SEO 2019 Masterclass Pt 1: How to Increase Dwell Time on your Website

Emma Grant

Head of SEO

Results-driven Emma heads up our SEO team. A champion of best-practice SEO strategies for search engine success that lasts and delivers best value, Emma’s work focuses on boosting clients’ online visibility with the ultimate goal of increasing sales. Emma applies her extensive skill and experience to create strategies that pay off quickly for faster results. She knows precisely what to do to reduce clients’ paid ad spends for greater profits, and how to boost organic leads for better long term return on investment. After close of business, when she’s not organising exciting travel adventures, you may hear Emma strumming classical guitar tunes or working on her jazz riffs.

In October, Figment attended BrightonSEO, a great big search marketing conference that represents one of the largest digital marketing gatherings in Europe, offering the chance to learn from the best about the latest search trends and tactics.

The keynote speaker was Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro and former co-founder of Moz and His talk focused on SEO in 2019, revolving around achieving Google Position Zero and voice search, and a host of other factors that are driving change in search strategies. We’re going to start taking a closer look at some of those strategies, starting with Dwell Time optimisation.

Dwell Time

Dwell Time is a crucial ranking factor.

What is Dwell Time?

Before we get into Dwell Time, let’s first take a quick tour around RankBrain.

RankBrain is Google’s artificial intelligence answer to page selection. The search engine has revealed it as its third most important ranking factor. In short, it’s a machine learning system that helps Google sort its search results by measuring how users interact with them. It does this by focusing on two key areas: the percentage of people that click on a search result (Click Through Rate or CTR), and the amount of time that someone spends on your page. This is Dwell Time.

A recent industry study by SearchMetrics found that the average Dwell Time for a top 10 Google result is 3 minutes and 10 seconds. The better a page’s Dwell time, the higher it will tend to rank. It’s fairly obvious really: if someone spends a good amount of time on a page before looking for something else, it’s likely that they are enjoying the content. If enough people concur, then Google will up the rankings of that page so that others can find it more easily. Conversely, the lower the Dwell Time, the more likely it is that Google will demote the ranking.

Dwell Time is a measure of visitors’ needs. It lets search engines know how well you manage to satisfy those needs.

So now we know what Dwell Time is, and why it’s important, it’s time to address the key question: how to increase Dwell Time on your web pages? But first, how to measure it…

How to calculate Dwell Time?

Before attempting to boost it, it is important to know how your website is currently doing on Dwell Time.

Dwell Time is not something you will find listed in Google Analytics. What you will see though is the average time on page, and bounce rate. Bounce rate represents the percentage of people who leave your website after a visit to just a single page. Whether they spend one second or one hour there, any visit that doesn’t evolve to a second click will be classed as a bounce. Average time on page is the length of time spent on your page before leaving to go somewhere else. It may be they go to another page on your site, or it could be another website altogether. So, to set your benchmark, record the bounce rate and time on page for each page you want to improve.

bounce rate

Use bounce rate and average time on page to help work out Dwell Time.

How to Increase Dwell Time?

Increasing Dwell Time can be broken down into two key rules:

  1. Create relevant, valuable, engaging content
  2. Provide a fantastic user experience

Let’s take a closer look at how to do this.

Make first impressions count

It takes a fraction of a second for someone to decide whether they want to continue reading your page. The following factors will help determine this:

  1. Page loading speed – 40 per cent of visitors leave a site that takes more than three seconds to load. So make sure your site loads fast.
  2. Page design – a page that people trust and relate to is one that will create a positive impression.
  3. Page layout – your content will need to be nicely set out and easy to navigate. Even the greatest content can be snubbed if it’s poorly laid out.
  4. Mobile friendly – there is no excuse for content that cannot be easily read on a mobile device. Quite simply, if someone can’t read it, they won’t stay.

Focus on user needs

If you are meeting user needs then Dwell Time will be good. You need to give visitors a reason to stay. You can do this by understanding them. Market research is vital in this respect. If you don’t get your audience and find out what they need to know and what their challenges and desires are, then you will never be fully equipped to deliver. So, do your research, and don’t scrimp on it.

Make your content count

It’s a fact that long content outperforms short content. It’s pretty straightforward really: longer pieces give a deeper dive into a subject and do a better job of answering questions. Yes, it takes more time, but the results are worth it.

Keep your promises

Always relate your title and description to the substance of your page or article. Never break a promise made in a title by failing to deliver the content you are touting. Remember, a ‘definitive guide’ won’t just be a quick article that covers the basics. Bad practice in this respect will just turn visitors away, forcing Dwell Time to plummet.

Be current

If you’ve written something that was a gem in its time, great. But bear in mind that people start to breeze past ageing content. Think about it: do you trust anything that’s a year or two old? If you wrote something a while back that’s still relevant, go back and update it.

Respond to comments

Content that includes reader comments – and answers to questions – is way more sticky than content without. It’s also trusted to a much higher degree because the expert who wrote it is making themselves available to readers to answer their queries. So be sure to keep up to date with your comments and commit to sharing your expertise with those who want to know more. Comments keep visitors on a page for longer.

Make your content readable

Readable content is sectioned into clear paragraphs with guiding sub-headings. Transition sentences help readers know what is coming next, so their interest is held.

Keep sentences relatively short and ensure you use the right tone and language for your audience. Also, ensure the content has a personality so that readers relate to the author on a personal level. Inject interest with images, videos, infographics and the like to illustrate your points and hold that engagement. Linking out to related posts on your website is also good as it boosts overall Dwell Time on your site.

browser search

Good Dwell Time is incredibly important for search rankings.

Need Help Boosting Dwell Time?

There’s a lot to do if you’re going to keep people on your page or website for at least 3 minutes and 10 seconds. If you feel you could use some help, why not talk to Figment? Dwell Time optimisation is one of our areas of expertise, and we’d love to help you boost yours.

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