Understanding Website User Engagement with Google Analytics Metrics

07.28.2022 3 Minutes

15 seconds. The amount of time that most users spend on a website and the amount of time you have to capture your audience’s attention. So how do you know if your users are engaged, and what can you do to increase the chance they’ll engage with your website?

Most marketers use Google Analytics to track the performance of their website. However, not all marketers use this analytics data to glean insights into user engagement. Below, we’ll outline a few key metrics you should track to better gauge how users are interacting with your website. We’ll also cover a few tactics you should consider to improving your performance in these metrics.

New to Google Analytics? Take a look at this article from Google on getting set up as well as our resources on Google Analytics 4 and GA4 terminology first.

What are dimensions and metrics in Google Analytics?

Before we begin, it’s important to understand the difference between dimensions and metrics in Google Analytics.

Dimensions are attributes that can be used to describe and organize data. Common dimensions would include “page” (which shows the metrics for particular pages on your site), “medium” (such as “email” or “organic”), “geography” (such as city or country of origin), “language,” and “screen resolution.”

Metrics are quantitative measurements that track certain elements of how users interact with your site. Common metrics include acquisition metrics such as the number of users or sessions for a particular dimension and behavior metrics such as bounce rate, pages per session, or average session duration.

Together, dimensions and metrics can provide key insights about how users interact with the pages on your website. For example, you could review the “page” dimension with metrics such as views or users to determine the relative popularity of certain pages on your site. Or, you could look at metrics such as bounce rate and average time on page in relation to dimensions such as browser or device category to see if users are more or less likely to spend time on your page when they enter on different devices (potentially helping you determine if your site is supported on all browsers and devices).

Average session duration

Think of a session as a someone taking a trip to a brick and mortar grocery store. They may “visit” the meat department or the dairy aisle, but their entire trip to the store would count as a single grocery shopping “session.” The same general concept is true for users who visit your website.

Average session duration measures the average amount of time your visitors spend looking around your site. An individual user can visit multiple pages in a single session (such as visiting all the departments in a grocery store), or can visit several pages across multiple sessions (such as visiting a grocery store every other day to pick up only the things you need for dinner that night). Industry experts have differing opinions on what constitutes a good session duration metrics, but anything above 1.5 minutes is generally considered to be above average.

In most cases, sites with higher average session duration feature longer scrolling pages with interactive or eye-catching elements throughout. These elements can come in many forms, such as infographics, animated blocks of content, video, charts, and more. Average session duration is a broad metric that can give you a snapshot of your site’s engagement. Pairing it with the following metrics can shed additional insight into how you can increase the time users spend on your site. 

Bounce rate

A “bounce” is a session where a user views a single page of your site and then exits without performing any other action (such as clicking an element or navigating to a new page). In most cases, you’ll want to shoot for a bounce rate of somewhere between 50% and 75%. Bounce rates under 50% are quite good. A high bounce rate isn’t always bad, however.

If your site has a blog that accounts for much of your traffic, your bounce rate is most certainly higher. This is because users will tend to land directly on a blog article by searching for related material in a search engine and then leave after reading the article they came for. In such a situation — due to the quirks of how Google Analytics measures data — the session would have a duration of “0 seconds” because the tracking code can’t determine how long the user stayed on the page before closing the tab. Accordingly, the session would also count as a bounce because the user left the page without interacting with the page itself outside of reading and scrolling.

If you frequently promote news or events on social media, your bounce rate is also likely a bit higher, as users are directed to individual news/events pages which they will view and then exit. If your site has a high bounce rate but a decent average time on page, this isn’t typically cause for concern.

If you’re looking to lower your bounce rate, consider increasing the number of internal links on your posts and pages, as well as improving your cross-site navigation. As a rule of thumb, users should always have a place to go when they reach the bottom of each page of your site. Adding calls to action that direct users to other related pages of your site is a good way to improve bounce rate, as well as increase average session duration.

Average time on page

Average time on page is exactly what it sounds like, the amount of time users spend on a given page of your website. This metric is great for drilling down into individual pages to gauge what content you might need to refresh.

Often, pages with large blocks of uninterrupted text will have a low average time on page. This is an indication that users aren’t reading your content. Breaking up blocks of text into more easily digestible snippets of content by adding in infographics, photos, and videos is a good way to get users to absorb information instead of scrolling past it. Breaking up copy with expand-collapse accordions or even adding more subheadings to break up large blocks of content can also help.

If your average time on page is declining systemically across many pages of your site, however, this is indicative that it might be time for a site refresh. Sites that are over a couple years old often start to see declines in average time on pages across the board, simply because users are already overly familiar (and perhaps bored) with site’s design and content.

Page depth

Page depth is the number of pages that users view per site visit. Users that only view one page can still count as high-quality visitors. However, your goal should be to increase the percentage of visitors viewing 2-5 pages.

Similar to decreasing bounce rate, increasing page depth involves making sure that there is adequate cross navigation throughout your site, in order to guide users on a logical journey.

Another way to increase page depth is to improve your site’s page load speed. A slow loading site can frustrate visitors, prompting them to exit your site preemptively. As a general rule, each page should load in under two seconds.

Engagement matters

In an age when users have infinite choices when it comes to their browsing time, improving your website engagement should be a primary focus. Offering content that is relevant, timely, and tailored to their needs and guiding visitors on a purposeful journey to access this information is essential. By tracking these key metrics in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to benchmark, track, and ultimately improve website user engagement.

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