Google Analytics can be a great tool for understanding how people use your site, and how to improve your site, however there are some tricks involved in interpreting the data it provides. The “Length of Visit” report is particularly likely to trip people up.
In “Visitors > Visitor Loyalty > Length of Visit” you can see how long people spend visiting your site:
The number of 0-10 seconds visits can be quite high and distressing. Why? Because Google Analytics lumps every bounce visitor (those who only view one page of a web site during their visit) in the 0-10 seconds category. Google states:
“In order to capture the length of a visit, Google Analytics tracks the elapsed time between pageviews. The last page of a visit will not be recorded (as there is no subsequent pageview).
Single-page visits are assigned to the 0-10 second category.”
Certain sites (eg. blogs, product support sites, tv guides) are more likely to have a high bounce rate because people may want to only get one piece of information at a time. A high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing. A site may be aimed at on-going engagement so a higher priority may be the number of times a person re-visits (“Visitors > Visitor Loyalty > Loyalty”), or how frequently they come back (“Visitors > Visitor Loyalty > Recency”).
However using “Advanced Segments” you can change the “Length of Visit” report to only show “Non-bounce Visits” (make sure you un-tick the “All Visits” segment before clicking “Apply”) to get a less skewed view of whether people are engaging with your site for a reasonable amount of time.
Google’s in-page help mentions that the “Length of Visit” report can be skewed if people leave their browser windows open, but why doesn’t it mention the 0-10 seconds lumping for bounce visits? Considering how vastly it can skew the perception of activity on your site, I’m surprised that Google doesn’t provide a note about it on the report, or at least on the “About this Report” help section.
To get a clearer picture on whether people are landing on your site and leaving quicker than you’d like them to, gaAddons is a useful enhancement to the standard Google Analytics code. It’s a code snippet (free for personal or non-commerical use, or a fee for commercial use) that can be added in the same way as your Google Analytics tracking code. You can set a suitable length of time to not consider a visit to be a real bounce. The default is 30 seconds and you can change how it’s reported but if you use the Event Tracking method (“Content > Event Tracking”) you will see something like this:
If you want to take it further, there are calculations that can be done to determine a “real” bounce, or lack of engagement, rate.