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