Larry BraunerUnderstanding your blog or website traffic requires more than merely counting your visitors.

You ought to know too where your visitors are coming from and the suitability of each source of traffic, as well as how effectively your website is performing when visitors arrive.

Average time on site and bounce rate are two of the statistics that help you gauge the relevance of your website to your site’s visitors.

Google Analytics Bias

Google Analytics is a popular free tool for monitoring your website traffic that has many great features including advanced visitor segmentation, a favorite of mine.

Sadly, Google Analytics reports bounce rate and time on site statistics that are biased. The Google bounce rate is too high, while the time on site is too low. This problem tends to be especially acute in the case of blogs.

I defined Google bounce rate and discussed the bias in Google Bounce Rate Misleads Bloggers (Oct. ‘08). Please read that introductory article if this subject matter is unfamiliar to you.

Cause of Google Analytics Bias

Google Analytics assumes that a visitor who views only a single page on a site is dissatisfied and leaves immediately, which is often not the case. A visitor can spend time on a single page and leave contented, especially if that page contains a blog post.

However, Google’s assumption was much simpler and more cost effective for Google to implement at the time they made it than an alternative would’ve been. Yet, a change in that one assumption would permit Google Analytics to provide more useful estimates of both bounce rate and time on site.

Better Web Analytics

Technology has advanced since Google formulated its bounce rate. Web analytics service providers now have access to faster servers and greater bandwidth.

Real Time Web AnalyticsIn search of better web analytics, I have tried other service providers.

My favorite is Clicky, an innovative web analytics service that exploits newer technology.

Clicky devised and implemented an approach to estimating bounce rate and time on site that is quite elegant and superior to that which Google implemented in Google Analytics.

The Clicky script installed on each website communicates at pre-assigned intervals with the server. This interaction enables Clicky to estimate time on site, even if the visitor views just a single page. Clicky then makes an arbitrary yet fair assumption that any visitor who was on the website for at least 30 seconds found the site to be relevant.

The difference in methods is striking: My overall Google bounce rate last week was 79% vs. my overall Clicky bounce rate of 26%. Google average time on site was 1:55 vs. Clicky 3:41.

(For statistics buffs out there, the correlation between Google and Clicky bounce rates for the top nine keyword phrases was only 0.2 indicating that data from each is likely to lead us to draw a different set of conclusions.)

Clicky makes comparing keywords and traffic sources cleaner and updates results in as close to real time as I can expect. Clicky offers a choice free or premium service. I started with the free service and later upgraded to the premium one.

No more Google bounce rate or Google time on site for me! ;-)

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19 Responses to “The Search for Better Web Analytics”

  1. DeBorah Beatty on April 25th, 2010 10:55 pm

    I’ve been using Woopra for almost 2 years and have always had all the information I need at my fingertips.

  2. Chuck Bartok on April 25th, 2010 11:05 pm

    Larry,

    Fantastic article. It is true Google Analytics has faults, but knowing the How and what information is truly relevant can mitigate the “problem” The real time spent on a blog is relevant to the Master Plan of the Blog.

    I have a page on my blog that is an Opt-in for a truly valuable FREE Gift. People are there for a short Time…. I don’t care, I am getting 1,000 opt-ins per month. But the follow up e-mails always direct back to the Blog and my Return %’s are very HIGH. And product conversion is reasonable.

    So I feel regardless the system it is important to understand one’s Master Plan.

    I appreciate the introduction to Clicky… You are always full of Good Information. Thank you for your diligence.

  3. Stephen G. Barr, Group Publisher on April 25th, 2010 11:38 pm

    Giving it a try…thanks!

  4. M. Edward (Ed) Borasky on April 26th, 2010 5:52 pm

    I’m also a happy Clicky user. I haven’t paid much attention to the bounce rate, mostly because the site is so small and so specialized that there’s not much information there.

    For me, the big deal about Clicky is real-time, especially Spy. I can make a blog post, tweet a link to it, post the links on LinkedIn, Reddit and DZone, and watch visitors come in in real time! For a small site like mine, that’s crucial - I find out what’s working and what isn’t instantaneously!

  5. Vincent Ammirato on April 26th, 2010 7:29 pm

    I’m a Clicky user too and found your post on the forum there. I agree that we need multiple sources for our analytics. Google and Statcounter are good free ones. I’m in my first paid month of Clicky and I love it….slowly adding all my sites.

    But you can redefine “bounce” using goals/advanced segmentation in GA. You can, for instance, measure the average time it takes to read your one page article, and set a goal to trigger if the visitor spends at 80% of that time.

