Day 18 – Dwell Times

Day 18 Quick Summary: Dwell times

It’s time for our first edit.

  1. Read the first draft of your article without editing it
  2. Make notes about where it can be improved
  3. Make your first set of edits

In 2011 a Bing engineer blogged about good content, and in particular about something he called the ‘dwell time’ of a visitor to a page. The article is long so we won’t dwell on it, but the point he was making is that search engines measure how long someone stays on a page.

He suggests if it’s a minute, there’s a good chance the searcher found something of interest. If it’s just a couple of seconds, then probably not.

The problem is that dwell time is context dependent. If you want to convert 10 USD to GBP, and enter ‘what is 10 USD in GBP?’, the result is going to take less than a second to read – yet the search engine has delivered the perfect content.

If you remember what we said about Google wanting to stay in business, and so it’s going to ensure it always delivers optimum search results, then you can bet your life on the fact that Google understands dwell time from a context sensitive point of view.

And that means if a site delivers a search result that only requires a second to read, then the dwell time for that particular result has far less importance than for a more complex search.

This is also why Google is increasingly showing snippets above the results where it thinks it appropriate For example, if you search for ’10*20′, Google will show a calculator prepopulated with the result of your sum – and ready to use for another sum should you so wish.

As always with search engine technology, no one outside Google or Bing knows the truth (other than former engineers – who by definition are already out of date).

So whilst SEO gurus debate whether dwell time is the time taken between clicking a link and then hitting the browser’s back button, or whether it’s clicking a link and then clicking any other link with the exception of the back button, all we can do is make sure that visitors stay on our page for as long as possible, and when they’re done, get them to click on a link to another page on our site.

And that idea of keeping them on our site for as long as possible has everything to do with the bounce rate.

But here’s the thing. A high bounce rate in the right context does not hurt us at all. It’s all about expectations. Let’s look at that in the context of if we were Google trying to build the best possible user experience.

And remembering that Google probably has more PhD employees than any other tech company on the planet, there’s a good chance that they’re way ahead of even the following thinking:

We’re all on a path from somewhere to somewhere else. From getting up in the morning in order to go to work, to coming home in the evening. From starting some research for an article to rank on Google to finishing it.

Google understands this. The cleverer it gets,  the more it understands what each of us is doing when hit the search button. It can see what we’re searching for now, and what we searched for in the past. And from that it can have a guess and what we might be searching for next.

Armed with that, it can make intelligent guesses about dwell times and bounce rates.

For example. If you live in the UK and you’ve been searching for a product, which happens to be shown in US dollars, and then you search for ‘what is 100 USD in GBP?’, it knows your most likely move after this will be to go buy the product – or not.

If it’s a yes, then it EXPECTS you to BOUNCE right back to the search engine and go find the product again. Do you think Google will devalue the search result page you clicked on and then bounced back from? Why would they do that? You got your result. It worked perfectly.

Suppose you didn’t bounce back at all and went somewhere else? Would that mean the currency conversion page did a bad job? Probably not. But suppose you bounced back and searched for the same term again?

Now we’re talking about a proper bounce! The result obviously didn’t give you what you wanted to know.

But suppose you were just searching for a second opinion? And the second search produced the same result? Or suppose you were researching currency conversion pages in order to write an article about the industry?

Can you see how many paths there are, and bearing in mind Google is always trying to deliver the best results it can, it makes complete sense to know that everything is context related.

And that is the best news ever. Like I said right at the start of this course, as long as we produce the best content we can (using the sort of research we’ve done so far into the competition and what’s already out there), then we can pretty much guarantee that our articles are going to be the best there is at the time.

So what has all this got to do with today’s task?

DAY 18 TASK

Yes – it’s EDITING time. Whatever you’ve written so far for your article is not good enough. Sorry. But it’s true. Everything can be improved. That’s why the top writers are never satisfied with first drafts – and why they do them without caring too much – they know 100% that a second reading will improve it.

They also know that a third and probably fourth will improve it even more. But usually after that, there’s very little to gain.

This is the real difference between good enough and perfection. The first writing of anything is never ever ever good enough. The second writing (or first edit) may possibly be.

How much time you spend on it will be directly proportional to your dwell times and bounce rate.

And so today you’re going to read the entire article through from start to finish without editing anything. Whilst reading, you’re going to make areas that you feel could be improved. This might be to remove redundant words, rewrite muddy sentences, or move sections around.

You may want to do that by printing it out. It’s entirely up to you, but definitely read through the entire thing first before any editing. You will be amazed at the new ideas and glaring errors you discover whilst doing this.

The worst thing you can do is to edit it as you go. You will find yourself rewriting sections that you forgot you had already done later (of course, you may not, but that’s always been my experience).

And the key point about this whole task is to ensure your reader NEVER gets bored. We want them to DWELL and not BOUNCE for as long as possible.

When you feel happy with this first edit. Put it away again. And that, for today, is that. Can you guess what we will do tomorrow? I bet you can. Stick with this. The future will be really bright for you if you do.