Web metrics: Average Time on Site: The Longer The Better?

Sorry to hear that your viewers stay on your website so long!

Web usability | Viewer's longer stay - not always a good thing

The story

A marketing/web coordinator has just finished his first web traffic analysis and report, and he is very pleased with the company website performance / web metrics in the last few months. The best item of all he thinks is the “Average time on site” item — telling him how long on average his viewers stay on the site. It’s about 5 minutes, so people must find his company website interesting and stay long to find more information.

The twist

Well, another fictitious but not so fictitious story. Usually longer average time on site means that your site has very good content, and people have spent time reading the content and exploring more about your site. If longer average time on site goes together with higher conversion rate – more orders and product requests received, and higher loyalty rate – more repeat viewers/customers, then your site is likely in a good shape. However, if you don’t see any increase in the other figures, it’s highly possible that your viewers just get LOST on the site! They have to stay long because they can’t get to the needed content fast enough. If so, your site has serious issues with its simplicity, its information architecture, its search function, its user-friendliness and its overall usability.

Of course, we’re kind of a gray area here. Sometimes, making viewers wander around on your site is a good thing because they may buy things that they didn’t plan to, or they can unexpectedly learn more about your site and may decide to come back later. However, if either or both the conversion rate and the loyalty rate has not increased, you need to have a closer look at the figures again. Your web performance may not be so good as you have thought in the first place.

Further notes about web metrics terms used above

Conversion: A conversion occurs when a user [more exactly a prospective customer] takes the marketer’s intended action. For most websites, a user converts if they click on a registration link, subscribe to a feed, download a file, or buy a product or service. Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who convert out of the total number of visitors. Conversion rate should be tracked and analyzed in the periodical web metrics / web performance report. It’s also advised to track and analyze conversion rate for each online marketing campaign, e-mail campaign blast to measure the effectiveness of the individual campaign.

Average time on site: In general, we usually assume that the more time users spend on our sites, the more engaged they’re with our content. However, how can we differentiate users who are really interested in our content and those who stay long due to poor site architecture, or those who visit and leave the browser windows open? We can’t! Web metrics tools, no matter how sophisticated, can hardly make any distinction in this case. Thus, my last word is Average time on site is an important metrics, but be aware of the things mentioned above and use it as one of many metrics in your site analysis.

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