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What Is Time on Page and Why Is It Important?

Once you understand the importance of optimizing your page views and attracting site visitors, there is another site performance metric that you should consider: time on page. According to survey results from Brafton, the average time on page for 181 sites surveyed was 2 minutes and 17 seconds.

Similar to a bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page), the amount of time that a visitor spends on one of your pages can be an indicator of false leads — visitors who land on your site, only to realize that it’s not what they were looking for and leave immediately. A bounce rate tells you when a visitor has viewed only a single page on your site. Time on page, however, gives you insight into how well your content is actually performing.

Let’s take a closer look at time on page to learn how it works, and what information this metric can disclose about your site performance.

Time on page tracks visit lengths

Within the Google Analytics interface (available for Jetpack’s Premium and Professional plan users), time on page is defined as the “average amount of time users spent viewing a specified page or screen, or set of pages or screens.”

How time on page is defined

For most sites, this is the amount of time that a visitor spends reading the content on a single page. This number is calculated by dividing the total amount of time that visitors spend on your site, by the total number of site visits.

When a user clicks on a related post, the clock for the time on page metric stops. When the next page loads, the page view count goes up by one, and a new timer begins for that new page.

How time on page might trump page views

As more interactive pages and web applications evolve into reactive site designs, the time on page metric might become even more important than measuring the total number of page views.

Reactive site designs load related content in the middle of a page. This newly-generated content isn’t counted as an additional page view; however, these types of “side-loading” events will count for time on page.

As WordPress begins to incorporate reactive components (a significant part of the forthcoming WordPress 5.0 “Gutenberg” release), this type of content interaction will become even more prevalent.

Evaluating time on page

To properly evaluate your time on page metric, set your expectations based on the type of content that you have on each page, as well as where people go after they leave one of your pages.

Viewing the time on page metric in Google Analytics

When time on page is too short

A “short” time on page can indicate a problem with your site, such as content that is irrelevant to the search terms that are ranking in Google. Consequently, this can turn visitors away. On the other hand, a homepage that only features graphics and a few short introductory sentences might justify a shorter (yet effective) amount of time on a page, as viewers don’t need to spend a lot of time reviewing it.

How can you tell if time on a given page is too short?

First, learn to understand your content. If one of your pages contains a long, in-depth article that normally takes five minutes to read, the time on page metric should reflect that.

Dig a little deeper into the keywords that you’re using for search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure that the words leading people to your pages are meeting their expectations. If your content is just intended to pique interest and the time on page is short while your bounce rate is low and people are clicking through to other pages on your site, then your website is likely running successfully.

If you find that your content incorporates the keywords that users are searching for, but your time on page is shorter than you want it to be, it’s time to evaluate your user experience (UX). If you have images or videos on a page, make sure that they load quickly. Using a tool like Photon or Jetpack’s high-speed video-hosting service to speed up site load times can help to reduce bounce rates and increase the amount of time that visitors spend on your site.

Remember, one of the most common reasons why people leave a site is poor performance. Slow pages often contribute to shorter times on page and higher bounce rates.

When time on page is too long

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a longer time spent exploring your site pages is generally a good thing, as users are likely consuming your content in-depth. However, if long time on page sessions are not leading to visitors taking the action you’d like them to perform, you may have other issues.

Again, understanding the content on each of your pages is important. Most business sites are looking for conversions (visitors who become loyal customers), so a lot of time spent reading about a product can indicate that customers are confused about what you are offering. Check to see whether that long time on page is accompanied by a higher bounce rate.

A high bounce rate with a long time on page might indicate that a user did not find what they were looking for, and left your site without adding something to their cart. If this is the case, you might want to make your product pages more user friendly with a Q&A section and additional images. You can also consider redesigning your site with your visitors’ needs in mind.

Jetpack comes with more than 100 free themes, and 200 premium themes if you’re a Professional plan subscriber. A user-friendly site redesign might be enough to convert lingering visitors into customers. As Jetpack also offers backups baked into its plans, you can revert to the existing iteration of your site should your current theme prove to be a better option than a new one.

Time on page is just the tip of the iceberg

Try calculating your time on page to determine how your site is performing in comparison. Build upon these insights and supplement your content and marketing strategies by further familiarizing yourself with the metrics and analytics options available.

Are your performance metrics measuring up? What have you done to improve your time on page? Share with us in the comments below!

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