What does average visit duration really tell you?

May 11, 2013

According to Google Analytics, average visit duration is “the average time duration of a session”. Makes sense.

So if my average visit duration is 2:46, does that mean most people spend 2:46 on my website? Probably not.

I’m about to show you something and it’s going to hurt

google analytics engagement

A while ago Google added an “Engagement” section in Analytics (found under Audience > Behavior). I bet if you check you’ll have a pretty big number of people that spend under 10 seconds on your site. The ratios seen above aren’t uncommon.

And why does it matter how long people spend on your site, anyway? People tend to think longer is better, that means they’re “engaging” with your website. But what if that means the things they were looking for were hard to find? What really matters is whether they did what you wanted.

This is easier for website that are selling something, because then nothing matters except sales. But even with a blog, sure, I want people to read my posts, and a really low visit duration would signify some sort of problem. But I also want people to share my posts, and follow me on Twitter. That’s a specific, measurable action and will tell me if I’m doing a good job – not how long someone spends on my website.


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