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“Dwell Time”: What is It and What is a Good “Dwell Time” as per Bing and Google

dwell-time[Updated January 26, 2017]

“Dwell time” is one of the easier-confused terms in the SEO industry. When discussing “dwell time”, people often seem to be talking about “Time-on-page” instead.

Let’s try to be as clear and comprehensive as we can:

“Dwell time” Defined by Bing (Less than a Minute = Poor)

Dwell time is quite an old term that was coined (I believe) by @DuaneForrester in his old article “How to Build Quality Content

…dwell time.  The time between when a user clicks on our search result and when they come back from your website tells a potential story.

In other words, Dwell time is the time it takes the user to return back to search results:

Time on page

GA Bounce rate

*Dwell time*


The time the user spent on the web page before going ANYWHERE (may be an internal page, other link, ad, etc)

The % of visitors who didn’t go to another page of the site

The time the user spent on the web page before going BACK to search


A questionable quality signal (The user might have got the answer really fast and just left)

A questionable quality signal (The user might have just closed the page after getting the answer)

A strong quality signal (The user is likely to be looking for more info since (s)he clicked back to search results. The user is not satisfied)

Duane even mentions what’s supposed to be a good signal:

A minute or two is good as it can easily indicate the visitor consumed your content.  Less than a couple of seconds can be viewed as a poor result.

Wow. You’d never see such a clear-cut definition from search engine reps these days!

There’s no official confirmation from Google that they are using Dwell time as the signal but the history proves they are likely to be:

Google: Less than ≈ Two Minutes = Poor

Back in (late) 2011 – early 2012 you were given an option to block the domain from *your* search results if you switched back to SERPs too fast after clicking the result.

This is what it used to look like after you clicked back to search results immediately after landing on Matt’s blog:

Dwell time
[Image source:]
The numbers:

Later, apart from blocking the sites you chose to click back from, you were given an opportunity to “plus” pages where you spent a considerable amount of time at. The way it worked:

  • Dwell time less than 2 minutes => “Block”
  • Dwell time more than ~7 minutes => “Plus”

Rewarding the *Authors* with “Huge” Dwell Time

In late 2012 we saw another proof of Google paying attention to the dwell time. It was happening with Author-verified Google search results:

  • The user clicked the Aurthorship-enhanced Google search result,
  • The user spent 15-20 minutes on that page
  • The user clicked browser “Back” button to search results
  • The user saw “More by” that author under the same search result:
Dwell time AUthroship
[This is the result AFTER the click back to the search results]


Ahrefs published an in-depth guide on the matter explaining the concept of dwell time as well as related terms.

Any other thoughts and observations on the Dwell time? Please share them in the comments!


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