The average length of time a visitor spends on a website directly correlates with how relevant that website is to the visitor. Thus, average session duration can be instrumental in analyzing patterns and trends in the data.
The way website analytics calculates a session - a group of user interactions with a website within a given time frame - affects various features, reports, and metrics, making the concept of a session a critical factor to understand. Businesses can make appropriate decisions, properly allocate the budget, and improve average session duration with website audit and search engine optimization.
GoodFirms surveyed 112 Marketing Experts worldwide to find out how to improve the average session duration for a website.
Terms for Better Understanding of Average Session Duration
Conducting well-versed research on the website's average session duration performance with the analytics services can help the marketers analyze their website visitors' behavior. But first, one needs to know a few terminologies to get a complete picture of the average session duration.
Average Time on Page
The average amount of time that users spend on a particular web page is called 'time on page.' It gives you insight into how well the content is actually performing. When the content on a page should take about twelve minutes to read, but users only spend three minutes on a page, you can realize that it's time to make your content more engaging.
Google Analytics uses time-stamps to record the hits, i.e., the time when the page is opened, or an event is triggered. Then, it looks at the difference between the time of the first and last hit and measures periods of time.
This is called a session - the time a user spends on your website - a group of user interactions with your site taking place within a given time frame.
So, essentially, a session begins when a visitor enters your website and ends in any of the three conditions. That is, after 30 minutes of inactivity, at midnight, or if the campaign is changed.
'Session Duration' report can be found under -
Audience > Behavior > Engagement
Let us illustrate how session duration is calculated with a simple example:
- A user lands on a web page at 08:00 am.
- They go through the content, click to a second page at 08:06 am, and later click to another page at 08:09 am.
- The user exits your website without further action after clicking through to the third page.
- In this instance, session duration is calculated as 08:00 am – 08:06 am - 08:09 = 9 minutes. (The limitation of this calculation will be explained later.)
What is Avg. Session Duration & How Google Analytics Calculates it?
Average session duration is one of the essential Google Analytics metrics, reporting the average amount of time users spend on a website.
To find out Sessions and Average Session Duration, navigate to
Audience Report > Overview
To see an overview of your pages and their average session durations, navigate to
Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
The basic formula that Google Analytics uses to calculate average session duration is:
To understand average session duration with an example, let us assume you have 4 website users in a week:
- User 1 spends - 160 seconds
- User 2 spends - 210 seconds
- User 3 spends - 90 seconds
- User 4 spends - 320 seconds
Interesting Facts about Average Session Duration
Average Session Duration is one of the key performance metrics to rank on the top of Google SERPs. Fundamentally, it measures how long visitors spend interacting with a site on an average before exiting. Despite sounding straightforward, many layers can affect how this metric is calculated and can be interpreted. Because
The average session duration does not indicate how much time a user spent consuming content on a single-viewed page or the exit page. For example, if a user visits only one page and stays for seven minutes on your site (a bounced visit), the session duration still will be calculated as 0:00. Here, the session duration does not reflect that the user might have been highly engaged with that particular page.
Average session duration does not necessarily indicate the total amount of time a user spent on a website during their visit. This is because the time spent on the last page (where no further action is taken) is typically not considered into the session duration calculation. If we consider the example mentioned above again,
- A user lands on page one at 08:00 am.
- They navigate to page two at 08:06 am, and to another page at 08:09.
- Then they spend three more minutes on page three and exits at 08:12 pm.
- The session duration should ideally be twelve minutes here. Instead, it will be calculated as nine minutes.
Saheen C Najeeb, Digital Marketing Analyst at Fingent states, "Most marketers don't realize the fact that the average session duration in GA is usually lower than the actual average session duration. Let's take the example of an individual page session. It is calculated as the difference between the timestamp on the last activity in a single session and the timestamp on the first activity of the first session. The average session duration here will be 0 if the user does not navigate further to any other pages or perform any other activity. But in reality, he might have spent a few minutes on your page."
