Google Analytic’s Average Session Duration

by Quietly Team

Google Analytic’s Average Session Duration

What is average session duration? Why does it matter? And what does it mean for your site? We address these and more below, so if you have questions about average session duration, read on.

What Is Average Session Duration?

According to Google, average session duration is calculated by dividing the total duration of all sessions (in seconds) by the number of sessions. Basically, it measures how long users spend interacting with your site (on average) before exiting. While that may sound fairly straightforward, there are a lot of layers that can affect how this metric is calculated and how it can be interpreted.

To illustrate how session duration is calculated, here’s a simple example:

  • A user lands on a page on your site at 12:00pm.
  • The user reads through the page, and clicks to a second page at 12:05pm.
  • The user exits your site after clicking through to the second page.
  • In this instance, session duration would be calculated as 12:00pm–12:05pm = 5 minutes.

Here, the time on the second page is not added to the calculation, because it is the last page of the session, which is not counted in avg. session duration.

If you have Google Analytics events set up, this adds a layer of complexity to your avg. session duration. For example, if someone clicks a link or plays a video (an “interaction event”), then an engagement hit will be registered, and the timestamp for when that engagement is fired will affect the session duration.

Interaction events are user engagements with your content that can be tracked independently from a web page or a screen load. For example, you can track actions like downloads, link clicks, and video plays as events. Note that you need to add event tracking code to your site in order for these events to affect metrics and reports in Analytics.

Here’s an example of how your session duration will be calculated if you have “video plays” set up as an event:

  • A user lands on a page on your site at 12:00pm.
  • The user reads through the page, and clicks to a second page at 12:05pm.
  • The user watches a video on the second page at 12:07pm, and then exits the site.
  • In this instance, session duration would be calculated as 12:00pm–12:07pm = 7 minutes.

As you can see, the session duration is calculated as longer in this scenario, because events are set up to track how users interact with the content on a page.

 

Keep track of your blog’s average session duration with Quietly Insights.

Factors to Consider

Avg. session duration doesn’t indicate how long a user spent consuming content on a single page. For instance, if a user only visits one page on your site (a bounced visit), but spends five minutes on the page, the session duration will be calculated as 0:00. Even though the user may have been highly engaged with that page, the session duration does not reflect this.

Avg. session duration doesn’t necessarily indicate the total length of time a user spent on your site during their visit. This is because the time spent on the last page of the session is typically not factored into the session duration calculation.

Here’s another example:

  • A user lands on page one at 12:00pm.
  • The user navigates to page two at 12:05pm.
  • The user spends five more minutes on page two and then exits at 12:10pm.
  • The session duration will still only be calculated as five minutes.

Since the time spent on the last page of the visit isn’t factored into the calculation, the session duration is exactly the same as if they had exited the last page immediately.

Why Does Average Session Duration Matter?

Measuring your site’s avg. session duration is a way of assessing how engaging your content is, and whether or not it’s effective at driving users to explore your site. It’s also a straightforward way to assess how engaged your users really are. The goal is to encourage users to move further down the content funnel, and measuring avg. session duration can help you better understand whether your site is doing this.

What Does It Mean If Your Average Session Duration Is Low?

A low avg. session duration could indicate that your content isn’t resonating with your audience, or that your site isn’t effectively delivering the information your users are looking for.

Here are some possible causes of a low avg. session duration:

  • A poor site design.
    • If a user is unable to easily locate the information they’re looking for, or if a page is loading too slowly, they will immediately bounce from your site, which will reduce session duration.
  • A poor call to action (CTA) strategy.
    • If you don’t have compelling or noticeable CTAs, users may not click through to another page. To keep your avg. session duration high, invite users to continue moving through your site by linking internally and curating related “next-step” posts.

The avg. session duration of your site affects search engine optimization (SEO). Search engine algorithms look at the amount of time users spend on a site (along with other metrics such as bounce rate) to determine whether users are getting value from a site or page. If a site is deemed valuable based on how users are interacting with it, then SEO will improve. SEO is vital for getting visibility on your site—when was the last time you clicked “page 2” in Google search results?

It is important to note that there’s no “optimal” session duration for a site.This metric can vary depending on the industry and purpose of the site—and search engines like Google do factor that in when ranking pages.

Is a Low Average Session Duration Always a Bad Thing?

For many sites, having a low avg. session duration is unfavorable—but it may not be, depending on your goals for the site.

If you expect users to visit multiple pages on your site (for example, to move from the homepage to a product page), then a low session duration may be a negative thing.

On the other hand, if you expect users to find what they’re looking for on the first page and then exit your site, a low session duration is not necessarily a problem.

The Bottom Line

Average session duration is directly related to several significant metrics, such as bounce rate and pages visited per session. When avg. session duration is low, bounce rates tend to be high, and pages visited per session tend to be low—all of which could be signs that you need to make some changes to engage your readers. Understanding what avg. session duration is and how it’s calculated will help provide additional context on these metrics.

Don’t analyze the avg. session duration for your site in a vacuum. Consider the nature of your site and what you actually want your users to do. A solid understanding of how session duration is calculated and affected by other metrics will help you build a good strategy for getting your stats where you want them.

If you’re unsure about your site’s SEO, or CTA strategy, taking a look at your site’s avg. session duration is a great place to start. Want some guidance on how to understand and improve this metric, and develop a more robust marketing strategy? Call in the pros at Quietly.

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