Low Page View Numbers & Zero Time On Site Visits? Don’t Worry

Marketing experts are always preaching “Mr. Client, the higher page views and time spent on your site the better!”

  Thumbs Up

 In most instances, they are correct, but like every view in marketing, there is another other side, let me explain!

Low Page Count

It is ok to have low page count if your search engine optimization or paid search efforts are landing visitors on the correct landing page. If someone searches for “Advantage dog flea medicine” you should be directing them straight to the “Advantage dog flea medicine” page not your homepage and not your flea category page. If they land on your home page they have to inflict 2 extra page views. The more clicks a visitor has to perform before they get to the desired page, the more likely it is that they will leave your site.

 Click Through Path

To make sure this does not happen to you, make sure your landing page URLs in your paid search accounts are matched to the best possible landing page for the keyword you are bidding on. Likewise, for your search engine optimization efforts make sure to build out pages for specific keyword groups and then link to them internally and externally with very specific anchor text.

If your site depends on impression-based advertisement, feel free to ignore my advice. If anything, try to break up your news stories into multiple pages and/ or make it hard for a visitor to find what they are looking for by sending them through a clicking maze.

Zero Time On Site

Most likely you have seen this type of report in your Google Analytics account.

Zero Time On Site

Having zero time on site (00:00) does not actually mean that someone came to your site and spent zero time on your site. Since Google Analytics is a JavaScript-based analytics system, JavaScript needs to fire a second time in order to record time on site. Once a visitor visits your site the JavaScript records the visit and the time on site timer starts, but if they fail to visit another page then JavaScript will never run therefore never recording time on site. So, a user that viewed only one page and did not visit another page could have spent 5 minutes on that first page without you even knowing.

Now, determining if zero time on site visitors are still valuable is extremely situational.  

  • If a visitor came to your site on a great landing page & then called your business number, this visitor would be considered valuable.
  • If a visitor came to your site on a great landing page & then filled out your sidebar contact form, but you don’t send them to a thank you page or your thank you page does not have the analytics code then they would still be considered valuable.

As you can see, it can get a bit tricky, but the point I want to stress is that not all zero time on site visits are worthless.

At the end of the day I want you all to remember this next time you are looking at your Google Analytics data; it might not be telling you the whole story. Spend some time and do a thorough analysis or have us do it for you!

9 Comments

  1. Daniel Redman

    Steve, this is a great post.

    However, I believe there is a major underlying issue in optimizing towards the ultimately efficient checkout. Shopping cart efficiency is of course important, but moreso is a highly product educated and empowered customer. You can’t necessarily have both: an ultimately speedy sell and a reaffirming positive experience. The challenge I have for you is to bridge the missing link in the puzzle, the customer service desk of the mentioned company, to source the highest rate of returned products by source. Does it coincide with your most efficient or most soft sale? My theory is that it will lean towards your quickest sale (depending on thousands of other variables), and you end up looking at time on site as more of a necessary engagement metric prior to conversion.

    Looking forward to your response.

    Daniel Redman

  2. Steve Peron
    Steve Peron

    Sir Daniel Redman,

    I completely understand your argument No one ever wants to have an upset customer especially one with buyers remorse. However, you are missing a major piece of the puzzle, which I should have addressed in the post.

    Since Google analytics is a last touch analytic software we are only aware of what marketing channel they interacted with last before purchasing. I am big supporter of the theory that other marketing efforts always contribute to transactions even if we can not attribute to them directly through Google analytics.

    With that said, I would argue a large percentage of visitors that have lower page views or zero time on site stats have had other interaction with other marketing efforts and are actually well informed purchasers.

    The only way to truly prove either of our theories is with multi-touch tracking analytics.

  3. Daniel Redman

    Apology accepted…

  4. Miguel

    Great post and to be honest I never really considered the zero time on site issue as being a single page view person, which as you noted could be a really good visitor. I imagine that this is especially true one blog posts where the reader never clicks another link on the page after reading it. I wonder if commenting on a blog post would fire the javascript and interfere with time in site?

    What did you think of Tom Critchlow’s post that made the GA blog, http://analytics.blogspot.com/2010/07/using-wrong-tracking-code-can-cost…? Have you tested this out yet? The diagnosis is a bit advanced with the filtering and stuff.

  5. Jeet

    Steve: I am sure this will serve as an eye opener for many. There aren’t many businesses that concentrate on only once service or product (maybe twitter ;-) ), so it’s essential that each service has it’s own page, many SEOs make this mistake and get the homepage ranked instead of a good landing page. Unfortunately Google has sitelinks only for top results otherwise that might make it easier for users to go to correct page.

    Another thing that you might want to check is MANY visitors with zero time spent did a brand search or domain search and reached your site, they just wanted your phone number – reminds me to include the phone number in meta descriptions every time :)

  6. Steve Peron
    Steve Peron

    Jeet: Personally, I would stay away from placing your phone number in your meta description tag because you are wasting ad copy space in the serps to potential non branded keyword results.

    It is better to have branded search visitors creating zero time spent on site visits than not serving call to actions to non branded search traffic.

  7. Steve Peron
    Steve Peron

    Miguel: Posting a comment will most likely fire the javascript because I believe their is a page load of some sort.

    Regarding Tom’s post, I did try this out. I nvestigated into our client base and found a handful of clients with this issue. Within hours of reading that post our dev team fixed all of our clients site that had this issue. I am still waiting on data to see if it did help increase conversions.

  8. Noel

    So if your whole web site exists on a single page, and the user comes to the site, then goes directly to another site, the time on site could be zero? Or does the timer get triggered when the user exits the site altogether to go to a different site? thanks in advance…

  9. Steve Peron
    Steve Peron

    To be clear if your whole web site exists on a single page, and the user comes to the site, then goes directly to another site, the time on site would be zero. This is because the javascript does not fire when someone leaves a website. The javascript fires on page load.

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