Google Analytics counts a user's time on a page irrespective of the browser window being hidden or visible. So, even though the user is not viewing the page technically, the time will be taken into account while calculating the time on page.
'Time on page' is an average taken from the non-bounces only for a page, which naturally will be smaller than actual hits for a page.
Most of the time, 'Average Time on Page' will be more than 'Average Session Duration' as most sites have higher bounce rates, and the average time on page is taken from the other half of users who don’t bounce. While all bounces are counted as zero seconds for average session duration, so higher the bounce rate and exit rate, the average session duration will be lower.
We can conclude that to have significant representations of the actual time a user spends on your site, you need to keep an eye on both the metrics - average session duration as well as average time on page.
For example, you find out that many sessions are ending on a particular page of your site. But you also know that the page does not offer any additional actions. So, you can look at the average time on that specific page and get a better idea of if your actual average session duration might be longer than what Google Analytics is reporting. Now, the question here is, what average session duration can we consider as being approachable and reasonable?
What's a Reasonable Average Session Duration?
32.14% of the surveyed experts reported an average session duration of between 2-3 minutes.
Carla Diaz, Cofounder at Broadband Search, says, "The goal is usually to get average session duration anywhere between 2 and 3 minutes, at least, as this usually results in better user interaction and turnover."
Only 5.36% of the people had the average session duration higher than 5 minutes.
How to Increase a Website's Average Session Duration?
Though the 'Average Metrics' have their limitations, they provide significant insights when looked in correlation with other relevant metrics. For example, average session duration and time on page combinedly indicate the value and quality of your website. Many of the web analytics metrics depend on each other, and analysts can have various interpretations.
That is why Simon Ensor, Founder & Managing Director of Catchworks, says, "The first metric to clear up is whether increasing average session duration correlates with an increased conversion rate. There are instances where a decrease in session duration demonstrates a clearer user flow and can shorten the buying lifecycle, increasing the conversion rate."
Also, various traffic channels and their respective percentages make up different visitor bases and affect session duration. Giving us an insight about the same, Shane Griffiths says,
"Social media traffic, for example, has a notoriously low average session duration. This is because those visitors want to stay on social media. If they click a link to visit your website, it's almost always short-lived. If most of your traffic is from social media, your overall average session duration will suffer. This same principle applies to traffic from display advertising. Traffic from organic and direct tend to have the highest average session duration, so improving your SEO and brand awareness will certainly improve overall average session duration."
- Shane Griffiths, Partner at Clarity Online SEO
But mostly, a website with a low average session duration will have a higher bounce rate and a low conversion rate, indicating that something is not resonating with the users. Here are some effective ways explained by the experts to make your site more appealing that compels the users to stay for longer and increase its average session duration.
1. Interactive Content - Videos, Puzzles, Calculators, Etc.
With the short attention span of visitors, producing merely text-based content does not work anymore. 35.71% of experts believe that 'Interactive Content' plays the most significant role in improving average session duration.
"Videos and interactive tools are the most effective tools for keeping them on the page and increasing session duration," says Matthew Burke, Editorial Director at Complete Guide to Archery. He asks to hook readers right from the first word of the article.
Matthew says, "A video can get you up to two minutes more of your reader's attention (after that, though, our metrics say they bail). Interactive tools - a quiz, or a puzzle, or even a lo-fi video game - can increase your visitor's session duration by even more. The most effective interactive tools are closely related to the theme/main idea of the page."
Video offers a range of creative options and works best when placed correctly. Olga Mykhoparkina, Chief marketing officer at Better Proposals, asks to strategically place videos on the pages where you want visitors to stick around longer. She says, "It's worked very well for our home page and landing pages. The key thing is to choose a video host like Wistia, so the visitors actually stay on your website and don't click through to YouTube."
