What Does Time on Site in Google Analytics Mean?

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Time on Site as a Content Marketing KPI

Content Marketers are often overwhelmed by the Google Analytics metrics such as Time on Site / Page, Average Session Duration and Bounce Rate. Because the value differences between these metrics often don’t make sense.

So, you’ll see cases of Time on Page being satisfactory, yet with high bounce rates and short average sessions.

Thing is, just looking at these metrics with the standard Google Analytics tracking code implemented, won’t give you the real picture of your readers behaviour. Because behavioural Google Analytics metrics are often too tech focused and don’t take into account other natural user behaviour variables.

So, what better options do you choose to track the success of your content marketing efforts, (instead of Time on Page and co)?

Implementing advanced analytics strategies

If you’re lucky to have an awesome SEO or Analytics specialist, you can try playing around with some advanced Google Analytics features.

Adjusting the Google Analytics tracking code

Basically, you need to add a line of code to your Google Analytics tracking code script, which will trigger an event which directly affects the bounce rate.

There’s a great guide on how to implement the timing engagement event into your tracking code to adjust the bounce rate by Will Fleiss on Outbrain. 

Page Visibility and User Timings API

This is a more complex solution, so you’ll need to either get your hands dirty with some coding or if you’re lucky to have a coding wiz on your team then you should be good to go.

What you will be doing is again, adjusting the script code using the Google Tag Manager and implementing custom metrics such as page visibility (is the page/tab visible or hidden) and user timing hits to get real time on page.

I highly recommend getting more familiar with the User Timing API for real Time on Page before getting down to doing it yourself.

Better ways to track content engagement than Time on Page

What if all of the above mentioned methods are inefficient, time consuming and still don’t give you the results you’re expecting?

If you ask me, as a content marketer, I’m always more focused on optimizing my content for reader consumption and engagement. The Time on Site /Page is the last place I look at if I want to see if my readers are enjoying my content.

Once your content is optimized, the easiest route to take in order to track content engagement is to look at simple metrics such as; social shares, conversions, and return visits.

In fact, these things should be plain obvious. If they like your content, they’ll either share it, or they’ll continue further down the funnel, or they will just keep coming back for more. 

So why complicate? 


As well as in Google Analytics, you can track your shares through social media channels. Shares will show you; how shareable your content is, if your readers are enjoying it, and what channels your content is being shared to the most (a great insight for knowing your fans better).

Conversions using CTA’s

Integrating CTA’s and ads throughout your content gives you way more opportunity to get your offers viewed and clicked through. In fact, eyetracking tests show that ads integrated throughout your content are viewed by 451% more people than the ads in common page locations. 

If your CTA’s are converting, then you’re on the right track with your content.

If conversions stay low; you either need to optimize your content better for engagement or you need to test and tweak your CTA’s.

Return visits

This is by far the most obvious one. If you’re getting return visitors, you’re probably doing something right. If return visits are low, or heaven forbid none, your content sucks…

You can fix this by looking at the pieces of content that are performing the best in these 3 metrics, and doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t!

Should you use Time on Site as a Content Engagement KPI?

If you’re worried that Time on Site is affecting your Google Ranking, then you should go for the advanced Google Analytics options and start adjusting your tracking script accordingly.

However, keep in mind that this theory still remains debatable. you can begin by reading about Google Panda



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