User sessions. One of those sections in your Google Analytics dashboard that you have always found a bit obscure and difficult to comprehend. After all, what does it mean? What useful information does it possess?
Look at it this way. Each unique user can have multiple sessions on your website - even during the same day.
When a user visits your website, analytics platforms such as Google Analytics, Benne Analytics etc. consider it a session initiated by that user. Every action the user takes after that, every page he visits, goal he completes, engagement he makes etc. is considered a part of that session. But, if the same user remains inactive on your website for more than 30 minutes, the analytics platform considers the current active session terminated. So, if the user visits your website again, after say a 30 minute lunch break, your analytics platform will consider this visit a new session. So while the unique visitor count won’t change, the number of sessions on your website will.
So far, in this series, we have talked about a bunch of different parameters that can give you a better understanding of the performance of your content.
Today, let’s look at some session specific metrics.
To avoid any confusion, let me make it clear. Session specific metrics are not special in any way in how you will be accessing them in your analytics dashboard, or how you should be measuring them. They are just like any other metrics, and do not require you to do any additional configuration. It’s just that I thought it would be better to club them together and talk about them in one ‘session’. ;-)
#1. Average time on page
You are probably already familiar with a dashboard screen that looks like this.
It is a broad overview of your website’s traffic stats. The one at the bottom - average time on site - is, as you can guess, the average amount of time a user spends on your website.
This stat is session specific.
But, how do you know which pages are the users spending more time on? Are they going through the pricing page? Which blog articles are they spending the most time on?
Average time on site won’t answer any of those questions. But, time on page can.
This will help you determine whether your visitors are spending time reading the content on your page, or if they are just skimming through it. While it is not such a critical metric for your marketing website or an illustrative landing page, it becomes absolutely crucial when you are trying to understand visitor engagement on your blog posts and articles.
Identifying the best performing and worst performing articles on your blog with respect to average time spent on those articles will help you gain perspective on the ideal format, structure, length and content variety for your blog.
You can look at this view, in detail - for all pages on your website - in the section Behavior → Site content → All Pages
If you are just looking for an overview for your entire site and not looking for page specific info, head over to Audience → Overview
How Benne Analytics helps you process avg. time on page better: As we have seen with the previous metrics, our system tries to do a lot of heavy lifting on your behalf so that you are presented with the simplest view of the dashboard, but at the same time, all meaningful insights from your analytics data are available to you via our insights reports.
In this particular case, the time spent on your pages helps you perform a somewhat accurate audit of the engagement level of your web content. And to make that more meaningful, our system analyses it in combination with another important attribute - scroll depth. Time on page, when used in combination with scroll depth, helps you understand the perceived value of your content as well as if you are able to pass on that value in the right way.
Let’s take a simple example. If a user spends less time on a particular blog post, but has gone through the whole post (scrolled all the way down), it is an indicator of the fact that while the content was deemed valuable, it was probably longer than the user wanted it to be so he skimmed through the content to just retain the valuable bits from it. In such a case, I would personally consider making a series of tweets, or a twitter thread highlighting the important bits from my article. Since the content is found valuable by my audience, there is a high probability of that thread resonating with them as well, have relatively higher engagement, and even lead traffic back to my blog post, and even the product page.
There are many such probable scenarios our insights module considers and analyses while it is computing behavioral trends for the performance of your content.
Oh. And before we move on to the next item on the list, there is something you should be aware of about how Google Analytics and many other analytics tools measure time on site.
The average time on site or the average time on page that you see in your Google Analytics dashboard isn’t accurate.
Shocked, aren’t you? But it’s true. Whatever time a user spends on the last page of his visit/session, Google Analytics does not record it, and counts it as zero. So, if a thousand visitors leave your website after visiting a single page, Google Analytics will record the total time spent by all those users as a big fat zero. Average session duration for these thousand users? Another big fat zero. Since these users visited only one page, so the only page they visited is their last page, and as I said - Google Analytics considers the time spent on your last page as zero. Not cool, right? Not cool at all.
Why does this happen?
The way Google Analytics measures time spent by a user on any page on your site is by calculating difference in the time the user entered that page, and the time he entered another page. So, since there is no “another page” for the last page the user visits, Google Analytics just marks it as zero. It could very well be 10 mins, but well - you’ll never know.
