Engagement and SEO
How is a Starbuck’s Design Similar to Website Design?
I live a 2 minute walk from the largest Starbucks in the world. They built it just two years ago in Chicago in 2019, and I’ve only been a handful of times.
It’s stunningly beautiful, all glass on the inside and outside except for a few supporting beams.
There are four different levels, each one with a different array of fanciful gourmet food, pastries, and any type of coffee you can think of. It even includes a full bar on the fourth floor and a roof-deck you can make reservations to eat on.
The building is stunning inside and out, and working on my laptop next to the full length windows makes me feel expansive and content. The food is incredible, but definitely over-priced, even compared to a regular Starbucks.
The only thing it doesn’t include is computer wall plugs. There are no plugs anywhere. In the entire four story building.
The first time I visited this surprised me. Don’t *all Starbucks* have wall plugs?
Nope. Not the biggest Starbucks in the entire world. This is not by mistake or some overlook mind you. This is very intentional.
I’ve seen a line of a hundred people out of it at times. So naturally they want to keep it moving. No encouraging hanging around plugging your computer into the wall all day.
Normal Starbucks don’t mind having plugs because they get a bit more business from remote workers who want to come work for the day, plug their computer in and buy a few things at the same time.
The largest Starbucks in the world, however, doesn’t want its thousands of visitors hanging around all day. So they don’t encourage that by having plugs in the walls.
Personally, I actually like this, because I have found my computer battery life matches my will to work life. So I go in with it fully charged, work for 4 or so hours, then leave, take a break, and finish my work day somewhere else.
Does Time on Site Impact SEO?
The point is, you can encourage people to hang around or leave more quickly with your website design, just like you can with a Starbucks building design.
There is debate how Google specifically measure site engagement and uses it as a ranking factor and SEO signal, however I have seen in personal experience that time on site and engagement are most definitely SEO ranking factors.
When a page has a long time on site, this is the type of page that usually has a chance to rank. I’ve had pages ranking for a keyword that have had less than a 30 second time on site, and they usually drop off the first page within a week or two.
Google senses the visitor is not getting value from the page, so they stop ranking it.
It’s the same when people click into a page, and it clearly doesn’t match their intent, so they quickly go back and find another page.
I’ve also found sometimes a page will rank for something that clearly doesn’t match the intent of the query. Then, usually pretty quickly, it will stop ranking.
To me these all signal that Google is pretty clearly looking at engagement and time on site when they rank pages.
Encourage People to Stay with Website Design
With your website, you want to be the opposite of the world’s largest Starbucks. You want to be like the regular neighborhood Starbucks. You want to have plugs in your walls so people come and stay for a while.
When your visitors hit out of a website too fast, that’s a sign to search engines that your site isn’t worth visiting, so it also must not be worth ranking.
You need to make your site with ‘plugs on the walls’, so visitors will want to stay and engage, if you want your site to rank.
When you give them interesting content and reasons to stay, you’ll be able to build a loyal following, and content that ranks better in Google.
How to Run a Dwell Time SEO Report
You can check if dwell time and time on site are correlated with your own site rankings.
There’s a great Analytics report you can run to look at average time on site and ranking for your own websites, to see if this is true for you. It’s kind of fun to do, and I ran it on the Her.CEO site the other day.
It held true to my theory and personal experience that time on site contributes to ranking.
I found the report here on WordStream.com, you can take a look and run it on your own sites too.
The article shows you a picture that makes it clear how to run the report, and here are the specific steps:
1) Pick a time frame before the new algorithms were in play (i.e., 2015).
2) Segment your content report to view only your organic traffic, and then sort by pageviews.
3) Then you want to run a Comparison Analysis that compares your pageviews to average time on page.
The point is, does your website have plugs in the walls? If not, maybe consider adding some, unless it is already the world’s biggest website and you don’t care about getting any more traffic.
Have you seen time on site contribute to ranking on your own sites? Either way comment below as I’d be interested to know.