    Sure they register as a GA bounce in the strictest sense but you still get the real data picture.

  6. Vincent Ammirato on April 26th, 2010 7:36 pm

    Okay, I went back and compared stats, too. GA recorded more visitors and page views but Clicky reported a higher time spent on site (7:48 compared to 8:42) and a much, much lower bounce rate (40% compared to 17%).

    Thanks for making me look!

  7. Larry Brauner on April 26th, 2010 8:33 pm

    @DeBorah Do you know how Woopra has implemented bounce rate?

    @Chuck @Stephen Thank you!

    @Ed Thank you for visiting and commenting.

    @Vincent It’s important to realize that Google doesn’t start the clock until the visitor opens a second page. You could make bounce rate stricter but not more lenient.

  8. Anne on April 27th, 2010 12:39 pm

    Thanks Larry,

    I am going to check this out. I had an inkling that Google was a bit off…have a great day.

    Anne Theriault

  9. Ilka Flood on April 27th, 2010 1:24 pm

    Hi Larry,

    Great information! I had no idea bounce rate was that important. Time on site on the other hand, I can see where this could be of importance.

    Thanks for shedding some light on this! I’ll take a look at Clicky.

    Have an awesome day!

    Ilka

  10. Steven on April 28th, 2010 11:29 am

    I use Clicktail. It helps me know what is happening on my site, and its heat maps and videos show me I can increase my conversions

  11. Junk Drawer Kathy on April 29th, 2010 6:44 am

    Happy Clicky user here too! I just read their blog about the changes in bounce rate calculations. It sank like a stone (in a good way). I also love their live Spy feature.

  12. Herb on April 29th, 2010 9:05 am

    I use bounce rate with GA carefully as a trending tool - what matters to me is the change over time so if the actual metric is not accurate the inaccuracies should be constant and the trend should still remain valuable. I will definitely check out Clicky though and, like some of the other commenters, I too am implementing Clicktale for a few high traffic sites - super value info!

    Thanks for the great info!

  13. Larry Brauner on April 29th, 2010 10:29 pm

    @Anne Way off. ;-)

    @Ilka Thanks. :-)

    @Kathy Great to see you here. :-D

    @Herb The low correlation cited above in my article is an indication that Google bounce rate is not always representative of real bounce. If you really care about people visiting more than one page, great. Otherwise, as in the case of most blogs, it’s a pretty useless statistic.

  14. Sourav on May 3rd, 2010 9:04 am

    I was using Google Analytics, but after I changed my template and even after inserting the tracking code in the my template, it is not working.

    So now I am using Clicky. The best thing I like about Clicky is the “actions”. It gives a good idea about what users are doing.

    But one problem is that it also tracks my own IP. Is there any way to change that?

  15. Larry Brauner on May 3rd, 2010 7:10 pm

    Sourav,

    Find a visit of your own, and from within “actions,” select “Name this visitor.”

    Check off “Do not log visits from this IP address” and “Global.”

  16. Michael on May 11th, 2010 1:28 pm

    I would have to agree, I am just finding this out myself. I would just count my visitors but had no idea where they came from. I just found out that 38% of my visitors are from Germany, when I am targeting the US. I think I can begin to use this to my advantage and target part of my site to this market.

  17. Thomas Davis on May 17th, 2010 9:10 am

    Clicky has been great so far and I have even stopped using google analytics mainly because it seems wrong and it takes to long to load everything

  18. TOM Merilahti on November 7th, 2010 1:35 am

    I’ve used Snoobi Online Business Intelligence for more than a year, and as an official partner, I’d be more than happy to offer you a chance to compare it with any web analytics tool. Apply for a Free Trial Account at: sicusynergy.org/Free_Trial_Account.htm.

  19. Chris Powers on May 29th, 2011 12:54 am

    I’m truly impressed with Clicky, I found it purely by accident from a vendor of mine whose also using it.

    I didn’t even wait 24 hrs after signing up to decide its well worth the $. I also like their ease of installing it into a Joomla CMS website, it was a no brainer!

    They have an excellent iphone and ipad app for it, and its incredible to see it on-the-go stats in real time. Its helping me understand better WHO is coming to my site, from WHERE and WHAT they are doing. I’ve had Google Analytics for years and its just a lot of work to make heads and tails of some of the information.

    Clicky makes it incredibly easy. I’ve got my clients hooked, they’re not very tech-savvy and had no problem logging in and seeing the stats and understanding the traffic they’re getting.

    Its going to revolutionize my clients business and mine too! Thanks to the wonderful folks at Clicky!

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