Bounce Rate, Dwell Time And The Panda Update

In a previous article about bounce rate, Understanding and Lowering Bounce Rates, I laid out the basics of how bounce rate was calculated and how to find the bounce rate of specific pages. This time we are going to dig a little deeper and discuss why Panda has polarized the importance of lowering bounce rate.

First I want to make a couple of things clear. It’s highly unlikely that search engines use bounce rate directly when scoring or ranking webpages. Nor is a high bounce rate a definite signal of low quality or a failure to meet visitor expectations or needs.

Something To Dwell On

A high bounce rate could be the result of a page that does exactly what it sets out to do or one that completely fails. News sites, sites that provide “dip in” resources or tutorials, article sites like Ezine Articles and content farms including HubPages tend have a naturally high bounce rate. These are sites that can satisfy visitor needs with a single page visit.

If search engines don’t use bounce rate and it isn’t necessarily a signal that indicates poor user experience, why is it so important to lower it?

There is a new metric, one that Google Analytics won’t reveal to you and it’s a big contributor to sites being Panda-lized. It’s a Key Performance Indicator like no other and it’s here to stay. It’s called Dwell Time, and by lowering bounce rate and increasing time on site you can keep your site safe and out of harm’s way.

What Is Dwell Time?

Dwell Time is a measurement of how long a visitor spends between entering your site and leaving. On the face of it, it sounds similar to bounces and exits. The problem with both these metrics is that they don’t report how long someone was on a page prior to bouncing or the time spent on the last page of a visit prior to an exit.

There is a strong correlation between Dwell Time and engagement. Dwell Time has been used for some time in the calculation of AdWords quality sore i.e. a short dwell time is a strong signal that tells search engines that the landing page lacks relevance and quality.

The result of a short Dwell Time within AdWords is increased ad costs, in organic results it means rankings will tank.

At this time there are no search engine algorithms that can accurately distinguish high quality content from the hum drum. Search engines are getting better in areas such as discerning natural language patterns, however, true qualitative assessment is still a long way away.

Panda has seen Dwell Metrics evolve beyond measuring the length of time consumers spend engaging with online ads to a measurement of engagement between all web users and every kind of content whether it be informational or transactional.

  • While it may feel like you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating the content on the website, quality is in the eye of the visitor, and short page dwell times can indicate the content is not capturing the visitor’s interest. Something about the content is not grabbing their attention.

    Source: Duane Forrester, Sr. Product Manager at Bing

Bouncing Back To Full Health

Hopefully, analytics packages will evolve to let us see Dwell Time. In the meantime any measure that can be employed to improve engagement and increase the time visitors spend interacting with our content is essential.

The next article in this series will look at techniques to lower bounce rate, increase user experience and extend user interaction time.

More by this Author


Comments 27 comments

lukeuk profile image

lukeuk 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Really interesting Hub, voted interesting, thanks


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 4 years ago from SE MA

Do you think they don't want us to know or is it just typical Google taking forever to make improvement ?


dipless profile image

dipless 4 years ago from Manchester

A very interesting article,I wonder why Google don't want us to know why. Never really assessed how long people are staying onsite, but i guess it is something i really need to think about, especially with my own websites. Thank you for pouring your hear out this is quality content on the eye of this visitor, hope I've made your dwell rate that little bit better.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

I think Panda has a long way to go and dwell time is a definite move to get away from an over reliance on links.

I doubt if Google will give the exact means they use to interpret dwell time because it’s central to quality score.


hazelwood4 profile image

hazelwood4 4 years ago from Owensboro, Kentucky

Thank you for sharing such an informative article! Having sticky content is much to survive in the era of the Panda for sure!


Hub Llama profile image

Hub Llama 4 years ago from Denver, CO

How would Google know, unless you clicked back to the search page? Even if you clicked on and a tracking cookie eventually reported the data back, there really isn't a way to correlate a time stamp to a search time and then to a click away time.


