Earlier in May 2020 I embedded the Google Analytics code through Google Tag Manager. Tracking seems to be fine, but after implementing that I see a weird pattern on the blog of the website. Blogs posts that showed few hundred page views within a short time with average time on page 2:00 to 3:00 minutes suddenly dropped after the change. Now the same blog posts show <00:00:01 average time on page, even with a few hundred page views with in few months.

How did moving Google Analytics to GTM affect this? Could I do something to help fix the issue?


It sounds like when you moved to a GTM implementation some of your tracking was not transferred.

GA will only record a nonzero time on page if some tracked action happens after the pageview - another pageview, an event, a hit of some kind. It is the difference between the times of the two hits that tells it time on page and then session duration. Blog posts often are the only pageview of their session because people come in from a link, read the post, and then leave again.

Since the change in average time on page happened quickly at the time of the reimplementation, that is what I would look for: an event tracking a common user interaction on blog pages or firing at a certain scroll depth, which was set up in the previous implementation but is not in GTM.

  • Thank you. I am looking into adding another event after a user lands on the blog post but we didn't have that set up earlier and the average time on the page was significantly high. Those same blog posts which have a good amount of traffic every month, started showing <00:00:01 after the change, which is a bit concerning. Nothing else has changed however.
    – Neha Patel
    Sep 16 '20 at 18:43
  • I looked at a lot of guides but I followed this one to make the switch from hardcoded GA to GTM. upbuild.io/blog/… After experiencing the issue of the average page on time I removed the exception added to the tag yesterday and I can't conclude if it worked just by seeing the average time on page just after 2 days, but looks like it doesn't show <00:00:01 anymore.
    – Neha Patel
    Sep 16 '20 at 18:48
  • Very interesting - that's a clever approach. Perhaps it was giving false positives, though, and keeping your tags from firing somewhere they should have been.
    – Reve
    Sep 16 '20 at 18:58

Google has no idea how long a user spends on a page, unless GA sends another event after the page load. As a result, it's very hard to really know how long a user spends on your pages without intentionally triggering additional events besides page load that send data to GA.

For a better idea of how long a user spends on your pages, you may want to consider a timing event, like an event at 30 seconds, or a scroll event. There are many examples you can Google for, but here's a sample: https://analytical42.com/2016/track-real-time-on-page/

  • Thank you for the response, I will take a look at the link you sent
    – Neha Patel
    Sep 17 '20 at 20:11

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