LinkedIn’s ranking algorithm update: what you need to know

LinkedIn's latest algorithm update introduces dwell time. What does this means for your posts, and could we see this appearing as a ranking signal for SEO?

Picture of Alex Martin Alex Martin

Published: 28 May 2020

3 minutes read

LinkedIn’s ranking algorithm update: what you need to know

LinkedIn’s latest algorithm update features an interesting new metric that might give us some insight into the changing world of SEO - dwell time. With the update rolling out across the platform as we speak - well, type - it’s important to understand what dwell time is, how it impacts your LinkedIn experience, and ultimately, what it means for the future.

Here’s what you need to know! 

The algorithm 

The LinkedIn algorithm, as with most social media platform algorithms, is based on one key goal - to show you content that interests you, when you want to see it. Using machine learning, the algorithm takes note of the posts that you interact with, and shows these to your audience. Not only that, but it sorts future posts that are similar to the top of your feed, so that you don’t miss out on anything that it thinks you might enjoy. Because of this, posts that you don’t interact with, or that aren’t similar to your usual likes, will be pushed further down the feed. The latest LinkedIn update further improves this, but it also adds an important factor: dwell time. 

But what actually is dwell time? 

The addition of dwell time and what it means 

Previously, if you opened an article and then immediately clicked away from it, it counted as engagement. This raises a few issues - just because you’ve opened an article, doesn’t mean that you enjoyed it. Dwell time measures how long you stay on any given piece of content and ranks based on this. It applies to your feed also - if you stop scrolling to read a post, dwell time ensures that the post gets another point for being useful or interesting to you.

Put simply, it figures out how long you actually spend on a piece of content, and ranks based on this. It’s the difference between clicking an article and immediately exiting, or reading it for 15 minutes. Previously, the algorithm would rank these the same. Now, not so much. 

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Are we going to see dwell time become an SEO factor? 

At the moment, dwell time is not a ranking factor for search engines. However, there is already a buzz that it could become one in the near future, as Google has confirmed that they track it. After all, if someone clicks to your website from the SERPs, and then immediately goes back, then it doesn’t bode well for your site content, and could signal how accurately your content is answering the searchers question. 

It’s not a giant leap to assume that dwell time is going to be important in the future, surpassing the supposed importance of a lower bounce rate (fun fact: also not a ranking factor). Some businesses are making the mistake of thinking that dwell time and bounce rate are roughly the same thing, but this isn’t the case. 

Bounce rate: how many site visitors stay on a page before exiting the website, either to another website, closing the tab, or going back to the search engine. 

Dwell time: how long a visitor stays on a page before going back to the search engines, via the back button. On LinkedIn, this is just back to the main feed. 

The fundamental difference is that dwell time measures how long your reader stayed on the site before thinking ‘nope, go back’, whereas bounce rate measures how many site visitors just closed the tab on you, or opened another site. 

How can I make sure my LinkedIn posts don’t get lost? 

If you want to optimise your content for dwell time, it’s simple - make your content attention grabbing. If you’ve written an article on LinkedIn, you should make your first paragraph snappy and interesting, encouraging the reader to carry on. Likewise, if you’re making shorter posts, increase your dwell time by presenting new information, interesting facts, or even just adding a touch of personality. What makes a good post on social media is subjective, and based on your audience - so if you’re crafting posts with dwell time in mind, be sure to consider your buyer personas when putting posts together. 

This new addition to LinkedIn is sure to change the way that we find and engage with content on the platform - look forward to seeing some changes in what is recommended, and consider how immediately appealing your content is before posting. And who knows - maybe this algorithm update will hit Google soon enough! 

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