What is the dwell time or time on site?

Dwell time is a metric that is used by Analytics packages to show how long visitors spend looking at a website. The dwell time can be calculated for a single page (time on page), for all of a website’s URLs (time on site) or as an average length of all of the sessions on a website.

What is the dwell time?

In essence, dwell time is intended to show how long site visitors have used individual pages or stayed on the website as a whole.

This data is collected by most Analytics packages, such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Etracker and Motomo. It is worth learning more about the data collection method followed by your Analytics program, as different Analytics packages use different methods to gather this information.

For the purposes of this article, we will follow the methods used by Google Analytics.

What is the difference between time on page, time on site and average session duration?

Time on page can generally be distinguished between the time spent on a specific page, the time spent on the website and the average time that visitors spend on different pages on the website (sessions).

How is the average dwell time of a URL (time on page) calculated?

When calculating the average time on page of a URL, all of the time on page values that were recorded for the specific URL are added up and divided by the number of sessions.

The value therefore indicates how long visitors spent, on average, on this one URL.

How is the average dwell time of all URLs (time on site) calculated?

In order to calculate the time that visitors spent, on average, on all of a website’s URLs, the time on page value of all individual URLs is added up and divided by the number of URLs.

How is the Average Session Duration calculated?

In order to calculate the average session duration, you need to divide the sum of all users’ sessions in seconds by the total number of sessions.

Google has presented the method of calculating the average session duration with a few examples.

How can the average time on page be interpreted?

In general, it is desirable to increase the length of time that visitors spend on your website. In many cases, an increase in dwell time indicates that the website is appealing to visitors and is sufficiently interesting for them to continue browsing.

However, this is always the case and there are instances, as with bounce rate, in which a long dwell time can be counterproductive and even serve as an indication that there are problems with the pages on the site.

Let’s say that we are looking at the time on page for a museum’s URL, which displays the opening hours. The purpose of such a page should be to let the visitor know when the museum is open – no more and no less.

In the best case, this information is directly available, recognisable and does not need to be searched for. If this is the case, I can expect this page to have a very low average dwell time, which makes perfect sense. A high dwell time on this page would indicate that the key information, the opening hours, is either not clearly visible or hidden from view.


Dwell time can give a webmaster interesting insights into whether visitors are interacting with web pages in the way that webmasters intended. However, this value should never be viewed in isolation. Please always consider the dwell time in relation to other metrics, as well as the question of what a visitor should actually see and do on the page in question.

Steve Paine