Once you have built your website and have it live online you will want to think about attracting and monitoring the visitors to your site on a daily basis. When you start to see a flow of traffic and visitors to your pages it is useful to be able to monitor their activity.
The amount of time your visitors spend on viewing your website can be an indication of how valuable it is to them. Short visits are not so good, longer visits are better. So what is a good average time on site for a visitor?
There are many great tools out there that can help you track and monitor site activity but one of the most useful tools for this is Google Analytics which will help you to determine where your site visitors are coming from, the pages that they are viewing, and how long they are staying on your site pages.
This information is important as it plays into Google’s overall algorithms which then determine how high your page will be ranked in their search engine listings.
Very short site visits and high bounce rates can impact your sites placing in the search results negatively, while long site visits and low bounce rates can have a positive effect.
Which Metrics should you pay attention to?
If you have spent any time using Google Analytics you will know that there is a huge amount of information contained on the tool’s dashboard.
Some of it can look quite confusing to the beginner so it’s worth spending time exploring some of the functionality of the Google Analytics tool until you feel familiar with some of the menu items and can effectively read the data contained within its pages.
Once you have connected Google Analytics to your website you can then begin to monitor and check data and analyze your website visitors’ behavior.
The main metrics that you will want to focus on are:
- Total number of users
- Bounce Rate
- Pages Visited
- Time on Page
- Average Session Duration
- New vs Returning Users
All of these metrics contain a high level of information that will give you insights into your webpages and determine which areas are driving the highest traffic or identify the most popular pages.
To the beginner this can seem like an extraordinary amount of information to decipher, but if you use Google Analytics and become more familiar with the tool many of these items will become self-explanatory.
Here is a brief explanation of each one to help you-
Traffic is the most vital component of the analytics arena. Without any traffic or website visitors, there will be no activity on your pages and no way to determine which parts of your website are resonating most with your visitor.
For this article, we are going to assume that you have a decent amount of traffic to your site. This can be attained from various sources from organic search traffic to social media or advertising click-throughs.
Total Number of Users
This is the number of people visiting your website. Using the parameters and dates on Google Analytics you can set this to view by day, week, month or custom time periods. Viewing over longer periods will provide you with insights into visit fluctuations and trends.
For example, do visits to your site always increase on a Saturday evening or drop off on a Monday morning.
This is the metric that identifies the visitors to your site that have arrived on your page and then immediately left or exited after just a few seconds. This is without visiting any other pages, clicking links, or taking any other kind of measurable action. It is a good indicator of a person’s interest and the perceived value of your website.
This metric is the number of pages that visitors click on and go to while viewing your website. Google Analytics has the ability to track a person’s progress through your site and it registers the number of different pages that they go to. It then stores that number and returns it to you.
Time On Page
This metric is exactly as it sounds, it’s the amount of time spent by each visitor on the page they are currently viewing. Google Analytics will track their time spent on each page and from there you can determine how long each visitor is spending looking at your site.
Average Session Duration
The average session duration is slightly different from the time on page metric which as it simply states, measures visitors’ time on each page. Session duration is the time that is visitor spends on your site from arriving to leaving. This may include visiting several pages, or just visiting one or two pages, but their visit is tracked and timed as a whole from start to finish.
New vs Returning User
While this metric seems perfectly obvious it is quite an important one. A large number of returning users to your website indicates that visitors are finding enough value on your pages to bookmark and come back at a later time.
So now we know what the main metrics are to measure how long our visitors are remaining on our website pages, but how do we get them to stay there in the first place? A number of items can play into user retention such as how fast your site loads or how visually appealing it is.
While there are many factors that can contribute to the length of time that visitors remain on your site they can be broken down into a list of general areas.
Some of the elements that make a visitor remain longer on your website are:
- Aesthetics/look of the site
- Information relevancy
- Free Offers
- Site Speed
- Mobile Optimization
Site speed is a major factor in user retention. Many users will bounce immediately away from a page that takes too long to load.
Free Offers, many site designers and blog managers use free offers to entice users to sign up and return frequently to their website. Prize drawing, giveaways, and free gifts are all effective methods.
Mobile optimization has become increasingly important over the last several years. The majority of website visitors now access pages from mobile devices with around 70% of all visitors viewing your website from their mobile phone.
It is an incredibly large metric so it’s important that your website is fully optimized for mobile viewing or you may risk losing visitors and increasing your bounce rates. This, in turn, will impact your site’s ability to rank highly in search engine results.
Using a blend of these elements will make your site appealing and user-friendly for your visitors and hopefully will encourage people to stay and browse through your content longer. The more visually pleasing your site website is to your target audience will translate directly into the amount of time they spend on your site absorbing and reading information and browsing to other pages.
It means they may also possibly share some of your site information via their own social media channels thus widening your scope. This is retention of visitors is known as ‘engagement’ and engaged users often translate into buyers or site subscribers.
A good example of a well-designed website is Hosting Foundry – they have a simple, clean look with an easy to navigate menu and a minimalistic homepage.
Site Visit Duration
So what does all this mean when it comes to the time each visitor actually spends on your website. Is there a magic number that you should be targeting, a point that you should aim for to try and hold users interest?
A recent extensive study by Brafton examined a number of measurable metrics as they are related to user activity and engagement. The results showed that across ALL website the average site visit time is 2 minutes and 17 seconds.
This number can fluctuate somewhat by business or industry with business to business sites scoring lower at an average of 1 minute and 57 seconds average site visit time.
Blogs fell into their own category and reported somewhat lower on average than business to business or business to consumer website. The average on page time for blog visitors was 1 minute and 20 seconds.
Highest and Lowest Bounce Rates
The study examined bounce rates across many different industries and businesses and revealed some interesting results.
Bounce rates differed greatly by industry and type of site with financial services websites experiencing the lowest bounce rates of 54% and blogs reporting the highest average bounce rates of 76%
Bound rates across all websites scored an average of 58%.
Best Average Site Visit Time
As we have seen the variations of site visit duration may vary by the type of business you are in or the nature of the website. User engagement can vary dramatically based on whether you are running a financial services site or simply a blog about working from home.
So what then is deemed as a ‘good’ duration for a website visit? How can you decide if your site is engaging users effectively and holding their interest?
The information gathered from Brafton and various other sources have rolled up into a generalized benchmark of 2-3 minutes that has permeated the industry at large. This period of time is commonly perceived as being a ‘good’ site visit while allowing for the variances created by different styles and types of sites.
You can use Google Analytics to monitor visits, duration, and bounce rates easily and the information you gained may be used to identify areas for improvement and increase the time that your visitors are spending on your website, but the general rule of thumb is that the longer you can get a visitor to remain on your site, the better.