Besides the video, there are plenty of other interactive options that are quite interesting and easy to consume. Rameez Ghayas Usmani, Digital Marketing Executive at PUREVPN, says, "One of the most effective and useful tips to improve the average session of your website is to embed interactive visuals in the form of videos, GIFs, and Infographics in your article. The human processes the visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Highly attractive and compelling infographics help sustain your readers' attention and get them engaged with your content even longer."
Tom Mumford, Co-founder of Undergrads LLC, recommends 'building a tool.' He says, "It works wonder if the tool, or engagement, is something they can come back to and regularly check or incorporate into their habits in some way. This can increase the average session duration and give your users a reason to visit your site continually. A fitness/health website with a calorie calculator is a good example of this."
2. Improved Copywriting
A quality copywriting reflects the values close to the business, helps create a lasting impact on the visitors, and eventually drives them to engage in the necessary action.
Describing the techniques to increase average session duration as a part of his 'muscle memory,' CEO & owner, Nikola Roza, says, "Improve your Copywriting. Have an awesome headline that promises clear benefits if they read and a concise intro (40-70 word) that provokes curiosity and that elaborates on the headline. Write short sentences and never use "smart" words when you can use common terms with the same meaning. Paragraphs should have between 3-5 sentences. That way they're not too short (which becomes annoying fast), and they can still be easily skimmed."
Nikola advises using copywriting hooks like the AIDA formula and bucket brigades, too.
- An acronym for 'Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action' - the AIDA model is used in marketing that describes the steps customers go through while purchasing products.
- Bucket Brigades is an old school copywriting tactic known as 'grease slide technique,' basically connector words/phrases. They are used to keep readers focused on the content.
William Cartwright, a Marketing Specialist at GetKnownPros, also agrees, "Good copywriting & formatting work for "scan" readers. People tend to scan websites quickly and not thoroughly read the text. Ensure the writing gets to the point quickly, has plenty of white space in paragraphs, use of bullet points, and headers."
3. Smart Internal Linking
By smartly providing links to the other relevant content on the website, average session duration can be increased.
Stacy Caprio, Business Coach at Stacy Caprio Inc., says, "If you have a short page, and unless your site has a bunch of related articles a reader wants to go to, your session duration will be shorter. I recommend writing chunks of related(high-quality) articles you can interlink and that are all in the same category, to encourage binge-reading, which increases session duration."
Tom Crowe, SEO Consultant at Tom Crowe Digital, favors improving internal linking and their anchor text. He says, "Internal linking is great for SEO anyway, but for session duration, it can be used to entice users with other great content hosted on your site. This is best complemented with great anchor text. The trick is to use 'intrigue' as a hook to encourage clicks. For example, if you had a travel blog, you could choose to mention a particularly interesting story rather than just the blog post title. Instead of a link that says, "Our Thailand travel tips," you might say, "…like that time we got lost in the jungle in Thailand," which is a lot more intriguing!"
4. Content Updation
When nothing lasts forever online, updating the old content with potential can make it more readable and appealing. It also helps in having better search rankings, more traffic links.
Benjamin K. Walker, Founder & CEO at Transcription Outsourcing, LLC, has tried a number of different things for their website to get people to stay on their site longer over the years. He says, "Finally, we tried the 'refresh old blogs' idea a little over a year ago. We took our highly trafficked blog posts from around 400 words to over 2,500 words, and it helped us a ton. We have more visitors, and they stay at least 50% longer now."
Ryan at RDLDIGITAL also asks to update past content for the current year (2020). He says, "Be sure to mention the date that the update took place above-the-fold. This not only leads to more search volume that includes the current year, but clearly showing relevant, timely, and fresh content will have the visitor likelier to stay, increasing avg. session duration."
5. Provision of Additional Relevant Content
If the users quickly find what they are looking for on a website and have no reason to stay longer, your average session duration will remain lower.
"The site, giving an immediate answer or solution, will likely see the user leave straight after," says Adam Lumb, Site Manager at LaptopUnboxed.com. He strictly recommends avoiding the mistake of not providing content that's relevant to the user's intention.
