotal to remember that dwell time involves clicking on your page from the SERP results, and then returning back to the SERP results.

Click-Through Rate

CTR is another metric which often gets confused with dwell time. What is the click-through rate? It’s the ratio of visitors to your page compared to the overall users who saw those SERP results. There’s a key difference between CTR and dwell time. CTR ends with someone clicking on your page. But dwell time involves what happens after someone clicks on your page (clicking “back” to the SERP results). Dwell time doesn’t focus on the percentage of visitors who click on your page. It only focuses on how long someone’s on your page before going back to the original SERP results.


Once you learn what RankBrain is, it’s easy to see just how different it is from dwell time. However, many people still confuse the two. RankBrain is an algorithm used by Google in order to make predictions about never-before-seen searches. It uses artificial intelligence to pull this off. RankBrain only gathers data from how people use search results. RankBrain has nothing to do with how a user interacts with specific content. Do you see just how different dwell time and RankBrain is? Dwell time is completely based on how a user interacts with your content.

Dwell Times & Visits

What exactly is a page visit? This is when someone clicks on your page. Page visits are important, but not all visits are the same. In general, a visit that lasts less than one second is bad news. Dwell times always indicate that a visitor has been on your page. But what is a good amount of time for someone to dwell on your page during a visit? This is going to be in relation to your own business model. But in general, you’ll want more engagement with your visitors.

Your webpages will require constant changes and updates. It’s a good idea to have an analytics package that will show you how many visitors you’re having while also showing you the amount of time they’re staying on your page. This is how you can find out what changes are needed. Do you have many visitors who don’t stick around for long? This means that you need to find some way to capture the attention of your audience. Do you have a small amount of visitors who stay on your page for a while? This means that you need to find a way of reaching more users.

, The Importance Of Dwell Time For SEO

How To Positively Affect Dwell Times

There’s not only one single solution for positively affecting your dwell times. But one thing is for certain. If you want to increase the success of your website, then you will need to make general improvements that will capture the attention of your audience and keep them from being dissatisfied with your content. There are many ways to improve your website.

For example, let’s say that you have a video which auto-plays whenever someone clicks on your page. This is a sure-fire way to decrease your dwell times. You may want to think about removing this. Also, if your page is aimed at answering a pivotal question, don’t put the answer at the very bottom of your page. Make sure that a user can quickly and efficiently find an answer to the question at hand. Think along these lines for webpage improvement.

Remember this: search engines keep track of dwell times. If an engine sees that your page has short dwell times, then it’s possible that your page will lose its rankings. The engine will try its best to keep users from landing on a page which will just be “back-buttoned” almost immediately. Does your page load slowly? Try to fix this if it’s a problem. Do what you can to improve your website without focusing solely on dwell times.

Dwell Time: Just Focus On Overall Page Improvement

Dwell time is the amount of time that a user spends on your page before clicking back to the SERP results. It’s an important metric which search engines keep track of. Many members of the SEO community are misinformed about dwell time. Don’t confuse it with other metrics, such as session duration and bounce rate.

Dwell time is important, but it’s not worth the focus of all your attention. Instead, it’s best to find ways to engage your audience. Improve your webpage. Positive dwell times will follow.