You may have heard the term 'time on page'.
You may even have heard that it's one of the key ranking factors in the Google algorithm: the more time people spend on your page, the higher you go in the search results.
But how do you increase time on page? How do you get people to spend more time reading your blog posts?
That's what I'm going to show you in this article: the seven secrets to increasing time on page.
Why is 'time on page' so important?
But first of all…why is time on page so important?
It all has to do with matching search queries with search results.
That’s Google’s No. 1 concern: the better they get at matching search results to search queries, the more people will use their search engine.
And one way Google measures whether a search result matched a search query is how long a visitor stays on your page.
If someone types a query into Google, finds your page in the SERPs, clicks on it, and then heads straight back to the search results, that tells Google that your page didn’t match the search query.
Google moves your page down in the rankings.
But what if every visitor to your page is spending five or ten minutes reading your content?
If visitors are spending more time on your page than on the pages listed above yours, your page is going to steadily rise in the search results.
So, now that you understand why time on page is so important, let’s look at the seven key techniques for increasing the time your visitors spend on your page.
1. Create a powerful Introduction
Did you know that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline but only two out of ten will read any further? That statistic from Copyblogger just goes to show how difficult is it to keep your readers engaged.
Let’s face it – the Internet is awash with content competing for people’s attention. And that means you’ve got to grab your reader’s attention right from the beginning.
That’s why you need an Introduction that literally sucks your reader in right at the start.
When I started out blogging I realized my Introductions were not working.
So I sat down and analysed the Introductions of the top bloggers in my space: people like Brian Dean, Jon Morrow, Derek Halpern, Darren Rowse, and Sonia Simone.
What I discovered was a simple formula that nearly all successful bloggers use to pull their readers in right from the start.
The formula has 4 key elements:
- The Hook
- The Problem
- The Solution
- The Promise
The hook is often a question.
Because a question demands an answer. As soon as you ask a question it creates an automatic reflex in your reader: they try to answer it.
Bam! Your reader is involved – she’s already engaged with your blog post.
The problem is vital because that’s why your visitor found your article in the first place. She had a problem: she typed a search query into Google, and found your article.
That’s the mindset of your reader – she has a problem and she’s looking for a solution. So you need to sketch out the problem. And the more graphically you do that, the more compelling your Introduction will be.
Of course, once you’ve explained the problem you need to tell the reader there’s a solution – that’s what you do in the next sentence.
And finally, there’s the promise – you’re asking your reader to give up 5 or 10 precious minutes in their day, so you need to assure them that it’s going to be worth their while. And you do that with the promise
You can see this technique in action in the first four paragraphs of this article.
Here’s another example from blogging expert Brian Dean. It has all four elements of a powerful Introduction:
2. Use transitions that pull your reader down the page
Have you ever started reading a blog post and suddenly you find yourself at the end without knowing how you got there?
Reading it seemed effortless - you may not even have been aware that you were reading.
If that’s ever happened to you, the writer was probably using transitions.
But what are transitions exactly?
Simply put, they’re short sentences that link one paragraph with the next. But they can be much more than that.
In the hands of an expert blogger, transitions make you feel the writer is having a one-on-one chat with you. They can make you feel the writer knows exactly what your problems are and understands your predicament.
Do that and you’ve hooked your reader – they feel you understand their problem and they’re willing to bet that you’ve also got the answer.
Transitions are such an important part of increasing time on page that I did a whole study of the different kinds of transitions used by some of the most successful bloggers out there.
For more tips on how to use transitions in your blog posts, head over to Smart Blogger and read my article ‘How to Use Transitional Phrases to Keep Your Readers Sliding Down the Page’.
3. Make it easy to read
Another way to increase time on page is simply to make it easier for people to read your content.
This is where a lot of bloggers fall down: the font size is too small, the column of text is too wide, or the text is simply too dense.
Here are the 5 things you can do to quickly and easily make your blog posts easier to read.
3.1 Font family
When choosing a font for your web pages, the first thing you need to decide is whether to go for serif or sans-serif. Serifs are the little feet and the curly bits at the top and bottom of each letter.
It’s generally agreed that in print, serif fonts are easier to read because the serifs on each letter lead the eye to the next letter.
Which fonts are better on the Internet, serif or sans-serif, is an ongoing debate amongst typographers and designers.
In the early days of the Internet, when computer monitors had fairly low resolutions, sans-serif fonts were definitely better. The curly bits on serif fonts tended to get lost on low-resolution screens.
But computer screens now have much higher resolution so serif fonts display better than they used to.
Georgia is a serif font specifically designed for the Internet and it’s the font I use.
So serif or non-serif is no longer a clear-cut choice.
Verdana, Helvetica, Open Sans, Arial (all sans-serif), and Georgia (serif) are generally considered to be the most readable fonts on the Internet. Verdana has the advantage that it was specifically designed for computer screens.
