Do Dwell Time and Bounce Rate Matter for SEO?

When it comes to SEO, there are a lot of factors that Google takes into consideration. To be precise, Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm. Truth be told, they can sometimes be pretty vague with giving marketers the exact formula to ranking really well let alone the definitive checklist of everything you need to know in order to rank well. 

For this reason, it’s important to look at third-party studies who put in the time, effort, and research needed to draw close correlations that help marketers and businesses alike have a better understanding of ranking factors. 

In other words, enough SEOs can provide clarity around specific ranking factors because they will have done multiple studies to monitor and test. This can actually give you more insight than relying only on Google to provide an exact answer because they won’t give away their secret sauce. 

Of course, there are obvious on-page, technical, and off-page SEO executions that you should implement and per best practices; however, I want to focus on diving deeper into dwell time and bounce rate in today’s blog post.

Before we dive in, let’s make sure we understand the importance of SEO with the following stats:

  • 75% of searchers never go past the first page of search results.
  • Google currently has 86.86% of the search engine market.
  • The #1 result in Google gets approximately 32% of all clicks.
  • 49% of marketers report that organic search has the best ROI of any marketing channel. 
  • Organic search results that rank on page 1 of Google contain an average of 1,447 words.

What is Dwell Time? 

Per SEMRush, dwell time is the amount of time that goes by from the moment a user clicks on a search result to the moment they return to the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s a measurement of a user’s dwelling time — how much time they linger on a page, beginning and ending with the SERPs. This last point makes dwell time unique from “time on page” and “bounce rate”.

Here are a few dwell time examples by AHrefs, and how they may be interpreted:

  • 2 second dwell time: I didn’t find what I wanted/expected on your site. So, I quickly went back to the SERP to find something better.
  • 2 minute dwell time: I found your content pretty useful and stuck around a couple of minutes to read it.
  • 15 minute dwell time: I found your content super-useful and was heavily-invested in what you had to say.
dwell time seo

With all of that said, I would agree with Joshua Hardwick that it’s not far-fetched to suggest that Google does use dwell time as a ranking factor as it is a good way to judge quality and relevance. To further support my point above re Google not giving away their ‘secret SEO sauce’, Hardwick also states: “If Google does use any form of dwell time metric as ranking factor, they aren’t sharing this fact (or any of the data) with us.”

What about bounce rate?

Bounce Rate is defined as the percentage of visitors that leave a webpage without taking an action, such as clicking on a link, filling out a form, or making a purchase. 

Per Backlinko, here are three reasons why bounce rate matters:

  1. Someone that bounces from your site (obviously) didn’t convert. So when you stop a visitor from bouncing, you can also increase your conversion rate.
  2. Bounce Rate may be used as a Google Ranking factor. In fact, an industry study found that Bounce Rate was closely correlated to first page Google rankings.
  3. Bounce rate is closely correlated to first page Google rankings. A high Bounce Rate lets you know that your site (or specific pages on your site) has issues with content, user experience, page layout or copywriting.

Keeping this in mind, know that the average bounce rate is around 41%-51%. It is also important to know that depending on your industry, this can vary. However, this gives you a benchmark to work off of as a starting point. 

bounce rate stats


Furthermore, know that bounce rate can be a bit more tricky because it really boils down to what your goals are for the landing page or webpage that site visitors land on. For example, a landing page that is literally only one page without anywhere else for the visitors to go may have a higher bounce rate. 

At that rate, the obvious goal of that page isn’t to measure just ‘bounce rate’ but to ensure that you’re driving conversions. Therefore, implementing the right CRO tactics are going to be much more beneficial than just focusing on bounce rate alone.

It really comes down to quality and relevance

The two most important aspects of SEO that ensure you rank well and that should be integral parts of your SEO strategy are going to be: quality and relevance. Both of these will highly depend on the content to publish. 

Both impact dwell time and bounce rate to an extent — you can’t deny this, especially if you’re a marketer who is pushing to drive real results with the content you’re pushing out. I always go back to the searcher intent + following SEO best practices is going to ensure you’re on the right track.

Wrapping it up

So the burning question is that we can’t definitively say that Google has confirmed dwell time and bounce rate absolutely are major key factors for ranking. However, it is safe to say and even suggest that both do their part in feeding Google’s machine learning to figure out what is relevant and of high-quality. Their goal is to keep their users happy and as I mentioned before, it’s about marrying the searcher intent with SEO best practices. 

Lastly, here are some previous blog posts you ought to check out to learn more about SEO:

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