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Dwell Time: A Rising Metric for Social Media, SEO & Content Marketing

dwell time SEO metric for marketingDwell time is becoming an increasingly valuable metric for marketing and SEO.

Signaling the growing importance of dwell time, LinkedIn recently added the metric to its newsfeed algorithm. Analyzing members’ dwell time led to useful insights that allowed the network to improve its LinkedIn feed rankings, says Siddharth Dangi, senior software engineer.

Algorithms of social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook take into account the number of likes, shares and comments when deciding when to surface posts to more users. Those metrics have shortcomings, writes John Becker, editorial content manager at IMPACT. Sometimes users indiscriminately click on “like” with little thought after only glancing at posts. Sometimes users spend many minutes viewing a piece of content without clicking on like or share. In those cases, dwell time can improves how algorithms assess the quality of content.

LinkedIn sees two types of dwell time: time spent viewing the news feed and time spent on particular updates that users click on for more information. Not surprisingly, users skip or skim over many updates, and updates they spend more time viewing are more likely to generate more reactions and spread virally.

“LinkedIn’s update augers a larger change in traffic data: dwell time is increasingly becoming a metric to watch,” Becker asserts.

Other experts also recommend that personnel in marketing, SEO and content creation spend more time dwelling on the metric. Marketers and others typically judge content by page views and unique visitors in website analytics. But if visitors click away after mere seconds, the content is not meeting their needs.

A Key SEO Metric

Although search engines remain secretive about their algorithms, SEO experts believe Google and Bing use dwell time to gauge the quality of websites.

More specifically, dwell time is “the length of time a person spends looking at a webpage after they’ve clicked a link on a SERP page, but before clicking back to the SERP results,” explains Duane Forrester, vice president of industry insights for Yext, in Search Engine Journal.

Much misinformation surrounds the topic, Forrester says. Dwell time is not bounce rate, the percentage of visitors who left without visiting another page on the website. It’s not average time on page, as many visitors do not arrive via search engine results. It’s also not session duration, which measures how long someone spent on a website.

The metric is also not publicly available. Only the search engines have access to dwell time, he adds. But businesses can use other website metrics, notably average session duration, as a proxy for dwell time. Marketers generally consider two to four minutes is a good average session duration, notes Kayla Carmicheal at HubSpot.

How to Improve Dwell Time

Marketers can improve dwell time by creating quality content and offering an overall outstanding user experience.

Experts recommend these steps to improve dwell time:

  • Attract people with an introduction they can’t stop reading
  • Make sure your content is digestible by using short sentences.
  • Create content that’s skimmable with bullet points, headings and short paragraphs.
  • Add visuals where applicable.
  • Answer visitors’ question.
  • Include internal links to keep people on your site.
  • Make sure your page load speed is acceptable.
  • Ensure your website is mobile optimized.

Record the current bounce rate and time on page for each page, then aim to improve those benchmarks.

“If you successfully improve your website’s dwell time, you’ll begin to see the average time on page and the session duration increase, while the bounce rate decreases,” says Kaitlyn Petro, director of operations at IMPACT.

Bottom Line: Dwell time has become an important metric for search engines and social media platforms. How long people view content, rather than numbers of likes or shares, offers a better indication of quality.

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