Google Analytics has a metric called “average session duration.” Other web analytics software packages have similar measures. They track how long visitors spend on your website in minutes and seconds.
But why does it matter?
It’s a measure of engagement. Lengthier visits indicate greater interest in your website’s content. It means people are finding answers to their questions. If not, they’d be gone in a mouse click.
Of course, you care about visitor engagement. The more they dive into your content, the more likely they are to get to know, like, and trust your firm. But did you know the time spent on your site is also important to Google and other search engines?
In fact, session duration is one of the key factors search engines use to determine which sites climb in their rankings. It’s self-serving. Google’s success as a search engine depends on its ability to direct traffic to websites that meet users’ needs.
Let’s suppose someone clicks on a link that shows up prominently in Google’s search results. The individual goes to a web page, takes a quick look, and bounces off in a couple of seconds. That’s a sign that Google failed. But when users linger longer on a website, it’s an indication that the search engines have attained their goal.
Obtaining Meaning from Your Data
It’s great to track the average time spent on your website, but how do you gauge success? You can work to increase engagement and the time spent, but what should you aim to achieve? For professional service firms, we like to see average visits of at least two minutes.
When looking at your metrics, don’t panic if you’re not close to that. You might have dirty data that’s depressing the average site-visit time. If you have a lot of traffic with many visitors spending a second or less on your site, you may have spam apps (bots) crawling your site. It’s all a ploy for attention. The companies that create these bots figure if their names appear prominently in your web stats, you’ll notice them.
Is your site suffering a spam attack? If so, to get an accurate indication of your web traffic, you need to block the spam apps from your website. When you do this, make sure you do not block any relevant sites that could be boosting your prominence in the search engines. Hint: spam often has random names that usually include things like “SEO” or “traffic” in their URLs.
How to Increase Time Spent on Your Site
So how do you dial up the time visitors spend on your site?
Assess your firm’s website structure. Is the overall navigation clear and consistent? Visitors should not feel like they are on a hunt for information. They should be able to find the information they need intuitively.
Check for readability. Your content should be easy to scan. So, don’t skimp on font size and white space. Organize your written content into bite-sized chunks, and break it up with bolded headers and bullet points.
Now, take a look at how people are moving through your site today. Often, they’ll start at your home page. But sometimes you’ll discover hidden gems among your blog posts that visitors are pausing to review.
Focus on these high-engagement web pages and blog posts. Is there anything you can add to them that would offer visitors more valuable information and lead them deeper into your site? Perhaps you can link to other blog posts that explore in-depth issues touched upon in the initial page.
Also, consider adding videos. When people watch videos, it engages both their visual and audio senses, keeping them interested for a longer period of time. If you create videos that are relevant, entertaining and to the point, visitors are likely to stick around.
Finally, your website is not a brochure that you create once a year. You need to feed it continually with fresh content that keeps visitors coming back and makes the search engines take notice. Increasing the amount of fresh content you offer helps your potential clients to find you and encourages them to stay for a while.
So, think big. While you can measure the time users spend on your site, your real goal is increased visitor engagement. Achieving it will boost your search engine rankings and your marketing results.
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