When the results page loaded, I spent time clicking through the first page of websites to find what I was looking for. When I didn't find my answer, I clicked back to that results page to look at the next one.
This process took me through to the bottom of the page until I refined my search and started the process again.
I didn't know it at the time, but I was actually contributing to a powerful metric — dwell time.
When we talk about metrics, we tend to focus on demographics. We ask questions like, Who's looking at your site, where are they located, and what are their interests?. These interests help marketers make informed decisions about campaigns tailored to their customers' interests.
Dwell time is the metric that runs through various search engine results pages (SERPs). It's the time I spent reading those results pages before I went back to Google to take a look at other results.
Let's explore more about what dwell time means, and its usefulness, below.
What is dwell time?
Remember that dwell time begins and ends with the SERP.
What is dwell time?
Dwell time is the amount of time a user takes analyzing a web page before clicking back to search results. If a web page has a low dwell time, it likely means the page didn't match the user's search intent.
It's important to note, dwell time and bounce rate are two different things. Bounce rate is what happens when a user clicks on one page, and then almost immediately leaves the site.
For it to be considered dwell time, on the other hand, the user needs to click on a page from the SERP, stay a while, and then either clicks back to the SERP or otherwise exits the page.
If you use search engines, you rack up dwell time daily, without even thinking about it. I can already recall two separate instances in which I've contributed to dwell time today, all before lunch.
Essentially, dwell time metrics can show marketers if their web pages are capturing the attention and needs of browsers. It has the potential to tell you what to include on web pages, and what to exclude.
For instance, let's say you write a blog article called "Social Media Tips and Tricks". You notice the piece has a high click-through rate, but low dwell time. Upon further inspection, you see the rest of the articles on the SERPs include comprehensive information regarding social media scheduling, how to create posts for social media, and which social media sites have the highest conversion rates. More than likely, you thought your post was solving for a user's search intent when it really wasn't — which is why most readers jump back to the SERP to find an alternative source.
It can also lead to clues about improving UX. For instance, if you have a slow loading time on your web page, you may see that reflected in dwell time metrics, since a user might exit your page if it's taking too long to load
This metric can lead to important decisions you make for your site, among other metrics.
Next, let's explore some average benchmarks regarding time spent on sites.
Average time on site benchmarks
According to Google Analytics, "Average Session Duration" is a metric that tells you how long visitors are staying on a website on average. It's measured by the total duration of all sessions, or visits, in seconds, divided by the total number of sessions.
A session begins when a user goes to a website. After 30 minutes of inactivity, or when the user leaves, the session ends. The inactivity cutoff exists so you can get an accurate report of your metrics without untrue inflation.
You can find this metric already calculated for you in Google Analytics, displayed in minutes and seconds. *Can you give readers an alternative if they don't have Google Analytics? Is there another time-on-page measurement website?
But what's a "good" average session?
Try to go for anywhere between 2-4 minutes, the time most marketers agree is a good average duration. It's also the general benchmark across most metrics of SMBs. It usually takes around this time to explore a website and get a feel for the design.
You can find this metric for your own site by visiting Google Analytics or other metric websites that host the same information. Here is an example of what that'll look like on Google Analytics:
Most marketers agree that it's rare to see average session duration times over 10 minutes or less than one minute, so if you're looking for a goal, between 2-4 minutes is where the average typically lies.
When you're looking at metrics, it's a good idea to look at all of them to get a full scope of how your site is performing. If you're ranking high on the SERP, that means that your SEO is great, but if your website isn't providing useful information, your session duration might underperform.
To provide a holistic experience for customers, looking into the meaning behind session durations is important. Dwell time contributes to session duration, but remember that the two aren't cut from the same cloth. Remember that dwell time doesn't count from anywhere but the SERP, and that sessions end after 30 minutes of inactivity on that SERP.
Originally published Jan 17, 2020 4:00:00 AM, updated January 17 2020