Google AnalyticsThere are so many different ways to view metrics in Google Analytics, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Some data descriptions seem so similar you may think at first glance, “what’s the difference?” Here is one that recently perplexed me.

One data point I am obsessed with is Average Visit Duration. I want to make sure my sites are providing useful content and keep the visitor engaged. Recently, however, I noticed a big difference in data points and didn’t understand why. I was comparing Average Visit Duration to Time of Page. My Average Visit Duration was what I would consider acceptable, but could be better. My Time on Page however was far less than I would like to see.

Average Visit Duration

The Average Visit Duration in Google Analytics is calculated based on the timestamp between the first and last pageviews during one visit. The duration of the final pageview cannot be accurately calculated, the duration is always shorter than reality. This made me quite happy, since means my data point is actually a little longer!

Average Time on Page

The Average Time on Page in Google Analytics is calculated as the average difference between the request timestamp for that page for that page and the request timestamp for the next page. If only one page is viewed by a site visitor during that visit, that pageview does not count in this statistic since there is no second timestamp. It would fall into the Bounce Rate – something else I constantly check.

The Average Time on Page was “OK,” but not what I would like. I could, however, see how  much time on average was spent on each page. This is helpful in that I can review those pages and see what could be lacking. Is it too long? Does it not answer the initial headline? Is the headline a misrepresentation of what the page actually presents?

By reviewing these two data points, I can definitely have a better understanding of what is working for site visitors and what isn’t so I can make it as user-friendly and content-rich as possible.