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Here’s Something SEO Experts Dwell On

Landing pages are pages that users land on. They can be your home page, your blog, an article on your blog, and so on. Basically, any page that can be found and accessed is essentially a landing page.

An article that only educates the user (once the user is finished reading they leave) is still a landing page. It doesn't mean it's a productive one, though.

A productive landing page is one that gets users to do something once they've landed on it. Whether it's sharing the content, visiting other pages for further reading, joining a newsletter, or buying a product right then and there, it's considered a productive landing page.

A landing page's productivity is important for many reasons. For sure, it's critical for PPC. But what about SEO? It is, but not in the way you may think.

Many SEO experts often talk about reducing bounce rates as if bounce rates kill SEO. But it's a little misleading. Bounces, by themselves, are not entirely bad. If a page offers great content and the user is satisfied after reading it, then it's done its job, even if the user bounces.

But when you factor in “Time on Page” (specifically, by looking at the bounce rate of a given page and compare that to the time people spend on that page), you get something called “Dwell Time.”

What's Dwell Time?

In Google Analytics, you need a second click to determine time on page. That's the click where they leave the page. The first is when they landed on it.

The problem is, if a person visits a page, stays for 25 minutes, and then leaves, that's still considered a bounce. Whether they've read it or not is irrelevant.

That's why search engines tend to look at true bounces — bounces that occur within a six-second window. If people land and leave within six seconds, then that's a true bounce. This explains why some pages with great content may have high bounce rates and still rank pretty well.

Dwell time is a better metric for this reason. When a page has a low dwell time, meaning users land and leave within six seconds, it may be an indicator that the content and/or the user experience are poor.

By the way, “six seconds” is arbitrary but a growing consensus among SEO experts. The actual threshold is unknown. It's a card Google prefers to play close to its chest to prevent users from gaming the system. Which is understandable.

In any event, the longer the dwell time the better, as this indicates that the visitor has consumed most (if not all) of the content on a page, which infers the quality of both content and UX.

How to Increase Dwell Time?

Obviously, the short answer is to “produce better content.” But what's better? Content quality is subjective. There's no way to define quality. Your content may be funny and entertaining, and keep readers longer than six seconds.

But if it's not useful, is it still “quality” content?

I would define quality content as one of three things: it's useful, usable, and/or entertaining. Again, it's subjective and only a guess on my part. But I've seen enough content that ranks well that follows one or more of these three.

  • Useful: the content is helpful, informative, and educational.
  • Usable: it's actionable, engaging, and implementable by the user.
  • Entertaining: it inspires and evokes an emotional response (e.g., laughter, fear, sadness, hope, etc).

I'm sure there are more qualities than those. I've heard people say, “It's findable,” “it's scannable,” “it's readable,” etc. Those things, to me, are signs of a good user experience. Some do overlap, as good experience is the sign of good content.

But by other qualities, I mean those I've seen other SEO experts say, such as the content is reportable, quotable, memorable, and so on. All those things are good. But they revolve around the three important ones I mentioned above.

After all, if it's useful, usable, or entertaining, chances are it will be reportable, quotable, memorable, and all those other things, too.

However, there are other things you can do to increase dwell time that go beyond the quality of the content and the user experience.

The Case for Internal Linking

Since dwell time is measured by the length of time spent on the content before bouncing back (or bouncing off the site entirely), it makes sense to invite users to do something once they've finished reading your content.

Remember, the most productive landing pages focuses on three things:

  1. It speaks to one market.
  2. It conveys one message.
  3. It leads to one outcome.

In other words, the landing page has content geared for one market. It can be a vertical market (it's meant for a specific industry) or a horizontal market (it's meant to serve a specific need).

Second, it's focused on one message, a message that has one specific purpose. It makes no sense to have your grandma's cacciatore recipe on the same page you're trying to sell management consulting services. Multiple messages only confuse the reader, and the confused mind will always leave.

And third, the page should lead to one outcome or focus on a primary goal. Can a page have multiple calls to action? Of course. But they should revolve around one outcome or goal. Otherwise, you will confuse the reader.

Give people too many choices and they won't make one.

Again, I'm not saying that landing pages should only follow these rules. But the most productive, particularly the ones that are easiest to track, are those that follow one or more of these three rules.

If your landing page is meant to generate a lead or a sale, and particularly if you're buying traffic to that page, you want to follow those three rules as precisely as possible. Stick with one action, goal, or outcome.

But what if your landing page is an article on your blog that you're trying to rank organically? In this case, it makes perfect sense to provide users with additional content — links to other articles that may possibly answer additional or related queries they may have.

Internal links offer a better user experience for this reason, and by inviting that all-important second click, you not only increase dwell time on the page (and subsequently on the site) but also reduce bounces significantly.

What Internal Links to Include?

You have multiple opportunities to link to other pages of your website, whether they're to additional content or for visiting other landing pages. In my experience, they tend to revolve around four types:

  1. Contentual Links
  2. Contextual Links
  3. Proximal Links
  4. Causal Links

1) Contentual links are links within the content and part of the content. If I mention another piece of content, such as an article on internal links and I link to it (just like I did now), that's contentual. The link is content, in this case. Links can be texts or images, too.

2) Contextual links are links, within the content, that add context (e.g., extra information, term definitions, FAQs, related content, etc). The greatest example of this is Wikipedia — the bane of my existence as a person with ADHD.

3) Proximal links are links around the content but separate from it. They're in sidebars, callouts, or bumpers (i.e., sections before or after the content, but at the end is the most common). For example, on my blog at the end of each article, I list related articles and this week's most popular articles.

4) Causal links are links that cause, are part of, or are caused by an interaction — typically the result of an event (e.g., forms, search boxes, interactive elements, scripts, etc). In other words, the interaction pushes the user to another page.

Ultimately, to make a landing page productive you need to know how well it's doing. Are people reading it? Do they like it? Are they interacting with it? If those metrics are not favorable, then the content needs to be improved.

But sometimes, the improvement is not always related to the content or user experience in a direct sense. That's where internal links can certainly help.

Moreover, it helps your SEO: internal links not only create relationships that give Google a better understanding of your content, but they also improve dwell times, which tell Google that your content and user experience are good.

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