Ian Dabasori Hetr profile image

Ian Dabasori Hetr 4 years ago from Papua New Guinea

This is something new I just learnt. Looking to learn more as time goes by. Great hub and voted up.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

@hazelwood4 without doubt creating sticky content is a very important part in extending dwell time.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

@Hub Llama Google knows when you click on a link to view a result and when you return. That could be achieved by comparing the first timestamp with the time a user returns to Google. The point is that although GA can’t report dwell time search engines can figure it out relatively easy.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

@Ian Dabasori Hetr, Thanks for commenting and voting up. Very much appreciated


MosLadder profile image

MosLadder 4 years ago from Irvine, CA

Great information. You laid it out in easy-to-read, simple terms, much appreciated.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

@lukeuk @MosLadder thanks for dropping in and commenting.


sunforged profile image

sunforged 4 years ago from Sunforged.com

Great to see some one point out that a high bounce rate can be an aspect of a successful page. Usually this is one of the most ill-informed topics in SEO tuts! Shared with the HubsAcademy group. First HUb of 2012!


Ian Dabasori Hetr profile image

Ian Dabasori Hetr 4 years ago from Papua New Guinea

Peter Hoggan

You welcome. I couldn't help to vote it up because its a great hub. Thanks again for sharing.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Thanks sunforged, I am truly honored.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

It certainly makes sense that the amount of time a person spends on a site can be a measure of quality. Like my library books, if I return it quickly, I either loved it and read it right away, or decided it wasn't worth my time. The amount of time I spent looking at it is the true measure of the quality.


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 4 years ago from Burlingame, CA

I mentioned in the forums a while back that time on page (not site or bounce rates) has been highly correlated with getting more traffic. Pages at 1.5 Minutes a visit and up seem to be doing very well on average compared to pages with lower times.

Google analytics gives this info, but it seems to spotty for low traffic pages (many pages showing zero seconds), but for pages that once got a lot of traffic, I've gone back and tried to improve this time.

My personal biggest traffic gains have come from updating Hubs that are doing well. It's been more efficient to update my good stuff then to update stuff that is not doing well.

Good thoughts in this hub.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

Great information. I also read that report from Bing that you referenced. Interesting that Bing is sharing the idea of dwell time with us more than Google is. But I am sure they both use it in the same way.

I look forward to your next Hub to get ideas from you about how to extend visitor dwell time. In the meantime I'm going to experiment with a few ideas on my own site. I see a high bounce rate on the home page. But once they get passed that, they stick around.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

@Paul Edmondson, could you share with us the methodology you used to update your hubs and give some idea of the traffic gains you achieved. I understand you probably don't want to talk about specific hubs, but some sort of overview would be very useful.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

@Glenn Stok you definitely don't want a high bounce rate on your home page. It would be interesting to know what actions you take and the results.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 4 years ago from SE MA

I had a 60% bounce rate at my main site index page. I realized that I had neglected to mention a rather important subject that I do cover on internal pages. I added a link to that and it's dropped to 48%, but I still think that's too high - I may need to emphasize certain subjects more.

I see 37% here at HubPages, which I attribute to my honesty. That is, it would be lower if I didn't tell people certain things about me :)


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Yep, making content actionable is one of the topics I will be covering in the follow up hub.

On another note, I have been constructing a hub about books I have found useful, one of them is Keyword Intelligence by Ron Jones. When I was reading the Amazon reviews you will never guess what I found...


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 4 years ago from SE MA

I know what you found. You found my review of it (Anthony Lawrence). I have a review of it here at HubPages too.


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 4 years ago from Burlingame, CA

@Peter Hogan, I sat down with Robin yesterday to put together a learning center article on best practices for updating Hubs. It's hard to capture all the nuances, but for the most part, I've seen that refreshing Hubs that are doing well or that have recently declined can see significant gains and quick recoveries if the Hubs is updated with relevant content. I often look at the search terms referring visitors to my pages and add content around those things. For example, I get traffic for "Filet Mignon vs Beef Tenderloin" so I added a section on the Hub supporting that specific query when I updated it.

I also added polls, tables, photos (original) that seems to really help.


Peter Hoggan profile image

Peter Hoggan 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Thats great Paul.

The learning center article can be found here:

https://hubpageshelp.com/content/Learning-Center-U...


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 4 years ago from Burlingame, CA

You're quick...just coming to notify you of the LC entry!


grinnin1 profile image

grinnin1 4 years ago from st louis,mo

Great information. Interesting and what I needed to know. Thanks!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working