Many website owners and professional SEOs believe you can’t optimize a website for Google’s artificial intelligence, but that’s actually not true.
The confusion probably comes at least in part because the best know artificial intelligence (aka machine learning) component of Google’s search algorithm is RankBrain. RankBrain is an AI system Google introduced in 2015 which helps Google better understand search queries (keywords) and how they’re related. After it launched, many SEO experts made statements like this one:
If you’ve been stressing over how to optimize your SEO for RankBrain, there’s good news: you can’t. -Rand Fishkin, Moz
However, RankBrain is not the only AI component of the Google search ranking algorithm
“Dwell Time” and “Time on Page”
Imagine for a moment two different websites that both rank in the top 10 for a particular keyword…
The first site, is a high quality site that does a good job of addressing the needs of people searching that keyword, maybe provides a helpful answer to a question, maybe it provides a product or service people are searching for. When people click from the Google search results to the site, they spend several minutes on that site.
The second site, is a low quality site that gamed its way into the top 10 using aggressive SEO techniques. The articles are poorly written and don’t address the issue related to the search query very well. Or maybe the person was searching for a product or service and this site just has ads or affiliate links. When people click form the Google search results to the site, they spend a few seconds on the site, don’t find what they’re looking for, go back to Google and click another link.
Google looks at the high “time on page” or “dwell time” for the first site and interprets this as an indication of a quality site, and it looks at the low “time on page” or “dwell time” for the second site and interprets this as an indication of a lower quality site. An artificial intelligence or machine learning component of the Google search algorithm learns from the way people interact with these two search listings and adjusts their rankings up and down accordingly.
Google pays very close attention to “dwell time”: how long people spend on your page when coming from a Google search. -Brian Dean
How to Optimize Your Website for Better Dwell Times
Unlike RankBrain, dwell time is something you can optimize for. Here are some ways to do that:
1) Quality web design. Nothing scares away visitors faster than a poorly designed site. A website that looks bad, is hard to read, is not mobile-friendly, has a big confusing menu or looks like it was built during the Bush Administration (either one) will send people away instantly.
2) Quality, engaging imagery. Another key to keeping people on your website longer is to make a great first impression. This is best done through high quality images or video placed “above the fold” so visitors can see them immediately without having to scroll down. A great HD video is ideal here. But if you haven’t had the time or resources to create a great video, the next best thing is a zooming image slider, like we discussed yesterday. After that, a standard image slider or even a single high-quality image is better than having all text above the fold.
3) Quality articles. Quality articles that answer questions, provide insight and are well-written will engage visitors and keep them on your website as well. If you include some links throughout the article or at the end of the article to related material on your website, there’s a good chance people will click and stay even longer on your site.
4) Quality analytics. Looking at your website’s analytics data on a regular basis can provide a lot of useful information about dwell time. Discover how long on average people are spending on your site. Has it been getting longer or shorter over the last year? What pages are visitors spending the most time on? This insight can help you understand how to improve your website and make it more engaging.
Do you see a common theme here?
This is why we provide web design and SEO services, packaged together. It’s also why a major component of our Progressive SEO Service is writing high quality, optimized articles that are not just intended for search engines but for real people.
- What if anything have you been doing to make your website more engaging and keep people on your website longer?
- What do your analytics tell you about your website’s dwell time?