Dwell Timeā€¦ What is it? Is it a Ranking Factor?!

Awad Nadeem
Awad Nadeem
Digital Marketing Consultant

Google uses 200+ ranking factors and dwell time is one of those factors. Or is it? But first of all: what the hell is DWELL TIME?!

The truth is, dwell time is a confusing and misunderstood metric. That’s why we will start this post by defining what is dwell time, and then we will compare it to some very similar metrics and clear any confusion.

What is Dwell Time?

Dwell time is the amount of time that passes between the moment you click a search result and subsequently return back to the SERPs via the “Back” button.

So you click on a result of your search, spend some time, and then because you some obsession in learning more (Like I do!) you hit the back button to the search results. The time you spent on that page is known as dwell time.

(Side Note: This back and forth process between the SERPs and search results is also known as pogo-sticking)

What does this mean?

Dwell time was first mentioned by Duane Forrester—the then Senior Project Manager at Bing—in his 2011 blog post on the Bing Webmaster blog.

Duane then mentioned the following:

“Your goal should be that when a visitor lands on your page, the content answers all of their needs, encouraging their next action to remain with you. If your content does not encourage them to remain with you, they will leave. The search engines can get a sense of this by watching the dwell time.”

So basically, dwell time could indicate how useful your content was to the searcher. That been said, its not too far-fetched to suggest that search engines could be using dwell time as a ranking factor. I mean, it definitely seems like a good way to judge the quality and relevancy of a given result, right?

Dwell Time vs. Bounce Rate vs. Time on Page:

What’s the Difference?

If there’s one word that embodies these 3 metrics as a whole, it’s this:


So Here’s what each of these metrics mean (in plain English):

  • Dwell time: the amount of time that passes between the moment a user clicks a search result and subsequently returns back to the SERPs.
  • Bounce rate: the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. visitors who only visit one page on your website before leaving). These people may have returned to the SERPs or simply closed the page. It doesn’t matter which. It also makes no difference whether they stuck around for 2 seconds or 2 hours, it’s still a “bounce”.
  • Time on page: the amount of time a visitor spent on your page before going anywhere else. This could be back to the SERPs, to another page on your website, to a bookmarked page—anywhere.

What does this mean to your SEO plans and activities?

It means that you should focus on creating a better content for your website, and then it will take care of those metrics automatically.

Please refer back to my article on “SEO Made Simple” and you will see what are the main pillars that you should worry about, and how those will automatically rank you higher. Alternatively you may read the article on our blog via this link.

If you wish to have a free consultation session, please contact us and we will be very happy to reach out to you, and set up an appointment.