Dwell Time and How to Optimize for It in 2024

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By Tomislav

Key Takeaways

Dwell Time Defined: It’s the time spent on a page after clicking from SERPs. Though not a confirmed Google ranking factor, it’s highly regarded in SEO for indicating content value.
Distinguishing Metrics: Dwell time is often mixed up with Session Duration and Bounce Rate. Understanding their differences is key for SEO.
Enhancing User Experience: To increase dwell time, focus on empathizing with the audience and providing valuable content.
Strategies to Increase Dwell Time:
Speed Up Website Loading: Optimize images, use asynchronous JavaScript loading, and limit WordPress plugins.
Mobile Optimization: Employ mobile-friendly themes and appropriate hosting.
Layout Improvement: Ensure a clean, distraction-free layout with optimal article width.
Readable Content: Use clear titles, short paragraphs, and frequent subheadings.
Use of Media: Incorporate relevant images and videos to boost engagement.
Comprehensive Content: Create in-depth content, update regularly, and avoid unnecessary fluff.

What is Dwell Time and Does It Affect Google Rankings?

Dwell time is the duration a user stays on a page after clicking on it from the SERPs (search engine results page) until they return to the SERPs or navigate elsewhere.

It’s not officially confirmed as a Google ranking factor. However, the SEO community largely considers it important.

The logic is straightforward: if users spend more time on your pages, they likely find them useful and valuable – and Google prioritizes promoting such pages.

Google might not explicitly mention dwell time, possibly because they refer to it differently or break it down into other metrics.

For example, Session Duration and Bounce Rate are often mistaken for dwell time but are confirmed ranking factors.

Dwell Time vs. Session Duration vs. Bounce Rate

In Google Analytics (under Audience > Overview), you can find your website’s session duration and bounce rate.

Bounce rate, despite its negative connotation, simply measures the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page, without further interaction.

A high bounce rate isn’t always bad; visitors could still be engaging deeply with that single page.

Average session duration is the total time of all sessions divided by the number of sessions.

For example, 100 sessions totaling 6000 seconds in a week equates to an average session duration of 10 minutes (6000 seconds/100 sessions).

Thus, bounce rate differs significantly from dwell time, while average session duration is similar yet distinct.

To enhance dwell time, empathize with your audience.

Focus on delivering value and ensuring a positive user experience, encouraging them to stay longer on your pages.

6 Tips to Increase Dwell Time on Your Website

I’ll share practical steps to enhance your website’s dwell time.

Remember, this isn’t just about metrics; it’s about valuing your audience.

This guide is all about reducing friction between your audience and your content, enhancing their experience and encouraging longer page visits.

#1 Improving Your Website Loading Speed

When a visitor clicks on your site from search results, the first thing they notice is loading speed.

A swift loading speed often goes unnoticed, but a slow one immediately flags your site as problematic.

A one-second delay in loading can lead to 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% loss in conversions.

To enhance loading speed:

  1. Optimize Images: Use plugins for image compression. EWWW Image Optimizer, despite its quirky name, is an excellent choice for WordPress. Since images constitute 50-90% of your site’s size, efficient image compression is key.
  2. Load JavaScript Files Asynchronously: This means loading the top-of-the-page files first, allowing immediate access to initial content while the rest loads in the background. Several WordPress plugins can assist with this.
  3. Minimize WordPress Plugins: While plugins are useful, overloading your site with them can be counterproductive. Stick to essential plugins and avoid unnecessary extras.

#2 Optimize Your Website for Mobile

Mobile usage has overtaken desktop in web searches.

A non-mobile-optimized website can alienate over half your visitors immediately.

Mobile users often leave sites that are difficult to view on their devices, leading to potential de-ranking by Google.

Google’s philosophy strongly emphasizes mobile optimization, as evident in their tweets.

  1. Use a mobile-friendly WordPress theme.
    • In today’s digital era, not using a mobile-friendly theme is inexcusable.
    • If your theme is outdated, update or replace it.
    • Consider investing in a quality theme, although there are viable free options.
  2. Choose a suitable web hosting service.
    • For new websites, a shared hosting plan suffices.
    • Older sites with high traffic should consider VPS or dedicated hosting.
    • While more expensive, dedicated hosting is a worthwhile investment for monetizing websites.
  3. Streamline the mobile version of your site.
    • Implement solutions to hide certain features on mobile for enhanced responsiveness.
    • Tools like Thrive Architect offer this functionality along with other features.

#3 Improve Your Website Layout

The layout is the first thing noticed when a page loads.

Ensure it’s visually appealing and distraction-free.

Overloading the page with clickable options can be counterproductive, possibly causing visitors to leave prematurely.

  1. Limit sidebars.
    • Including related articles or social share buttons in a sidebar is acceptable.
    • Excessive sidebars can make the layout appear cluttered and distracting.
  2. Optimize article width for desktop users.
    • Reading long lines across a wide monitor is challenging.
    • Keep article width around 800 pixels and centered.
  3. Prefer wider images.
    • Wider images are aesthetically preferable over tall, narrow ones.
    • Tall images can create excess blank space, disrupting the visual flow.

#4 Create Easy-to-Consume Articles

Ensuring your content is easily digestible can significantly increase dwell time.

  1. Distinct Titles and Subheadings

Use a larger font size and bolding for titles and subheadings. Alternatively, a different but complementary font can make them stand out, enhancing effectiveness without being distracting.

  1. One Sentence Per Paragraph

This style makes your content more readable, giving it a lighter, airier feel. Avoid dense blocks of text reminiscent of textbooks.

  1. Limit Length Before New Subheadings

Aim for 200-300 words between subheadings, avoiding going over 400 words. This helps maintain a good flow and keeps the content engaging.

#5 Use Images and Videos in Your Content

Google and audiences alike prefer articles with images and videos.

Videos significantly increase dwell time. When viewers hit ‘Play’, they often stay for the whole video. While not everyone watches the entire video, it still contributes positively.

A case study revealed a 260% increase in dwell time for articles with videos.

  1. Consider a paid stock image platform if affordable. Stock images can be costly for daily use, so if starting out, opt for royalty-free images from sources like Pexels and Canva.
  2. Using others’ videos in your content is generally acceptable, provided you’re respectful and give credit. This practice can also lead to networking opportunities. If unsure, contact the creator for permission.
  3. There’s no fixed rule on the number of images and videos per article. Whether it’s 20+ videos or 30+ images, ensure they’re relevant. Proper use of media can significantly boost dwell time as readers pause to engage with each item.

#6 Write Comprehensive Content

With millions of blogs and around 7 million articles published daily, mediocre content won’t stand out.

Comprehensive content increases dwell time, especially for readers seeking in-depth information, potentially keeping them on your page for 5-10 minutes.

  1. Aim for the best content on your chosen topic. Apply the Skyscraper Technique, which involves outdoing existing content on a topic. Longer content often correlates with higher Google rankings, but avoid unnecessary word count inflation.
  2. Expand and update old content. Revamping previous work can lead Google to re-evaluate its ranking, and keeping content current is crucial for retaining reader interest.
  3. Combine related articles into a larger, more substantial piece. This can increase dwell time but avoid excessive content recycling. Google values originality and may penalize excessive duplicate content.