If you have been checking your Google Analytics lately, and noticed an odd trend of seemingly low time spent on your pages, don’t panic just yet. The problem may in fact not have to do with the content of your pages. After all, people want to read what you have to say, right? The issue is actually the system in place for tracking average time on page of your website. Here is how it works –
1. Timestamps – Google calculates the time spent on each page of a site with what they call a timestamp – a sort of stopwatch, clocking the time from initial page load, until entry into another page, at which time a new stamp is created.
2. The Formula – Say you load page “A” – at which time Google stamps a time of 00:00. The content you are reading on page “A” is fascinating enough to leave you gazing and reading for 30 seconds. Now, you see a link to page “B” that you think looks even more interesting. When you click the link to that page, Google starts a new timestamp, at a starting time of 30 seconds – the time you spent on page “A.”
3. The Disconnect – Here is where Google leaves us wondering – and leaves you frustrated at low page times. Let’s say you remain on page “A” for 25 minutes, gazing and reading that amazing content you love so much. But now, instead of linking to page “B,” you exit the site. Google has no timestamp for this fairly common occurrence. It has no way of knowing how long you spent viewing page “A.” Remember, the timestamp on page “A” begins at 00:00 and the time spent on that page is the starting point for the timestamp on page “B.” If there is no page “B”…there is no timestamp available.
How Google Does It
Google does attempt to account for pages that have no secondary timestamp. The calculation Google applies subtracts the number of page exits. So, what you are left with to calculate average time on page is this – Average Time on Page = Total Time on Page ÷ (Pageviews – Exits)
Even accounting for exits does not completely resolve the issue. Sites that yield a high number of bounces (someone enters the site, reads something, and immediately leaves) still are missing a large piece of time on page statistics.
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