But, if you are using Benne Analytics, you’ll know exactly how long a user has been on any page - even if they visit only one page on your site.
How do we, at Benne Analytics, do it?
We measure the actual time a user spends on any page on your website. Our time spent tracking is capable to only record the time spent when the user is on your website. This means, that if the user has your website open in another tab in the background, that won’t add to the time on page. So what you see in your metrics and dashboard is free of any corrupt data or incorrect measurement.
So, unlike Google Analytics that calculates duration based on when a user navigated to a different page on your website, Benne Analytics calculates duration whenever a user:
- navigates to a different page on your website (what Google Analytics also does)
- switches to another tab in his browser (Google Analytics doesn’t do that)
- closes the tab on which your website was open (Google Analytics doesn’t do that)
#2. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is a single page session. A user comes onto your website, and then leaves without visiting any other page. We have talked about bounce rate in past on how you should look at Bounce Rates, and why you should take the intelligence offered by Bounce Rate numbers with a pinch of salt.
But, as we have discussed today, we have more problems than we ever anticipated.
Remember, when a user is bouncing off, Google Analytics is treating the time spent by that user on your site as Zero Hours, Zero Minutes and Zero Seconds. Same for the session duration that was triggered by the visit. That’s absurd. In the dashboard overview snapshot we posted earlier in this story, the bounce rate was 47.74%. For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider it an even 50%. That means, that for one out of every two visits to the site, Google Analytics is considering the time spent by a visitor as Zero. You can understand how badly that corrupts any insights you can get from your data when it is so much misrepresented.
As we discussed in our previous story on Bounce Rates, some bounces are to be expected and it’s perfectly alright. Think of you wanting to check on the pricing for Benne Analytics. So, you search for “Benne Analytics pricing”, the relevant page pops up in Google, you visit that page, and then you’ll leave. You have the information you were looking for, after all. The same principle applies for the stories on our blog. Each piece touches on a particular subject. If a visitor is interested in just that, and the story does a good job of addressing the issue, in many cases, there would probably be no need for them to navigate any further. Bottom line, not all bounces are evil. Context in which you analyze those bounces is important to objectively pass judgements on bounce rate trend lines.
Checking Bounce Rates in Google Analytics: If you are looking for a blended view for your whole site, head over to Audience → Overview → Bounce Rate
If you are looking for bounce rate of specific pages, check out Behavior → All Pages
How Benne Analytics reports Bounce Rates: Much like Google Analytics, your primary dashboard will have a blended bounce rate figure for you when you log on to your account.
At the same time, the system constantly analyzes the bounce rates for different pages on your website. So, if there are specific pages witnessing exceptionally high or low bounce rates as compared to your other pages, it makes a note of it and highlights it for you. This is extremely helpful when you are trying to understand how your landing pages are performing and how can you get them to work better.
Similarly, if there is a page on your website that has suddenly started witnessing bounce rates not in line with its historical data, the system will flag it to you so that you can try figuring out what suddenly started going wrong with that page.
#3. Pageviews or Pages per session
Consider this whole series. I believe throughout this series, while you would get an idea of how you can use even Google Analytics to monitor content performance, you would also have gotten an idea of how Benne Analytics makes the whole process much simpler, better and more impactful. It is natural that this would lead to some level of intrigue and more visitors to this series would want to check out more about our product.
That is what pageviews or pages per session tells you. It helps you understand the average number of pages viewed during a session. It helps you understand if your content is engaging enough to elicit more responses and engagement from a user. And also, if it is organized well enough to guide users on the right path.
Why you don’t see pages/session in Benne Analytics: While this is a decent indicator of audience engagement, it just reports a number and does not provide much context around it. So, we choose to measure and analyze engagement and audience interest in other ways, some of which you have been witnessing throughout this series, as well as in many of our previous stories.
With that, I will wrap it up for today, and pick it back up tomorrow to look at different traffic sources, and how you can look at it to evaluate the performance of your content.
How do you feel about this series? What topics would you like us to address in future? Let me know how we can simplify your quest for growth, and I’ll see to it that you have constant access to detailed, value-filled content.
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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