Quit Wasting Your Time On Site

June 22, 2008

Posted in Web Industry.

I’ve had a lot of analytics discussions lately, with clients and colleagues, and not only are people still struggling with the terminology they’re misunderstanding the entire point.

From Online Spin:

The basic gist was this: because marketers were demanding metrics (i.e. impressions, clicks) that did not necessarily equate to value for a marketer, and could be faked or gamed, traditional media metrics were creating a lose-lose-lose eco-system on the Internet for publishers, advertisers and people.

One of the most frequent questions I get is about the “time on site” number. This is useless, in my opinion. There are all kinds of technical and logical problems with this, to start. How it’s implemented isn’t always clear – is it tracking first to last request, or is it tracking actual time via Javascript? How do you account for users that leave their browser windows (or tabs) open for a long time while they focus on another site? Does it include bots or search spiders? Is your site intuitive and efficient, thereby reducing the need to spend so much time looking for information?

The biggest reason to ignore how long users are spending on your site is because it isn’t important! Walmart isn’t trying to maximize the time you spend in their store, they’re trying to maximize the money you spend. On your website, you should focus on the conversion goals: filling out the contact form, ordering a product, or whatever your business demands of your website.

So when clients ask about time on site, I ask them why it’s important for users to spend more time on their website. I focus on four areas:

  1. Number of Visitors The numbers don’t matter nearly as much as the trends.

  2. Top Content Which pages are getting the most traffic?

  3. Referring Site Where are people linking in?

  4. Search keywords What terms are people using to find your site?

Don’t get distracted by all the available information. Focus on the prize.