Dwell Time: Ignore it at your Peril

It’s not enough to produce great content for your school’s social media channels; you also need to measure its success. If your school is like most trying to compete in the digital era, you already understand how important content marketing is for increased engagement and enrollments. But how do you know if what you do resonates with your target demographic? Increased website traffic may be your go-to metric, but it is only one measurement of success. After all, what good is it if you attract potential students to your site, only to see them click away as soon as they arrive?

As Content Manager, I am super interested in dwell time—the amount of time a user spends on a particular page. It tells me whether the content I produce and curate is actually being consumed. For example, if a 500 word blog post has an average dwell time of under a minute, I have to assume that the user is not a speed reader; they just didn’t like what they found. It wasn’t useful or relevant to their needs. On the other hand, if they’re spending four or five minutes, I’d like to believe that they’re actually reading what I’ve written. Something within the content kept their interest, answered their questions, or satisfied their needs.

Even if you’re not a content expert, you should still care about dwell time. Here’s why:

Google does: The length of time a user spends on a particular page is an indication of whether or not they found the content worthwhile. The longer time they spend, the more Google will consider your content to have value. If you want a high quality score—and you do—work to increase the dwell time of your pages.

So does Facebook: If you think that Facebook is all about first impressions, you’re partly right. Images are extremely important to capture the attention of your future students and get them to engage with your content. Facebook cares about impressions but its EdgeRank algorithm also weighs the length of time users spend in an ad space. According to Facebook Director of Ad Product Marketing, Graham Mudd, if you target millennials, it’s not stopping power that matters, it’s slowing power.

And everyone else: When the New York Times ranks their 2015 stories based on dwell time, you should take note. The venerable news organization knows a bit about what’s “fit to print,” or digitize. But more importantly, it acknowledged what you should already know: that good content resonates. Give your future students content that informs and inspires. Answer their questions. Start teaching them now, so they’ll have reason to come back to you when they want to learn even more.

If you’d like to learn how to increase the dwell time of your pages, contact the HigherEd Geeks at Effective Student Marketing. We’d love to share some of our success stories and turn your school into another one.

~Linda Emma