Adam says, "A good example is song lyrics. However, it's much better to provide the song lyrics immediately on the page in this case. Because that's what the user is looking for, so do not place them further down the page. To increase Average Session Duration in these instances, you could add additional relevant content - such as a YouTube video of the song, a description of the artist, links to lyrics of their other songs, etc."
6. Titles Aligned with Subject of the Page
Using an inappropriate title that does not match with the subject of the content can diminish the user's trust, harm your rankings, and increase the bounce rate.
That is why Russell at Credit Card Advice is firmly against using clickbait titles that aren't reflective of the page's content. He says, "While clickbait titles are great for getting click-throughs, they are even better for an extremely high bounce rate and low session duration if they aren't aligned with the content on the page. Most sites are written for search engines rather than people and intend to trick them, which leads to a low session duration. We try to craft titles completely aligned with the subject matter of the page for our content-rich pages."
7. Easy Readability
Fonts and color are not just matters of aesthetics; they make intense psychological impressions on how visitors read, comprehend, and judge the content. Readability indeed is central to user engagement.
Trishan Mehta, Co-Founder at WPBizBlog, asks to use the right font size and line spacing. He says, "My font size earlier was 16 px, which was a bit hard to read for some users. So I increased it to 18 px and set the line-height to 32 px. This increased the readability of my content, so users who are put off by small text didn't dart off to some other site."
8. Intelligent Targeting in Compliance With Search Intent
'Search intent' helps you understand the reason behind any given query. And with 'intelligent targeting,' you can reach out to the prospects who are likely to favor your content. And when both of these go hand in hand, the average time duration certainly improves.
Filip Silobod, an SEO specialist at Honest Marketing, advises understanding what people are searching for or how they end up on your website.
He says, "There are many channels. For example, look at organic traffic, filter it by each landing page, and determine what each landing page is ranking for. Create a map of pages and queries that lead people to click on them. That will help you realize what people are looking for. If people are searching for one thing, but your landing page's content isn't relevant or is badly designed, you will get a high bounce rate and naturally, a low page per session count. Do the same for social, paid, email landing pages and tweak the content on landing pages to suit those searcher's needs."
9. Scrollable Homepage
People keep scrolling as long as the content is relevant, and when it becomes irrelevant, they are likely to abort the session.
Simonas Steponaitis, CMO at HostingWiki, says, "A trick I do to improve session duration is to make sure the homepage is scrollable. People like to scroll down. I am sure that there is almost an endless scroll like it is on social media websites, such as Facebook or Instagram."
10. Live Chat
The implementation of live chat has become mandatory to improve a website's customer support and user experience. And consequently, it helps to retain the visitors for longer on a site.
Michael Anderson, Marketing & SEO Specialist at GeoJango Maps, declares the implementation of a live chat service as the top strategy. He says, "The reason why this works to increase the average session duration is that it enables potential customers to have their questions answered immediately and gives them more incentive to stay on the website longer. This is in contrast to a potential customer who fills out a contact form and then exits the website before someone can respond."
11. A Succinct Blurb At the Top of the Page
A blurb works as a compelling hook that helps you describe the essence of your article in a concise and interesting way. It allows you to flaunt your expertise in the field and let the visitors know how your content stands out from the crowd.
As Daniel Caughill, Co-Founder at The Dog Tale, advises, "Put a succinct blurb summarizing the article at the top of the page. You don’t want to give away the meat of the article, but offer enough to send good trust signals to the reader."
Though, the point to keep in mind here is - try to make a blurb as fascinating as possible without giving away too much!
12. Embedded Product Link with Images In Box
By adding a product link to images in your content, you bring the visitors to a different page when they click the image. On this page, they can get information about their query.
Ahmed Mir, Founder of Nature and Bloom, is in favor of embedding product links with images in boxes that feature in informational blog posts. He says, "When an informational query can relate to a product we sell, it's linked on that page but in a smooth, unobtrusive manner. This has improved our session time on informational pages by 8% and increased our revenue by another 5% alone.
