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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 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

Instagram for Kids: Do kids really need social media that young?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram for Kids is a terrible idea that we’ll have to contend in the not-so-distant future as social media becomes more prevalent in our lives.



Young girl playing phone, exploring Instagram for Kids

As a Facebook company, Instagram is used to pushing the envelope, and not always in a good way. One of their most recent initiatives, dubbed “Instagram for Kids”, offers pre-teens the opportunity to use a parent-controlled Instagram version—but global criticism is already mounting.

Instagram has a 13-and-up policy that restricts pre-teen kids from signing up for the app (in theory), but Instagram for Kids would allow younger users to share and interact with photos without the pressure of ads and inappropriate content (again, in theory). The goal behind a social media app for 12-and-unders is curious, given that acceptable teen social media use already starts at, arguably, a younger age than is responsible.

According to Instagram, though, their motivation for the app is simply to reduce access to harmful aspects of the web without instilling FOMO in younger children: “Kids are already online, and want to connect with their family and friends, have fun, and learn. We want to help them do that in a safe and age-appropriate way, and find practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps.”

Instagram also promises to “consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform [the app experience].”

That’s all fine in—and I cannot stress this enough—theory, but several members of the original internal discussion about this version of Instagram acknowledged that existing Instagram users who are under the age of 13 probably won’t switch over to the new platform, making Instagram for Kids obsolete for any illicit users. That leaves only one conclusion: That Instagram for Kids is for a substantially younger audience.

It’s difficult to find a morally upright justification for creating a social media app for, say, 8-year-olds. Parent control or not, the potential for data collection, early technology addiction, and breaches of privacy is very real. Add to that the fact that the children who are likely targeted by this app can’t exactly give informed consent for their information to be shared (not that 13-year-olds can, either, but that’s a different thing), and it starts to look pretty shady.

Instagram is already tangentially responsible for things like false marketing, eating disorders, and mental health decline in otherwise healthy adults. Adding pre-teens to that list is not only irresponsible—it’s morally bankrupt. Please keep your kids off of apps like this.

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Social Media

Reels: Why Instagram can’t compete with TikTok… yet?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The future for Instagram Reels is uncertain, since even Instagram has acknowledge that TikTok is far ahead of them, but what does it mean for their future?



Phone camera on stand in foreground with two women filming for TikTok or Instagram reels in the background

If you’re a TikTok user, chances are you’ve scoffed at Instagram’s attempt to compete with the hype. Yes, I’m referring to the Reels feature.

In an attempt to step in and absorb all the TikTok user run-off in August, when Trump announced the TikTok ban, Instagram launched Reels. Short, catchy and sharable clips, Reels are almost exactly like TikTok videos – but are they catching on?

In an interview with The Verge’s “Decoder” podcast, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri says that he isn’t yet happy with Reels, stating that TikTok is still “way ahead”. While Reels is growing in terms of shared content and consumed content, it’s not nearly where Instagram hoped it would be by this point. Perhaps this is because TikTok is still alive and well. Or perhaps there’s something else to it.

It’s interesting to note that some of the most popular Reels on Instagram are simply reposted TikToks. This poses the question: Is Instagram’s Reels simply a channel where the ‘cream of the crop’ TikTok videos can get posted in a second location and exposed to a new audience, or is it actually a platform for creators?

Mosseri also hints at some sort of consolidation across Instagram’s video features (i.e., IGTV, in-post videos, Reels). Without being entirely sure what that will look like, I’m already skeptical – is this all just another example of Facebook (via Instagram) trying to hold a monopoly on the social media sphere?

My opinion? As long as TikTok is still in operation, it will reign supreme. While the two apps have a ton of overlap, they are simply different cultural spaces. TikTok is a trend-heavy, meta-humor creative space that relies on engagement between users through effect, duets, and other TikTok-exclusive features.

Adversely, Reels is a space for Instagramming millennials and Gen Xers who might be choosing to opt out of TikTok (which has sort of become the cultural epicenter for the younger Gen Zers). The feature might also be used by Insta influencers and creators of all ages who toggle between the two apps (i.e., reposting your viral TikTok on Instagram to gain more traction).

Whatever the reason is for engaging in Reels, I’m fully certain the feature will never amount to the success of TikTok – but I guess we’ll have to wait to see what Instagram has in store for us next.

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Social Media

How this influencer gained 26k followers during the pandemic

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Becoming an influencer on social media can seem appealing, but it’s not easy. Check out this influencer’s journey and her rise during the pandemic.



Influencer planning her social media posts.

Meet Carey McDermott – a 28-year-old Boston native – more widely known by her Instagram handle @subjectively_hot. Within a few months, since March, McDermott has accrued a whopping 26k following, and has successfully built her brand around activism, cheeky observations of day-to-day bullshit, and her evident hotness.

“It mostly started as a quarantine project.” Said McDermott, who was furloughed from her job at the start of shelter-in-place. “I had a lot of free time and I wanted to do an Instagram for a while so I thought, ‘I might as well take some pictures of myself.’”

To get started McDermott, used a lot of hashtags relevant to her particular niche to get noticed, and would follow other influencers that used similar hashtags.

“I definitely built a little online community of women, and we all still talk to each other a lot.”

Like many popular influencers, McDermott engages with her audience as much as possible. She is sure to like or reply to positive comments on her pictures, which makes followers feel special and seen, and subsequently more likely to follow and continue following her account. She also relies heavily on some of Instagram’s more interactive features.

When asked why she thinks she has been able to build and retain such a large base in just a few months, McDermott explained: “I think people like my [Instagram] Stories because I do a lot of polls and ask fun questions for people to answer, and then I repost them”.

But it’s not just fun and games for @subjectively_hot – Carey wants to use her account to make some substantial bread.

“I’ve gotten a bunch of products gifted to me in exchange for unpaid ads and I’m hoping to expand that so I can get paid ads and sponsorships. But free products are nice!”

Additionally, McDermott was recently signed with the talent agency the btwn – a monumental achievement which she attributes to her influencer status.

“Having a large Instagram following gave me the confidence to reach out to a modeling brand. After they looked at my Instagram, they signed me without asking for any other pictures.”

To aspiring influencers, McDermott offers this advice:

“Find your niche. Find your brand. Find what makes you unique and be yourself – don’t act like what you think an influencer should act like. People respond to you being authentic and sharing your real life. And definitely find other people in similar niches as you and build connections with them.”

But McDermott also warns against diving too unilaterally into your niche, and stresses the importance of a unique, multi-dimensional online persona.

“[@subjectively_hot] is inherently a plus size account. But a lot of plus size Instagrams are just about being plus size, and are only like, “I’m confident and here’s my body”. I don’t want to post only about body positively all day, I want it to be about me and being hot.”

And you definitely can’t paint this girl in broad strokes. I personally find her online personality hilarious, self-aware, and brutally anti-patriarchal (she explicitly caters to all walks of life minus the straight cis men who, to her dismay, frequent her DMs with unsolicited advice, comments, and pictures). Her meme and TikTok curations are typically some of the silliest, most honest content I see that day and, as her handle suggests, her pictures never fail in their hotness value.

For McDermott, right now is about enjoying her newfound COVID-era celebrityhood. Her next steps for @subjectively_hot include getting paid ads and sponsorships, and figuring out the most effective way to monetize her brand. The recent spike in COVID-19 cases threaten her chances of returning to the place of her former employment in the hospitality industry.

With so many influencers on Instagram and other platforms, some might find it hard to cash in on their internet fame. But with a loyal fanbase addicted to her golden, inspiring personality, I think Carey will do just fine.

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