The most common misconception about dwell time, bounce rate, and time on page, is that they’re all the same thing. While they’re extremely similar in some ways, each one serves a unique purpose in the grand scheme of search engine metrics. If you’ve ever been confused as to why they matter, and how to accurately use each metric, read on to find out.

It’s A Thin Line Between Metrics

Dwell time, bounce rate, and time on page are all about numbers, namely percentages in some form or another. Dwell time is the length of time a user spends looking at a site after they select the link from an SERP, before going back to the SERP. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who visit one page and then click to any other page on or off your site. Finally, time on page refers to the time a user spends anywhere on your page before leaving. If it all sounds very similar, it is. The key difference between all three is that dwell time is solely SERP-based, links from other areas aren’t included in metric. Both bounce rate and time on page take all visitors into account, not just those flown in from SERPs.

Why Does It Matter If They’re Different?

Each of these metrics offers information about the quantity and quality of visits to your website, but in its own way. Let’s take a look at each one, why it matters, and what you can do to improve them.

What Is Dwell Time?

Dwell time is an important factor in SEO strategy, because it’s solely SERP-based. Knowing if your links in SERPs are leading users to the best area on your site is important. The first thing you should know about dwell time in regard to metrics is that it fluctuates by business or business intent. For example, if you operate a weather site or a retail business, it may take less than five minutes for people to get what they want from a link. In that event, your dwell time would be naturally low. On the other hand, blogs and videos can expect higher dwell times because it takes a while to read articles or watch videos. Start compiling all the metrics related to dwell time to find the ideal average dwell time for your site. Once you have that information, use the following tips to help you reach dwell time goals.

  • Stop spamming users: Don’t use invasive or disruptive ads like pop-ups or auto-scroll videos–users hate that. One of the surest ways to lose a customer is to force them to watch or click through interstitial ads to get to your content. Make the answer to their search engine inquiry non-intrusive and easy to find.
  • Make Quality Content a Priority: Create useful content that’s actionable, accessible, and entertaining. Only use links if they are reputable and helpful. Make other content relevant to search topics accessible on the page so users don’t need to dig.
  • Speed Matters: Load time is just as important as content. Dwell time will suffer from poor load speeds, so use speed optimization tools like Pingdom’s Website Speed Test to see how your site measures up. Speed in terms of use is just as important as load time speeds. While scrolling pages may be a hassle, done correctly they can also help search engines parse data quicker and make content faster to read.

Another important piece of meeting your dwell time ideal is to focus on conversion optimization. If conversions are poor, it could be the quality of your content, speed issues, or broken links causing people to leave or never gain access to your site.

Bounce Rate

A bounce rate that’s too high can clue you into major issues, like a lack of dynamic content or that dwell times have fallen way below average for your business. Neither one is good. In some cases, a high bounce rate is normal, for instance, a weather forecast site won’t have high dwell times because it doesn’t take that long to check a forecast. The need was met and the user moves one, so in that instance, a fairly high bounce rate is a good thing. For sites that are strictly mobile, the bounce rates you can also expect to experience higher bounce rates. If your site offers online training or deals in retail, a lower bounce rate is better because you expect people to stay a bit longer. Again, as with dwell time, there are no specific good or bad average rates, as they vary by niche, but general criteria are available in the table below.

General Bounce Rate Range Indicators
 Good 26-40%
 Average 41-55%
 Fair 56-70%
 Poor ≥ 71%

If you hit over 90%, something is majorly wrong with your website, because people are leaving immediately. A spike this high can indicate one of the following major issues:

  • Poor load speeds
  • Bad content or lack of engaging content
  • Poor overall design

Bounce rate is an important indicator of what areas of your website design need an upgrade and lets businesses know if analytics software tracking is off. There are a few areas to consider when tracking bounce rate:

  • User intent: Did the page meet user intent, did the page accurately cover user search inquiry?
  • Type of page: Is the page relevant to user search engine inquiry?
  • Quality of page: Is the content actionable, useful, engaging, and informative?
  • Quality of traffic: Is the page attracting the right type of traffic
  • Device type: The device users access from can affect bounce rates. Is the average user accessing from desktop, laptop, or mobile?

Another way to find your ideal bounce rate would be viewing top sites that offer similar services or products as your website. Bounce rates have value because they are easy to measure, linked to business goals, and improving them can help reduce latency issues.

Time Spent On Page

This metric is affected by bounce rate, but isn’t the same thing. TSOP is simply a measure of time that anyone who accesses the site spends on a given page. If the exit percentage is high then the time spent on page average is less reliable. Low exit percentages generally indicate an accurate reflection of TSOP. Exit percentages are the percentage of total exits from a page, after time spent on that page. One of the best ways to get accurate TSOP metrics is to use event tracking methods that determine the following:

  • If the user scrolled
  • If the user interacted with the page (videos, sharing buttons, links, etc.)
  • If the user went on to another page of the site

Without event tracking methods, TSOP won’t account for the people who leave their browser open during supper, or left the browser open on their tablet or phone when they went into the store. Tracking specific actions instead of just time periods will give you actionable information.

If you already have a stellar SEO strategy in place, none of this should present an issue. If you don’t, you may want to consider finding a SEO content powerhouse like eZdia to help you develop one. Our professional SEO strategists and content writers can help you make sense of the ins-and-outs of search engine growing pains.

Author: Kristin Ann Hassel
Email: kristin.ann.hassel@gmail.com
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristin-hassel-8651a3157