By Martin Edwards
National Sales Manager, Virtually There Co
Google keeps its cards close to its chest regarding its SEO strategies. Therefore, it’s difficult to assess how important dwell time affects search ranking. However, recent evidence has emerged that suggests dwell time is becoming an important consideration, making 360º virtual tours a critical element for improving search engine results.
1. Dwell time – the time a user spends on a website before returning to the search results – an important metric for user engagement.
2. Bounce rate – the percentage of visitors to a website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page and not clicking on any links.
3. Session duration – the total time a user spends on a website during a single session.
Most experts agree that session duration and bounce rate are significant ranking factors in search results. However, it now looks that there’s a specific correlation between higher dwell time and higher search rankings.
In 2020, at the Think Auto Google Event in Toronto, the head of Google Brain indicated they were integrating machine learning into figuring out the relevance of dwell time. This was being achieved by training AI models to record someone clicking on a page and staying there, and when they go back.
Then, Larry Kim, CEO and founder of Mobile Monkey, ran experiments to prove the importance of dwell time.
His conclusion was that Google’s machine learning algorithms have seen through all those pages that ranked well in 2015, but now didn’t deserve that status after introducing dwell time as a ranking signal.
Inline frames, or iframes, as they are better known, are a way to embed content from another website into a page on your own site. They are ideal for videos and other media – but they can also be used to embed 360º virtual tours.
360º tours are highly engaging and therefore increase click rate by a significant amount. However, in the past, the accepted wisdom was that iframes contributed to the search ranking score of the original host of the media being presented – and not the website showing the media. Therefore, all SEO benefit was thought lost.
Recent evidence has emerged that now challenges that view.
Bastian Grimm, an SEO expert, conducted a study and concluded that information embedded in iframes was showing up in search results on behalf of the presenting website – and not the information’s host.
You can dive deeper into Bastian Grimm’s study and the use of iframes in SEO in his article on the topic.
Using iframes to embed 360º virtual tours on a website can positively impact search rankings through increased dwell time and user engagement. It appears that Google will continue to use machine learning to evaluate user experience. Businesses need to focus their efforts on enhancing the experience of website visitors in order to increase dwell time. 360º virtual tours are an excellent way of achieving this goal and should be an essential part of any SEO plan.