3.2 Font size
I’m always amazed by the number of blogs that use tiny font-sizes. Why make your readers squint?
So what font-size should you use?
That depends, of course, on what font you’re using.
But in general bigger is better. Some authorities, like Smashing Magazine, argue that 16 pixels should be the minimum font size for body text on a web page (I use 18 pixels).
3.3 Column width
Another factor that affects readability is how much horizontal movement the eye has to make.
People don’t read on the Internet, they scan. So very wide columns of text put a strain on your readers’ eyes.
Opinions vary about the perfect width for online text, but it’s somewhere around 60 characters per line.
My column width is about 90 characters (including spaces) – a little bit too wide, perhaps. That’s something I’ll probably get my website designer to adjust.
3.4 Line spacing
Line spacing or line height also has an impact on the ‘scanability’ of your text.
If your lines are too close together, it makes horizontal scanning difficult. But if your lines are too far apart, vertical scanning becomes difficult.
Practical Typography suggests the ideal line height should be somewhere between 120% and 145% of the font size.
3.5 White space
Which is easier to read – the left or the right?
It’s obvious isn’t it?
The page with more white space is way easier to read.
Always break up your text as much as possible, with images, bullet points, shorter paragraphs etc.
4. Use headings to help your readers
When someone arrives on your site, chances are they’re looking for a particular bit of information in your article.
And that’s where headings come in.
Headings make it easy for your reader to find exactly what they’re looking for without having to read the whole blog post.
Headings also break up your text and just make it more digestible.
As a general rule, you need a new heading every 4 to 5 paragraphs.
Here’s another tip for your headings: use sentence case not title case.
- Which of These Headings is Easier to Read?
- Which of these headings is easier to read?
(sentence case is the 2nd example)
5. An image is worth a 1000 words
Images are a must for increasing time on page.
They break up text, they make blog posts brighter and more visually appealing, and they make it easier to understand complex information.
Hubspot recommends using an image every 350 words.
Build Zoom reports that when they added a widget that displays images their time on site increased by a massive 150%!
Worried about the cost of using images in your blog post?
You don’t need to – here are 10 sites that offer images that are either licensed under Creative Commons (you can use them for free since the artist has waived their rights to their work) or are free of copyright restrictions:
- Burst by Shopify
- Free Images
- Free Range Stock
- Negative Space
For more sites that offer free images visit Mashable’s ‘101 places to find amazing, royalty-free images for your business’.
6. Embed videos in your blog post
One of the easiest ways to increase time on page is to embed a video within your blog post.
Whatever the topic of your blog post, just head over to YouTube and type in the main keyword phrase of your blog post. Chances are there’ll be dozens of short videos on that very topic!
Just make sure the video is reputable and that its more than 3 minutes long and less than 10 minutes (too short and the video is not going increase your dwell time, too long and your visitor will not want to invest the time).
Wistia did a study of the effect of videos on ‘dwell time’ or time on page.
They found that the average time spent on pages with video was 7 minutes and 21 seconds whereas the average time spent on pages without video was 2 minutes and 48 seconds.
In other words, people spent on average 2.6x more time on pages with video than without.
If you’re wondering how to embed a video within your blog post, it’s easy!
Once you’ve found the video you want on YouTube, just click on the ‘Share’ icon (bottom right corner):
Then click on the ‘Embed’ option:
Then just copy the iframe code and drop it into a ‘raw html’ field in your WP editor.
ProTip: In the title of the video, include the length of the video in minutes and seconds. It helps your visitor decide if they want to commit to watching it.
Now I’m going to do exactly what I’ve been talking about…
Here’s a video by Neil Patel and Eric Siu titled: ‘A Stupidly Simple Way To Increase Time On Site by 19%’ (3 mins 57 secs)
By the way, this video contains a very cool tip about using the Amazon Polly WP plugin to increase dwell time – don’t miss it!
7. Use internal linking to increase dwell time
Another way to increase time on page is internal linking.
Include links to other articles you’ve written that are related to the topic of your blog post.
When you link to another blog post on your site, make the anchor text the entire title of the blog post, like this: “15 Powerful SEO Hacks For WordPress Sites”
But how will that increase time on page? Doesn’t an internal link take the reader to another page on my website?
And you’re right of course.
But here’s the thing – in assessing time on page, Google measures ‘dwell time’. And ‘dwell time’ is measured as the time between arriving at a page and returning to the SERPs.
So even if your reader gets diverted to another page on your site, it’s still going to increase your ‘dwell time’.
To sum up, here again are the 7 secrets to increasing time on page:
- Create a Powerful Introduction
- Use transitions that pull your reader down the page
- Make It Easy to Read
- Use headings to help your readers
- An image is worth a 1000 words
- Embed videos in your blog post
- Use internal linking to increase dwell time
Use just one of these techniques, starting today, and watch as your web page rises in the SERPs!