Time on Page – The Most Important Google Measurement You Aren’t Considering

improving time on page

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If you’re reading this, and you’re human, you’re lazy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if every visitor to your website read 100% of the text on each page they visited?

Unfortunately, that’s nearly never the case. We’re lazy. No matter how hard you try to keep your audiences eyeballs glued to your content, it’s silly to think everyone is actually reading it.

Some folks will simply scan your content, some will read only a paragraph or two and find the information they were looking for, others will hit your page and bounce like a basketball, and others will read an article in its entirety. But those super-humans are far and few between.

And in ecommerce situations, it’s very likely that they’ll look at the pictures and not read anything at all. Ugh.

And yet, this is true…

The amount of time someone spends on your page is a very important metric.

Why? Well, there are at least two critical reasons.

First off, this metric reflects how well you are engaging your audience, and how much they are interacting with your content.

Secondly, the search engines are paying attention – bounce rates and time spent viewing a page are direct signals to the Google search algorithm, which determines your website’s overall value and thus its position in the search results.

In fact, Google has something called time to long click – meaning they watch when a user clicks on your result in their rankings and how fast they come back to Google to search again. If they don’t come back for a while, Google assumes they probably found what they were looking for – and that’s good news for you.

To help you increase the time someone spends on your site, were going to look at some strategies you can employ that will not only increase readership, but also boost the amount of time users spend viewing the content you’ve worked so hard to create.

Video Content

I know it may seem counter-intuitive, but in order to get people to spend more time reading your content (or at least on your page), adding videos can make a static, boring web page more appealing. Your visitors will fly away in droves if your page seems boring, but any content that adds motion to your site will encourage users to view more pages. In turn, your bounce rate reduces, which promotes a higher SEO score from Google’s ranking metric.

On the surface, it may seem that video content serves as yet another distraction in a world brimming with ads and pop-ups, all trying to capture our attention. But in a study, the average video viewer clicked through to 2.3 more pages than an average viewer.

2.3 times more page views is nothing to scoff at, since it more than doubles your page views.

I’m not going to go into why video is so important for your business. I’ve already done that here, here, and here. But suffice it to say that it’s really important.

Free Stuff  (You Know, Swag!)

Man, don’t you just love it when you get something for free? And I mean absolutely free, with no strings attached.

There are too many marketing scams that try to bait leads and take advantage of them. For instance, a lot of “free trials” work by collecting payment card data in the sign-up process, and then counting on the fact that the user will forget to cancel their subscription within the free trial window. And I bet you know what happens next. Yep, they get automatically billed. Giving something away that’s genuinely free, however, can help increase readership and the amount of time on your site.

Ask yourself what information, tools, or digital goodies would entertain, educate, or fill your audience with a greater sense of self-worth. Then make those goodies and give them away.

If you’re in a health and fitness niche, you could put together a nutrition plan complete with home recipes to help your users eat healthier and lose weight. If you sell pens, give away free samples shipped to potential buyers. If you’re a plumber, build a list of the seven most common reasons someone calls you (and how your customer can check those before picking up the phone.

If you mention somewhere near the top of a page that there’s a free item available lower on the page, you can set your content up for a better chance of being read.

I am certainly aware, however, that some visitors were the type of kids to pour out an entire box of cereal to get the toy at the bottom. Like my brother. But I digress…

Yeah, some of your visitors will just skip to the bottom of the page to claim their free prize. You’re always going to have those. Still, the free prize will convert some portion of your visitors who would have immediately bounced to visitors who will spend at least some significantly longer period of time reading content and claiming your lead magnet for their won.

Links to External Data

Links to external data are always a good idea, especially when they bolster the credibility of your claims, with one notable exception. Every business owner under the sun dislikes linking to competitor’s content, unless they are trying point out inadequacies and ineptitude in the competitor’s content, product, or service.

I get this, but think it’s a silly thing to worry about. If your content is valuable and you’re providing that at a free or low cost, most people aren’t going to jump to a competitor just because you linked to an article on their site.  And if you’re really that worried about it, why not take the content you want to link to and rewrite it as your own that’s better and even more informative? Problem solved.

If you are linking to an external site there’s one critical action you must take: make darn sure that the link opens in a new tab. You can do this with the target=“__blank” attribute, which can easily be added to anchor tags.

This can be done in WordPress fairly easily, simply follow these steps:

First, highlight the words you want to link, then click the Insert Link button near the top of your post

Next, paste in your external URL and click the gear icon.

Lastly, in the new window that pops up, checkmark the box for opening in a new tab, then click the Update button.

Wait, How Does This Improve My Website?

Well, as mentioned, it does improve the user’s experience if you can serve them additional related content that they would likely need or want, and you’re saving them time by removing the need to search for that information.

With regards to computers and the Internet, everyone likes to follow the path of least resistance. But not only does it help provide a better user experience, it also increases the amount of time spent per page.

This metric is known as dwell time, and Google doesn’t appear to care whether or not a user has the page stored away in a tab. True enough, inserting links may not increase the ratio of readership in proportion to time spent on the site, but having your page open longer does help your search engine ranking.

Final Thoughts

Using these techniques to design your website and individual pages will help improve readership and dwell time. I encourage you to take full advantage of them as much as possible, because improved readership and dwell time produce a better user experience and send positive ranking signals to the Google algorithm.

Said another way, your users will be more engaged and your website will have a better chance of ranking on the first page of the Google. Lastly, if you don’t understand or feel fully comfortable using these techniques, I highly recommend reaching out for the help of a professional (like us!). Even small digital marketing mistakes can add up to massive losses of revenue and opportunities.

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