Average session duration, say hello to everyone. Everyone, this is average session duration (or ASD as we call it 'round here). It's a surprisingly important metric for website performance, and we hope you will all spend some time with it.
We find it effective to study alternative metrics from time to time: They help provide a broader picture of web traffic, and prevent brands from making development mistakes due to a blind spot in analytics. Average session data is a great place to start, so lets take a look!
Defining Average Session Duration
ASD is an easy metric to follow: It simply refers to the average amount of time that visitors spend on the site before leaving. Now, there's a lot of variety in ASD overall: Sometimes people bounce away from the site immediately, which creates a session of only a couple seconds and lowers the score. Sometimes people forget to navigate away and leave their computers, creating a session that lasts for a couple hours and pulls the numbers the other direction. But as an average, the metric provides valuable data how long people peruse your site.
Why This Matters
A longer session is good for the brand: It indicates that people are interested enough to spend time on your site exploring or searching for a specific solution. A long session indicates they didn't get bored or confused, and in the world of the internet that's a big win! Industry averages for session duration are between two and three minutes, but there's a lot of variance between types of websites, so don't feel too bad if you don't match up.
4 Ways to Use Session Duration
You can find ASD in Google Analytics, but it's important to go beyond the overview data and find out what this really says about the site. Here are four ways to put this metric to work.
1. Digging into Local Comparisons: Companies can filter ASD by source, state and even city in Google Analytics. This is good news for businesses with a lot of local clientele, because it allows them to look at the session duration for clients they are actually interested in. If random website visits from across the country are pulling your ASD down, this will show it (it may also mean you need some work on your local SEO). It may also help to cerate a condition for traffic source to see how much traffic came from Google, Bing, etc., and how this affected session duration. If organic traffic on Google has a much higher session duration than your overall average, that's great news – it means a popular channel is working in your favor as intended.
2. Finding Specific Session Times: If you head over to Audience, go to Behavior, and choose Engagement in Analytics, you can find out what session durations were the most common. For example, you may find that a session duration of 11-30 seconds is by far the most frequent, followed by a 0-10 second duration (which could indicate trouble with bounce rates). Use this information to see how your audience tends to react to your webpage, and look for odd anomalies.
3. Using Pages Per Session: Pages per session is an interesting statistic: It's incredibly contingent on how your website is built, and is most useful when combined with ASD. If your site is set up with multiple product pages or different pages for each blog post, you may want to see a lot of pages per session across a lengthy visitor session. If your site uses more infinite scroll and content-heavy pages, then you may want to see a low pages per session score, which indicates people are using their session to really pay attention. Track these numbers based on how your site is meant to work.
4. Comparing to Bounce Rate: Take a look at your bounce rate across all sessions and individual pages. High bounce rates create low session duration: Do you have bounce rate issues on key navigation or information pages that may keep people from exploring your site? Then it's time for a change.