Most web publishers measure their performance in number of page views. While page views tell you how many people visited your website, it doesn’t tell you how long they stayed.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many people are visiting your website, what matters is whether they’re sticking around long enough—that’s what your conversions and revenue depend on. In this post, we’ll cover why time on site is an important metric and how you can improve it.
Why Time on Site is Important
Time on site is an accurate indication of how people feel about your website. If people aren’t spending enough time on your website, there’s something that needs to be fixed.
When users abandon your website, it increases your bounce rate, reducing conversions and killing ad revenue. A user that is not engaged is of no value to the publisher.
One of the easiest ways to measure time on site is to multiply average session duration with the number of sessions for a given period. You can find these numbers in your Google analytics dashboard, under Audience » Overview.
One caveat: The time on site you measure this way will only be indicative because Google measures time in discrete sessions. If you want precision, you’ll have to use a third-party tool such as Riveted, which you can read about in our earlier post on tracking user engagement.
Now that you know why time on site is important and how to track it on your website, let’s look at the changes that you can make to your website to improve it.
Clean Up Your Design
Design is the first interaction that a user has with your website. Those first 2-3 seconds when users form an impression about your website decide how they will feel about it.
A good design can get users to stay longer, consume information, and complete their goals. A website that has bad design will almost immediately make the user want to bail.
Bad design can be confusing navigation bar, or too many ads cluttering the viewable area of your website, or the use of too many colours, or too many font types and sizes or not enough. Good design is often invisible whereas bad design sticks out like a sore thumb.
Take an objective look at your current design, especially above the fold, and make sure that page elements are simple, streamlined, and encourage the user to stay on the website.
You may want to use a tool like UserTesting to discover what your users actually think about your website. Then, you can decide whether re-arranging page elements will be enough or if a design overhaul is required. Aim to “wow” your users with how usable and clean your website is.
Increase Your Page Speed
How fast your web pages load is another crucial aspect of user experience. It’s been found that if a web page takes longer than 3 seconds to load, 50% of users will drop off.
Optimizing your website for page speed will help you retain more users, increase conversions, and boost your ad revenue. But before optimizing, you have to test and measure.
There are many tools available that will help you find your page load speed, benchmark it against industry standard times, and offer optimization tips.
Page speed does not depend on a single factor, so you may need to compress your images, minify your HTML and CSS, reduce server response time, set up browser caching, etc. But it’s always worth the effort because a faster loading website will reap you immediate returns.
Set Up Redirects for Broken Links
Imagine finding something you’re looking for, then clicking on the link only to be disappointed by a “404 page not found” error. Unfortunately this is a pretty common occurrence.
Publishers delete content and pages for various reasons, maybe the content is outdated, or they want to rank another article with the same keyword. But search links are forever.
Each time a user lands on a web page that doesn’t exist, the instinctive reaction is to close the page and move on, this increase bounce rates and decreases time on site.
Improve Your Readability Score
Research by NN Group shows that people don’t consume information in the same way online as they do offline; online, we quickly scan for information as opposed to reading text line by line.
This is why writing for web has to be fundamentally different from writing for print, because users will simply not give the kind of attention that they might while, let’s say, reading a book.
You can’t change user behavior. So you have to work to offer what users are looking for. You have to make it easy for users to scan your website for content.
Besides using simple language and bullet points, a good rule of thumb to follow is not having 3-4 sentences in a paragraph, and not more than 3-4 paragraphs in a subhead.
There are tools that can help you measure your readability score. Yoast, the popular SEO plugin for WordPress, comes with a built-in readability counter that will grade your content.
As much as readability is about content, it is also about design. Choose a font type that is easy to read (a good example is Open Sans) and use a size that is large enough to be easily readable.
Increase Internal Linking
Users will not know what you have to offer unless you show them, which is why it’s important to link to related content within your website while creating new content. Ultimately, that’s also your goal as well—you want people to stay on your site for longer, so why not help them?
Internal linking is only one aspect of content discovery, what we’re talking about is making it easy for your users to find not just your new content, but everything that you’ve created.
In order to do this, you need to improve your site navigation. Make sure your top navigation lists all the major content categories that you create content for. Use a tag cloud in the sidebar to offer an additional route for users to browse and discover content.
Lastly, set up content recommendations. There are many plugins that create dynamic units that go under the main content area of your web pages and offer links to related content. You can also use the Matched Content units provided by AdSense to the same effect.
Target Abandoning Users
No matter what you do, some users will abandon your website anyway. Maybe they’re distracted, maybe one of the browser tabs started playing audio that they just have to kill.
Monitoring exit intent is your one last opportunity to connect with a user who is about to leave your website. Tools such as HelloBar track signals such as sudden mouse activity to predict when page abandonment is about to occur. Then, in the nick of time, it presents a CTA.
You can increase conversions at this stage by offering content upgrades, give the abandoning user a free download to something you think they might value—a guide, an eBook, a template.
If the user decides to take your offer and joins your mailing list, at least you’ve managed to create a chance to turn them into a repeat visitor at a later time.
- Time on site is one of the most important metrics you can track and measure
- Try to create a better user experience by reducing design clutter on your website
- Reduce bounce rate by testing and optimizing page load speeds
- Set of redirection for broken links across your site
- Make content more readable by breaking it down into easily digestible chunks
- Promote content discovery with internal linking, navigation, and content recommendation
- Target the users who are abandoning your website and offer them a content upgrade
- Optimize for infinite scroll and pagination carefully, depending on your website, niche, and audience behavior.