Stay time on site – everything you need to know

What does the stay time metrics represent? The simple answer is: depends on who you ask. The slightly more complex answer is in the following article.

One of the most interesting metrics for publishers is the average length of time users spend on their site.



Because a long time spent browsing the site is a form of indication that the site is relevant to the user and generates value for him. However, the popular tools available to webmasters, and in particular Google's analytics tools, do not accurately calculate the browsing time of a site, but only estimate it. We will immediately understand why.

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When is staying time an important measure?

A stay time metrics is an important factor for a publisher when they want to understand whether the content on specific pages is high-quality. However, the decision that a long stay time is also necessary to indicate the satisfaction of the user of the site should be taken as limited guarantee. For example, if a user searches for weather, currency exchange rates, or Saturday check-in times, he may be satisfied with the results presented to him and the visits to the sites containing the information, even though he has been there for a very short time.

So let's go over to understand what is the time spent on the site and how to measure it.


Time spent on the site – definition and reservation

The official definition of time spent on the site is, of course, the amount of time that passes from the time the user lands on one of the site's pages until he has finished browsing the site. Here we are already getting into trouble: We have no problem understanding when a user landed on one of the site's pages, but when is it determined that the user has finished browsing the site? When did he close the browser window? Maybe after not interacting with the page for a long time? And what happens in case the user moved to another tab or another website, and returned to our site a few minutes later? Are the minutes he spent on other sites considered by us to be a time of stay or, perhaps, an abandonment?


How does Google Analytics calculate stay time?

The issues raised earlier are not trivial issues and someone had to pick up the glove and define exactly how time is spent on the site. Google Analytics Measurement Tool is just one of the tools that allows us, the publishers, to measure the length of time users spend on the site. How does he do it?

The Google Analytics script sends a special time-stamp every time a user interacts with the site. Each visit to a particular page, the broadcast is sent to Google Analytics servers plus the timestamp.

In this work configuration, the user's stay time is calculated using a simple formula: the last time-stamp, less the first time-stamp, is equal to the time spent on the site.

What is the problem with this metric? Well, there are a number of problems. The first is that this calculation, of course, ignores the visitor's time spent on the last page he visited. why? Because Google has no way of understanding when the user has completed his review of the site if he does not send an explicit sign. Therefore, in this calculation configuration, the staying time of only one-page visitor will always be zero.

But that's not the only problem. As mentioned, a user can open several tabs in the browser at the same time and consume content on other pages as well. How will the time spent browsing the other pages be calculated? And what happens if the user decides to get up from the chair next to the computer, access and prepare himself a good meal, and then come back and watch the page again? How will the stay time be calculated in this case?


What can be done to improve Google Analytics time spent on site?

We realized, then, that Google Analytics' calculation was inaccurate. As long as Google does not operate an elaborate camera system (and in this article there is no argument that it does not) to understand where the user's attention is, this calculation will remain inaccurate. However, by using a few simple techniques, it will be possible to make a significant approximation to the user's actual stay time.


Technique # 1: Send event to Google Analytics servers after a certain amount of time on the site

Using this technique, we are actually waiting a certain amount of time, after which, if the client's browser is not closed, we send Google Analytics Websites servers event to indicate user involvement, allegedly, on the site. This technique will allow us to display a zero stay time metric for users who viewed one page of the site, but if the event was sent after 10 seconds, while the user stayed on the page for half an hour, the calculated stay time would be only ten seconds, since this is the last time the event was sent from the site.


Technique # 2: Send event for more additional actions besides visiting a page on the site

How do we know that a user, who viewed one page on the site, and has not yet moved to another page, is actually on the site, and has not abandoned it? How do we understand weather we should consider the time when it is allegedly viewing the page as part of our site stay? The answer is that we can use additional indications to understand user behavior: for example, scrolling down the page can indicate the interest and explore of the page, the mouse's move on tooltip objects can also indicate some interest, etc.

Sending these indications to Google Analytics servers may help with more accurate measurement, in cases where the user views one page and abandons the site.


Additional Techniques:

This category includes all techniques designed to help measure when a user has completed their visit to the site: tracking the mouse position until arriving near the window's closing icon, finishing a particularly long page scroll and more.


How do I extend my stay time?

No roads are missing to keep the user on the website. However, it is important to understand that not all ways are suitable for every business. Some ways require creativity, others require a considerable budget, and some simply take time. Let's try to figure out which of these channels is worth exercising.


Incorporating amazing images on the site, but really amazing

This is not about an image search within the paid image repositories. Definately not. Here you have to understand that the users have seen the same hundreds of images in hundreds of thousands of landing pages and they have massaged them. When it comes to incorporating amazing images, the intent is for images that are truly exceptional. Those who would make users appreciate the artwork, definitely stare, for minutes, responding to it, tagging friends, sharing, and actually engaging with it, one of the best lengths of stay on the site.


Incorporating high quality videos invested on the site, but really high quality

It's no secret that Google is the owner of the YouTube platform, and as such, its interest in promoting video-based content is great. Find out from the premise that competing against a well-edited, valuable, funny or exciting video is difficult to impossible. People became famous one day after posting an invested and unusual clip they produced and distributed on the network. And, of course, if you create a video that meets the right criteria and at the right time becomes viral, your site stay will probably increase (by the way, here's my YouTube channel with all the videos).


Create surveys or quizzes

Interactive content is inherently content that consumes time. For a person, unlike powerful computers, it is harder to respond quickly. And besides, people like to test themselves against others, so the use of quizzes and surveys has become a real trend in recent years. In the technological environment, various companies have emerged as their specialty. Using interactive content as a catalyst for increasing site time is therefore a great idea.


Create valuable content

In every field today you can find topics about the audience outside and who are unfamiliar with the field, there are more questions than answers. There are endless examples of amazing guides, which include practical tips, and provide a lot of value to the user. Kenya guides have become more and more popular in recent years for exactly this reason.


In conclusion

Website stay time is an important factor in ranking a site in search engines. To measure it correctly, one must understand the limitations of the measurement tool. There are many ways to increase time spent on the site, and most of them all focus on one key factor: content quality.

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