Identifying the right metrics to judge the success of marketing work is difficult. It used to be that there simply wasn't a lot of reliable data to work from. These days, the problem has flipped—if anything, marketers are swimming in too much data.
That being said, one important metric that likely has a direct impact on search results is called "dwell time." Dwell time refers to the time that human users spend—dwell—on your website. Sites with higher dwell time are generally assumed to be relevant and high-quality to search engine users.
Why does dwell time matter?
While it is true that bounce rate, time on page, and time on site statistics can be misleading, it's also true that the general thing they're trying to quantify is tremendously important—user engagement.
As we've discussed in the past, Google wants to send their users to sites that are helpful and relevant to their users. If the search engine fails to do that, then that search engine's users will find a new search engine.
However, when we think about metrics that search engines can use to monitor user engagement, many of these aren't particularly effective—bounce rate, time on page, time on site, etc.
So how can search engines reliably know what websites are engaging and what sites are not if the metrics to determine that are broken? The answer is dwell time. Dwell time is a more reliable metric that can tell search engines what websites are keeping users' interest and what ones are not.
What is dwell time?
Dwell time is the time between when a search engine user clicks through to an external website off the search engine result page and when they return to the SERP. The key point is that this metric can be reliably tracked by Google and so it is easier to use for tracking user engagement on a website than some of the other metrics we have discussed in the past.
Unfortunately, you can't get this information in your Google Analytics report so to get a sense of your site's dwell time you'll need to balance a number of tricky metrics and make a best guess. That said, while time on page, time on site, and bounce rate are tricky metrics and shouldn't be used as the sole basis for making a decision, they aren't useless either. You can still learn things about your web traffic provided you use these metrics carefully.
What can you do to improve dwell time?
Well, for starters don't do lazy things that will annoy your users like making them hunt for information in order to increase how long they are on your site or using doorway pages to make them click from page to page. Those sorts of things will indirectly hurt you by ticking off users and causing them to bounce quickly and could directly hurt you in the future as Google gets better at detecting sites using such tactics.
The better approach is to create a site with useful content that your web visitors will actually want to watch or read. And the best way to do this is to shoot high-quality walkthrough video tours. These videos are valuable because they inform prospects about what your community is like and they are long enough that a prospect who watches even half of the video will look engaged to Google—because they are. In other words, high-quality video tours not only help keep the attention of your leads, they also tell search engines "this site is useful."