Take the 2-minute tour ×
Webmasters Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for pro webmasters. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have the following Custom Report set up in Google Analytics:

Metrics:

  • Avg Time on Page
  • Avg Time on Site

Dimensions:

  • Page

So a report looks like this:

Page                    Avg Time on Page         Avg Time on Site
/an-article             00:03:14                 00:00:11
/another-article        00:05:11                 00:01:07
/something-written      00:03:00                 00:00:31

Why is it that for each 'page', the 'site views' are significantly lower?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Google Analytics counts bounces (where only one page was viewed by the visitor) as having a "time on site" of 0. But it still counts the full time on page for that visit. [Source.]

If a site has lots of bounces – where many people view a single article you've written and then leave, for example – this will skew the average time on site downwards. This makes it possible for "Avg Time on Site" to be lower than "Avg Time on Page".

A simple example

  • 5 visitors spend exactly 5 minutes reading /your-article
  • 4 of them close their tab after reading.
  • 1 of them visits /another-article, spends another 5 minutes reading, then closes the tab.

Average time on page = 5 minutes

Total time spent on page /  number of visitors
   5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5     /         5

Average time on site = 2 minutes

Total time spent on site /  number of visitors
   0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 10    /         5

The key is that the bounced visitors count as 0 towards the total time on site, but as 5 towards the total time on page. Google doesn't discount the zeroes – they still contribute to the average.

(Aside: in my opinion, Google should consider using the time on page as time on site for single-page visits, which might give a better representation of average time on site. In the example above, average time on site would then be 6 minutes, which is the truthful average, bigger than the average time on page, and far less confusing.)

share|improve this answer
    
Reading the page you linked to, it looks like GA calculates time spent on a page/site using the time difference between page views. Single page visits don't have a second timestamp to calculate with (as, technically, GA can only record when a new page is opened, not when the user leaves a page by closing the tab/window), so no time-on-page is recorded. However, GA's definition of time-on-site is $timeOfLastPageView - $timeOfFirstPageView, which equals 0 on single-page visits since the two values are the same. There's no way to use time-on-page as time-on-site for single page visits. –  Lèse majesté Jan 9 '12 at 14:33
1  
To do what you're asking, GA would have to poll the server every few seconds to determine the length of single-page visits. But this would greatly increase bandwidth usage. The other option would be to also remove single-page visits from the time-on-site average. –  Lèse majesté Jan 9 '12 at 14:49
2  
It wouldn't poll the server. If anything it would be hitting the client only, but it wouldn't need to do that either. There's a number of javascript techniques for detecting a browser close or a page unload (window.onbeforeunload for instance) and a simple ajax call could be triggered when that happens. –  Eric Brandel Jan 9 '12 at 17:18
1  
It looks like Lèse might be right. Google has more information about time on page and average time on site. In the second link, they say that there is "no data available to Analytics that indicates when the visitor left". That would make my answer incorrect. If I find a better explanation, I'll revise it. –  Nick Jan 9 '12 at 19:24
1  
See my reply... –  jrosell Aug 11 '13 at 9:42

See how avgTimeOnPage is calculated: https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/reporting/core/dimsmets/pagetracking#ga:avgTimeOnPage

A simple example

  • 5 visitors spend exactly 5 minutes reading /your-article
  • 4 of them close their tab after reading.
  • 1 of them visits /another-article, spends another 5 minutes reading, then closes the tab.

Average time on page = 5 minutes

Total time spent on page / (page views - exits)
5 / (5 - 4)

Average time on site = 1 minute

Total time spent on site / number of visitors
0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 5 / 5

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the link to Google's developer docs. Can you explain your 'average time on site' calculation? Why is the total time on site 5 minutes and not 10 minutes? –  Nick Aug 11 '13 at 9:52
    
Because it counts last "engagement hit" on the last page and the last interaction in the last page if it has not events it will be last page initial visualitzation time. See cutroni.com/blog/2012/02/29/… –  jrosell Aug 12 '13 at 10:29

There is something confusing in your article: here is your example: Average time on page = 5 minutes 5 visitors spend exactly 5 minutes reading /your-article 4 of them close their tab after reading. 1 of them visits /another-article, spends another 5 minutes reading, then closes the tab.

if 4 of them close their tab after reading (bounce), time = 0 minutes and not 5 minutes so the calculation for Average time site or average time page would be (0+0+0+0+5)

share|improve this answer
    
See my reply... –  jrosell Aug 11 '13 at 9:43

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.