13. Highly Informational Articles
When competition is at its peak, highly informative content helps build the trust and credibility of your brand. It is worth every penny investing time and effort in such articles as people still want informational content despite an umpteen number of websites providing all kinds of information.
Taylor Janszen, Owner and CEO of Janszen Media, likes to target people close to their network to provide them value. He says, "I go into details with my services, processes, and answer common questions throughout the website. My next goal is to continue building a content strategy to generate consistently valuable blog content that is 2000+ words so that the average read time will take 7+ minutes to read. This will convert additional time on-site during a web session."
14. Easy Navigation with Clear Call To Action
A website with a number of engaging factors but without an appropriate call-to-action aspect, is less likely to help visitors take any action.
Simon Ensor says, "Clear 'call to action' to related content is effective, alongside robust internal linking. Developing your content strategy around pillar content can also ensure that relevant content seamlessly leads on from one another, providing added value to the user's original search."
What Factors Negatively Affect Average Session Duration?
Low average session duration generally means that visitors are quickly bouncing off your website. From slow website speed to bad user interface, various elements can be responsible for repelling the users.
To find out what factors play a crucial role in lowering average session duration, Kelly Newcomb, Digital Marketing Specialist at Plume, advises thinking about how and what information you are presenting. She says, "Ask yourself - is there enough or too much information on this page? Are we signposting readers to somewhere else? If not, should we be? Looking at the data in Google Analytics, what are the typical customer journeys, and do these align with what you need or expected? Always test your website and assume your customer's role to really critique what you display, and again ask yourself, can it be streamlined?"
30.36% of the experts consider 'Slow Website Speed' as the most important factor that adversely impacts average session duration while 16.07% of the professionals believe 'Intrusive Pop-ups' repel the users.
1. Slow Loading Website
A slow-loading website deteriorates user experience, and so there is a fall in search engine ranking, an increase in bounce rate, and a consequent decrease in revenue collection.
Elliot Reimers at Rave Reviews says, "A slow website will quickly make a user lose patience and leave for another website. As technology gets better, consumer patience gets worse."
Bruce Harpham, a SaaS Marketing Consultant, says, "First, check your website's load time, especially for mobile using Page Speed Insights. A website taking more than five seconds to load might see many people leaving right away."
2. Intrusive Pop Ups and Excessive Ads
Though pop-ups and ads often work in favor of the website, most of the time, people find them annoying, interruptive, and distracting.
Bruce Harpham advises refraining from having excessively aggressive conversion rate optimization. He says, "For example, I have seen websites where there are pop-ups that obscure the content before I've had a chance to go through it. You can solve this problem by putting a time delay of 30-60 seconds on your pop-ups."
Eulises Quintero, Content Manager at Titoma, says, "Add too many ads on your page, and people will leave in a heartbeat."
3. Taking Long To Get To The Point
The content that is interesting and well-written, but aimlessly wanders all over the place before getting to the point, annoys the visitors and distracts their attention.
And so, Matthew Burke, who's obsessed with average session duration and has managed to increase it multifold, insists on avoiding 'throat-clearing.' He says, "If you've ever taken a course in writing fiction, you've probably heard this term--- it's everything that comes before the story you're trying to tell. In the next ten articles that you read online, count how many authors waste a bit of your time before getting your point. If you want people to bounce off your site, clear your throat before getting to the point. When you make your reader work for the info they want, they'll be gone before you know it."
Google considers a website where users like to spend more time as excellent, and boosts its ranking, making Average Session Duration one of the key performance metrics. Thus, being a good indicator of a website's attractiveness, this metric also helps measure and monitor the conversion rate. Despite having their limitations, average time on page and average session duration can be reasonably accurate if the exit rate is low. If you do comprehensive research on your website's average session duration and find it lower, apply the tips mentioned above by the experts and enhance it!
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