Time on Site

One of the metrics you can follow in Google Analytics is the amount of time visitors spend on a page at your website: time on site. 

What can you do with that information, though? How can you tell what’s good, whether it’s improving,  and what you should do about it? Read on and we’ll show you with data from our lab site, FreshPlans. It’s a resource for K-12 teachers. We share the analytics data from this site with you — that’s one of the reasons we have the site. 

The screenshot below shows that visitors to our lab site spend just under one minute on average.

This can be disheartening for website owners. Less than a minute to explore your beautifully crafted website?!

Take a beat, though, because it’s not that simple. 

The average session duration is the average amount of time of all visits. That includes 

  • People coming to your website to get your phone number or hours.
  • People dropping by to recheck information they’ve already explored.
  • People downloading a resource they already knew about.
  • Visitors looking to see if you have any new posts.
  • People who wanted something different from what you have to offer. 

The last one on the list is something you need to fix. The rest are not. 

What’s an average?

The screenshot below shows the average length of time visitors spend on multiple pages at the same website. You’ll notice that all these averages are much longer than the not-quite-a-minute shown above, even though it is from the same set of data on the same day. 

Some pages have an average time on page of more than five minutes. 

GA4 provides similar information.

They also track events automatically. 

Less is sometimes more

Why do people spend more time at one site than at another? You may assume that visitors who stay longer are more engaged, and that is often true. But it’s not that simple.

If your website earns money by keeping people on site longer, making sure that eyeballs see your ads, then time on site is always a good thing. This is why platforms like Instagram and TikTok use algorithms that keep people scrolling and watching as long as possible.

That may not be your business model. If you have an ordinary online or physical world business providing goods and services to people, your needs are different. Some of the things that might keep people at your website for a longer time will not support your organization. 

You want your patients to be able to find the information they need — such as the patient portal link or the map to your clinic — quickly without having to click around too much. Efficient access to these things could reduce your average time on site, but it’s a good thing. 

You also want people to find your longer content engaging and useful. That will keep people on the site longer. The context matters. 

Context matters

In fact, this is the main takeaway when you look at this issue. In developing and implementing your online strategy, you need to look more deeply at most metrics. If you need help recognizing the actionable parts of your analytics report and determining what actions you should take, consider a custom SEO Strategy Document.

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