How does Google Analytics measure time on page? What can you do to gain a more accurate insight into the amount of time people spend when using your website?
In this video, I'm going to talk about the time reports in Google Analytics, both the time that people spent on a page, as well as the session duration, information you can find. Now time is included in lots of different places within Google Analytics. In this example, I'm showing the time on page from the All Pages report.
Now, time is critical to understand your website's user experience, how much time somebody spent on a particular page of our site changes whether or not they read the content on that page, whether or not they interacted with the features that were available on that page. So it's critical to understand the amount of time that people spent. The problem is, with how Google Analytics measures the time, let's talk through two different examples so that way we can really understand what's the problem with the way Google Analytics measures time.
In the first example, let's look at a multi-page visit, somebody who visits one or more pages during a visit to your site. This example person starts out by looking at page A, and they spend about five minutes and 12 seconds on that page before clicking to a second page. They then click over to page B, which is the last page they're going to look at on your website during this session, so it's a two-page session. Now, on page B, this person spends three minutes and 48 seconds, so in total, before leaving, this person spent nine minutes on your website. They were really engaged, they were obviously spending a lot of time on both these pages.
So what is Google Analytics show in the reports? For starters, on page A, Google Analytics shows the same. They show five minutes and 12 seconds, but the only reason Google Analytics knows that is that they track the difference in time between the first interaction and the second interaction. In this case, the first interaction was somebody clicking to page A, and the second interaction was somebody clicking to page B, and so Google Analytics subtracts those two times and says well, the difference is five minutes and 12 seconds. So, what that means is page B, they won't know the time that somebody spent, because there's no interaction after somebody was on page B. They just left the website, they didn't do anything else. There's nothing for Google Analytics to compare against to know how much time people spent there. So this nine-minute session this particular example visitor had on our website will be tracked as though it's five minutes and 12 seconds. That's a pretty big difference in the amount of time somebody spent.
Alright, let's go through another example, and in this case look at a single page visit. This is somebody who only looked at one page of our website. Here again, somebody arrives on our website on page A, but the difference in this example is that person after arriving on page A and spending some time there leaves our website. In this example, just like the last, let's say that person spent five minutes and 12 seconds on page A before leaving. So that's a total session time for this particular visitor of five minutes and 12 seconds. Google Analytics, though, will track this as zero minutes in total. That's because Google Analytics is looking for the difference between the first interaction and the second interaction, but there is no second interaction here because after that first interaction of loading page A, people leave before interacting again.
So what do we do about this? There's a lot of different solutions out there, but the one that we like is to use event tracking. What event tracking lets you do when it comes to time is it lets you measure the exact time that people spent on a particular page of your site, whether that page that the person was on was the last page they looked at, the only page they looked at, or one of many pages that they looked at on your site. Now, I'm not going to go into details about how to set up that event tracking in this video, but if you're curious about how that works, you can check out this other video we did on the user experience events tracking script, which includes a way to measure the time people are spending on your site.
If you have other questions about Google Analytics or need help figuring out anything else in an analytics report, please contact us below. We're always here to help.