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Dwell time: the new make or break SEO metric?

As Google updates their algorithm, experts and newbies alike are thrown into the deep end, left to figure out what terms are the most critical.



search engine optimization and google penguin

search engine optimization and google penguin

Dwell time and your website

It is well known that Google constantly grooms their algorithm to provide what they deem the most relevant search results possible, in their endless quest to think like a human brain. In February 2011, a batch of updates, known as Google Panda launched, which sought to punish content scrapers and bring high quality results to the top. In April 2012, Google Penguin rolled out, seeking to get rid of websites using black hat SEO, or that use link schemes, and the like, again to push legitimate sites to the top of search rankings.

With the new algorithm changes, however, remains quite a bit of mystery, and vague new terminology is coming to the surface, leaving small businesses in a lurch who can barely decipher whether or not they should be on Twitter, or if their neighbor’s son who set up their website in 2001 is the right person to handle their online presence. The Google algorithm has gotten more complex and is a living organism that continually evolves, making real experts in SEO stand out from the crowd.

One such vague term: dwell time

“Dwell time” is one term being tossed around, which typically refers to a quality signal for Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) services, but many are now saying this is a consideration being included in Google’s Panda algorithm.

NetMagazine notes that, “In a nutshell, dwell time (and specifically dwell time relevant to organic search) is a signal that averages the amount of time spent on a page after click-through in results. The longer the searcher spends on site, the more relevant that site appears to Google.”

Kate Morris, Lead SEO Consultant at international strategic marketing agency, Distilled said that dwell time is an untested theory, and that “No one has yet to prove that it is a factor and Google has not said it is. Neither has Bing for that matter.”

Morris continued, “What I do know is that much of Panda was based off of user experience testing. Asking people how they feel about a site and if it’s trust worthy. In my professional opinion, the “dwell time” is a factor or is going to be but like bounce rate there won’t be hard numbers. It’s not something people can track to bring down, unless the engines give us that data as webmasters and that is possible but not probable right now.”

Ben Fisher says that dwell time is “definitely a real part of the algorithm, albeit a small part. Panda was about signals to google the page deserves to rank high, so content above the fold, dwell time, bounce rate, etc were all accounted for or targeted moreso than before (among other things).”

Not confirmed, still relevant

Jeff Bernheisel, Project Manager at 1000WattConsulting echoes Morris’ sentiment that Google has never confirmed dwell time as “a solid part of their algorithm but have alluded to it many times saying they want a better ‘user experience.’ User experience can be achieved through good design – ie getting a person to click through at least once which in effect reduces your bounce rate OR by things like including video which increases time on site averages (usually).”

Despite not being a confirmed part of the Google Panda algorithm, Bernheisel notes, “I have had sites with a 6 page view average, and 3+ minute time on site where I’ve had to do WAY less “off page” SEO work (building back links) than my other sites with less page view and time in site average so I think that legitimately backs up their claims.”

How to improve your site’s dwell time

NetMagazine says, “In a nutshell, dwell techniques mean creating and utilising content on category, sub-category and other important pages throughout the build, which encourage users to read over or interact with the page and refrain from bouncing. Explaining a brand’s USP using a slideshow or 30-second video clip makes the information easily digestible and keeps them engaged for the time it takes to reach the end. From a search perspective, this content has resulted in a longer time on site, which means a better signal to Google.”

Morris encourages webmasters to continue working on usability and conversion rates. “Using things like Content Experiments through Google Analytics or other A/B testing software can help. Even click trackers like Crazy Egg help webmasters understand user patterns on the site. Also, webmasters should also ensure that no matter what platform they are on, that conversion tracking is set up and working correctly. Knowing how site conversion is over time can provide good insight as to how users feel about a site.”

“The simplest way to do any kind of user testing is still buying pizza and getting some friends to ask their friends who don’t know the site to come over and give feedback,” Morris notes. “This doesn’t have to be scientific. You just need feedback on if people are getting the information, products, and services they need from a site and if it’s easy to find.”

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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  1. Jeff Brown

    July 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    In other words, if the content doesn’t suck, people will stay and read it? 

  2. Aaron ron

    August 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Good post, thanks for sharing it

  3. ghostwriter

    August 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Very Informative Post, Thanks for your great work.

  4. Pingback: Big SEO news: How to find out if your site will be penalized - AGBeat

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Social Media

Facebook’s Résumé takes another shot at LinkedIn

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook took another swipe at LinkedIn by introducing a new Résumé feature.



resume On This Day load bob alice terrorism trends fine spam facebook advertising jobs earnings

Any job hunter is likely familiar with the little section somewhere during the application process where you’re asked to enter in social media information. Thankfully, Facebook is usually an optional field.

While I try to keep what the public can see of my social media profiles toned down enough as to not cause my grandmother to blush, I’m still not quite comfortable sharing my profile with prospective employers.

I’m sure many out there feel the same, and Facebook knows this.

