What is Dwell Time & Why Does It Matter?

There are many different metrics for measuring how users interact with your website.  There’s click-through-rate, bounce rate, and session duration, among others, but none of these metrics measure the same thing as dwell time. Which brings us to the question at hand; what exactly is dwell time?

What is Dwell Time?

Dwell Time is a metric that measures how users interact with your page off of the SERP’s.  Dwell time measures the time from when a user first clicks on your site from the SERP’s, to the point when they return to the SERP’s. More simply, it measures how long a user is on your site from the time they click on your site in Google to the time they return to the search results.  If your website has a small dwell time, this can indicate that your content is not grabbing their attention or answering their requests.  This information can help search engines learn how engaging and useful your site’s content is.

Just think about the way you interact with webpages for a moment.  Imagine you Google a question like “how many glasses of water should I drink per day?” You click on a result and notice that the page is poorly structured, and even if it might have the information you’re searching for, it is too difficult to find so you click back to Google and go to the next result where you easily find your answer.  It is these situations which make it obvious how important dwell time can be for teaching engines which sites have the highest quality content.

The concept of dwell time can be confusing, however.  With so many metrics that measure user engagement and time spent on a site, it can be tough to distinguish one term from another.  Let’s quickly debunk what dwell time isn’t.

What Dwell Time Isn’t

  • Bounce Rate: This measures the percentage of users who visit a single page on your site and leave. This can happen if the first page they land on answer their question.
  • Average Time on Page: This measures how long users spend on each page on your site when they visit.  Dwell Time is a measure of one user’s time spent on your page.
  • Session Duration: This metric is similar to dwell time but with an important distinction.  Dwell Time measures how much time a user spends on your site after clicking on it from Google. Session Duration measures any user activity, whether it came from the SERP’s, or if it was direct traffic.
  • Click-Through-Rate: This is very similar to dwell time but with an important distinction.  Click-Through-Rate measures the percentage of people that click through on your page after seeing your site on the SERP’s, whereas Dwell Time measures how long they spent on the site.

Importance of Dwell Time

Overall, dwell time isn’t a metric that you should spend too much time worrying about.  While a very low dwell time, >5 seconds, can indicate that your site isn’t well structured, overall if your site is optimized, and filled with quality content, your dwell time will perform well, as will all other metrics.  Dwell Time is a metric that you should be aware of, but if you focus on improving your site, your dwell time will improve with it!

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