Periscopix

Victory shall be mine.” Stewie, Family Guy

Rebekah Schelfhout

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What should I be looking at?

There is a lot of noise on the Internet about what Google Analytics metrics you should be focussing on (49.8 million search results for 'what should I look at in Google Analytics') but one post I recently read, by the Grand Master of web analytics, Avinash Kaushik, struck a chord with me.

The concise version is: averages suck. As we all know, in AdWords you can view average ad position for a keyword. If you're average position is 3, this doesn't mean you've appeared in position 3 the most; it could mean you have been in position 1 half the time; and position 5 the other half of the time (see Al's more comprehensive blog on Search Engine Watch).

The same is true in Google Analytics for average time on site and average pages per visit. If you're average time on site is one minute, this doesn't mean this is the most often spent time on site; it could mean half your visits last 30 seconds; whilst the other half last a minute & a half.

But here is where it gets interesting. Unlike AdWords, Google Analytics lets you see behind these averages!

Behind the averages

Introducing Length of Visit Report and Depth of Visit Report. Unlike their glamourous cousins (the averages), these reports are not found on the Dashboard, but rather in your Visitors section of GA. Where these reports are found differs according to which version of GA you are using:

- v4 under Visitors > Visitor Loyalty > Length of Visit OR Depth of visit

- v5 under Visitors > Behaviour > Engagement > Visit Duration or Page Depth

These reports let you see the proportion of visits that spent a certain length of time on site, or viewed a certain number of pages in a visit.

The difference between the insights you can get are surprising. We looked at a variety of clients and saw a similar pattern; see example below.

Example

We looked at non-bounced visits only, over the last 30 days for a site. Headline stats looked as follows:

Pretty healthy right?

However, when we looked at the Length of Visit report, we saw that actually over 65% of visits to the site were LESS than 3 minutes long:

Average time on site & average

Pretty healthy right?

However, when we looked at the Length of Visit report, we saw that actually over 65% of visits to the site were LESS than 3 minutes long:

Length of visit report

When we looked at Depth of Visit report, we saw that almost 70% of visits had FEWER than 5 pages viewed:

Depth of visit report

In summary, those visits where a billion pages are viewed and which last 14 hours are skewing the averages. It is important to understand visitor engagement with your site - just make sure you are looking at the right metrics before making any big decisions.

Come back soon for more practical GA tips and share this article if you found it useful.

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