Tinfoil hat theories aside, LinkedIn may be shaking in their boots as Facebook begins to advance their growth in the professional sector in their pursuit of social media domination.

Facebook has begun experimenting with a new Résumé/CV feature that works as an extension of your standard “Work and Education” section on a Facebook profile page, allowing users to share work experience in more detail with friends and family but most importantly: potential employers.

Luckily, the new Résumé/CV feature won’t be sharing personal photos or status updates, but will rather combine all the relevant information into a single, professional-looking package.

So far this feature appears to be rolled out to a small number of users, and it’s unclear when it will be officially launched, but this isn’t the first time Facebook has dipped their toes in the waters of the job sector, or took a jab at LinkedIn.

Several months ago, Jobs was launched, a feature that allows Business Pages to post job openings through the status composer, and keep track of them on their Page’s Jobs tab.

A Facebook spokesperson commented on the intent behind the new Résumé/CV feature, “At Facebook, we’re always building and testing new products and services.

We’re currently testing a work histories feature to continue to help people find and businesses hire for jobs on Facebook,” and so this is just the beginning of Facebook’s plan to become a one-stop-shop and create a more seamless way for people to find and get jobs.

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Social Media

Tag photos, connect with friends, order food?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook seems to be sprawling into every nook and cranny of life and now, they’re infiltrating food delivery.



food delivery facebook

Facebook is now bringing you food! Although, no one was really asking them to.

In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook is attempting to transform into more than just a social media platform. They have partnered up with food delivery services to help users order food directly from their site.

They hope to streamline the process by giving users a chance to research, get recommendations and order food without ever leaving the site.

Facebook has partnered with their existing delivery services including EatStreet,, DoorDash, ChowNow and Olo in addition to restaurants to fast track the process.

The scenario they imagine is that while scrolling through the newsfeed, users would feel an urge to eat and look to Facebook for their options.

After chatting up friends via Facebook Messenger to ask for the best place to go, users would visit the restaurant’s page directly, explore their menu and decide to order. When ordering, you will have the option to use one of the partnered delivery services either with an existing account or by creating a new one.

The benefit is you stay on one site the entire time. With the time you save, the food can get to you faster, which is a plus for everyone.

Assuming that people already live on Facebook 24/7, this seems like a great update. If you like getting recommendations from your favorite social media resources, it’s even better.

The problem is that in recent years their younger audiences have dropped off in favor of other sites. Regardless of what they think, not everyone is flocking to Facebook for their every need.

My guess is that this service will benefit those already using Facebook, but is less likely to draw new audiences in.

Adding more services may not be the key to success if Facebook can’t refine their other features. They have already been criticized for their ad reporting practices, though they seem to fix everything with a new algorithm.

Facebook has continued to stray away from their original intent, and food delivery won’t be their last update.

Facebook wants to be everything, but not everyone may want the same.

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Social Media

Hate Facebook’s mid-roll ads? So does everyone else

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Those pesky ads that pop up in the middle of that Facebook video, aka mid-roll, seem to be grinding everyone’s gears.




In an ongoing effort to monetize content, Facebook recently introduced “mid-roll” ads into videos by certain publishers, and it has now been testing that format for six months. If you aren’t a big fan of those ads interrupting your content consumption experience, you aren’t alone; publishers aren’t crazy about them either.

In a report on the program, five publishers working with Facebook’s new mid-roll ad program were sourced and all five publishers found that the program wasn’t generating the expected revenue.

One program partner made as little as $500 dollars with mid-roll ads while generating tens of millions of views on their content.

Two other partners wouldn’t specify exact revenue number, but they did acknowledge that the ad performance is below expectations. As far as cost goes, certain publishers mentioned CPMs between 15 cents and 75 cents.

That range is large because a lot of the data isn’t clear enough to evaluate their return on investment. According to the Digiday report, publishers receive data on total revenue, along with raw data on things like the number of videos that served an ad to viewers.

The lack of certain data points, along with the confusing structure of the data, makes it difficult to assess the number of monetized views and the revenue by video. For context, YouTube, as arguably the biggest player in video monetization, provides all these metrics.

Another issue is that licensing deals are cutting into margins. Facebook pays publishers, via a licensing fee, to produce and publish a certain number of videos each month. In exchange, Facebook keeps all money until it recoups the fee, after which revenue is split 55/45 between the publisher and Facebook.

While these challenges doesn’t change the fact that revenue is low, it does make it difficult to dissect costs in a meaningful way.

Why is revenue so low to begin with?

For starters, a newsfeed with enough content to feed an infinite scroll probably isn’t the best format for these kinds of ads. As a user, when I’m watching the videos and the ad interrupts the experience, I’ve always scrolled right on through to the next item on my feed. It’s a sentiment echoed by one of the publishers in the Digiday story.

Because of that, Facebook’s new Watch program, which creates a content exclusivity not found on the news feed, might produce better results in the future. Either way, Facebook will need to solve this revenue challenge for publishers, or they might pull out of the programs altogether.

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