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What is Dwell Time and How Does It Affect User Engagement?

Knowing your pages’ dwell times helps you track user interaction, informing you of your audience’s engagement with your content. Below we discuss dwell time and how it helps you shape your content and your site.

Dwell Time vs. Time-on-Page

You might have heard dwell time and time-on-page used interchangeably. While related, they measure two different sets of data.

Dwell time is how long a user stays on and interacts with a page on your site.

The time-on-page is slightly different. When viewed in Google Analytics, the time-on-page is calculated only for users who visit more than one page on your site. Increasing page views per session will give you a more accurate measure of the time on site.

These numbers provide insight into how site visitors interact with your content. Your dwell time and time on page can act as indicators of the quality and relevance of your page content when measured against your content types.

Dwell Time and the User Experience: Is There an Ideal Dwell Time?

Many content factors affect dwell time: content value, depth, and type. Pages with videos have a higher dwell time than pages with short lists. A page with a how-to guide should have a longer dwell time than pages with simple answers to a direct question.

Dwell time is often examined to determine how it relates to and affects SEO success. While many SEOs will claim that dwell time is an important ranking factor, the higher-ups at Google say otherwise. And though dwell time may not technically be a ranking factor, your user experience is. Dwell time can provide insight into the type of experience you’re providing through your content.

Understanding your content, the user intent, and how users interact with your content will inform you of your ideal dwell time and time on the page. You must balance the value of the content and the user experience with content length.

Things That Increase Dwell Time

Below are three ways you can ensure your pages provide value to the user and makes the most out of every second of their dwell time:

Match User Intent

Match user intent with the content you’re trying to rank for. If the user is urgently searching for data, they don’t always have the time or capacity to watch a video or consumer a longer piece of content. Understanding your user empowers you to create content that provides value and an excellent user experience.

Include a Table of Content

Match the user with information they’re searching for as soon as they land on your page. Include the table of contents with jump links at the top of your page. It might lower dwell time, but it increases user experience value.

Utilize Varying Content Types

Include multiple types of assets within your articles. Every user learns and consumes information differently. You will meet a large number of diverse user needs with varying ways to consume information. This makes it possible for a variety of users with a variety of learning styles to take in your content.

Things That Negatively Impact Dwell Time

While there is no one-size-fits-all dwell time, there are factors that will negatively impact every site’s dwell time. Fifty-five percent of buyers say if a piece of content doesn’t pique their interest within the first minute, they will move on. You must keep users on your page at least long enough for them to take in your content.

Below are factors that will decrease dwell time and ruin the user experience.

Poor Page Design

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. The same is true of your website. The quality and value of your content is irrelevant if you have an unattractive or clumsy page design.

A clean, easy-to-navigate site communicates the authority and trustworthiness of your brand and your content. If a user trusts your site, they’ll stay on page to consume your content.

Interstitial Overlays and Ads

While not all interstitial ads are bad, if implemented poorly, they will drive users away from your site. Forcing a user to dismiss an overlay before they’ve even accessed your site or positioning an overlay above the fold before your content frustrates users and feels spammy.

If you’re going to make use of interstitials on your page, know when and where to place them to optimize the user experience.

User Interruptions

Unfortunately, even the best sites must find ways to deal with user interruptions. As a site owner, you have no control over external stimuli that take user attention away from your page. But you do have control over the content you publish.

Create varying types of content to keep users engaged and prevent interruptions that take them away from their screen. 

Poor Page Hierarchy

Your content hierarchy provides the visual and contextual structure users need to consume your content. Make the most of user dwell time by organizing your content with concise paragraphs, correct use of H2 and H3 tags, lists, and media relevant to your users.

Poor Readability/Scannability

The readability and scannability of your content are directly related to your page’s hierarchy. People on the web won’t read your site word for word. Good readability and scannability means your content is almost effortless to consume, and users can easily gain the information they’re looking for.

Generic Content

Users are smart, and it doesn’t take them long to sniff out generic, low-quality content. As soon as a reader feels that you’re publishing generic content, you’ve lost all credibility with them, and they’ll leave.

Engage users and keep their trust by creating original content that meets their needs.

Conclusion

Your content should provide value to the user. Dwell time allows you to, at least in part, measure the relevance of the content on your site. By evaluating dwell time and time on-page metrics, you can determine if your content proves valuable or if you need to edit and revise.