Metrics like conversion rates and bounce rates get a lot of focus when it comes to website analytics, but don’t underestimate the value in the "average time on page" statistic. If you really want to understand how your visitors are interacting with your website and what they think of your brand, this is a good place to start.
How Long Are Visitors Sticking Around?
When you open up Google Analytics, or your preferred website analytics platform, one of the more interesting data points you’ll encounter is "average session duration." As the term suggests, this is the average amount of time a visitor spends on your website in a single session (the moment they land on your site to the moment they close the page). While it’s hard to generalize website analytics and then project these averages onto your own site, it is worth knowing that a good average session duration in most industries is 2-3 minutes. "What can happen in two minutes? Two minutes might not seem like much time, but it’s enough time for users to read content and interact with your website," SEO expert Britt Bischoff explains. "And for this reason, longer sessions indicate more engaged visits. Time is the most precious resource we have as human beings, and this number shows us how much of their time users are willing to sacrifice for your content."
In some industries, 45-60 seconds might be enough time to consider a session successful. In other industries, you might want to aim for more like 4-5 minutes. It all depends on the purpose of your website, the kind of pages visitors are landing on, and what your ideal conversion rate is.
4 Ways to Increase the Average Session Duration
Whether your average session duration is just a fraction of the average, or you’re well above the standard range for your industry, there’s always value in increasing the time people spend on your website. The following tips and techniques may prove helpful in your pursuit of producing longer sessions.
1. Build Excitement and Anticipation
Even before visitors enter your site, you need to build excitement and anticipation. They need to land on your site with intentions of sticking around, rather than just looking for a specific piece of information and bouncing. There are a whole host of strategies you can use to increase the "clickability" of your social media posts, links, and search results, but be wary of straying too far from your core message just to get some clicks. (There’s nothing wrong with earning clicks, but empty clicks really offer no value to your website or brand. In fact, if you’re paying for the clicks, they’re actually having an adverse effect.) You want to build excitement and anticipation without misleading. One practical suggestion is to spend more time on the title and headline creation. It was advertising legend David Ogilvy’s personal practice to spend half of the entire time it took him to write a piece of content on developing a headline. That might be a bit excessive, but it’s not a bad rule of thumb for you to follow.
2. Make People Feel Comfortable
People need to feel comfortable when they’re on your website. How do you establish comfort? Trust is the answer. Build a sense of trust and users will feel comfortable engaging with your brand online. "One of the biggest ways we establish trust is through the use of social proof," Printing Center USA explains. "We have really high customer satisfaction and we know that we can use this to draw people in who may not otherwise be familiar with our brand. It’s an effective way to earn trust, which naturally lengthens sessions and reduces the bounce rate." You have options when it comes to establishing trust, but social proof is one thing that cuts through the noise and reaches people where they need to be engaged on a psychological level. If you aren’t being intentional about incorporating it into your site, this represents a huge missed opportunity.
3. Give Them Something to Sink Their Teeth Into
You might get some clicks with light and fluffy content, but you’re also going to experience shorter session duration than you’d like. In order to keep people on your site, give them something to really sink their teeth into. Engaging content is at the heart of the matter. Today’s visitors have short attention spans and aren’t going to read a 5,000-word white paper in size 10 font. They want videos, graphics, and interactive elements. They’re looking for something that cuts through all the other noise on the internet and says, "This is why you should stick around." Are you giving them this? Or are you doing the bare minimum? Think long and hard before you answer these questions.
4. Encourage Exploration
Good websites don’t settle for a single page view – even if it results in a lengthy session or conversion. The best websites encourage visitors to move around and check out other pages. "Your site should encourage exploration to lead people from one piece of content to the next," digital sales expert Greg Brown says. "Make page or section transitions clear, include additional content suggestions related to what readers have already consumed, and have an easy site search tool available. Even after you’ve gotten a conversion, you should encourage them to stay on your site rather than close the browser."
Regularly Revisit Your Strategy
The biggest thing to know about SEO and web design is that nothing stays the same for long. You might be doing everything right at the moment (and have robust analytics to prove it), but all it takes is a small deviation in user behavior or search engine algorithms and everything can change. In order to ensure you’re constantly on the leading edge with SEO and web design best practices, make a commitment to regularly revisiting your strategies and monitoring the effectiveness of each change you make. A/B testing is always a good idea, as is careful monitoring of your website analytics. After all, the numbers rarely lie!