User engagement time revisited

What's wrong with "Time on Page"?

Last week, we looked at "Time on Page", a statistic used by most traditional web analytics to gauge user interaction within a webpage. And while we weren't Google-bashing (really, we weren't!), we did point out some very serious inaccuracies with Google Analytics' method of calculating "Time on Page".

In this post we'll be talking about "User Engagement Time", which measures exactly how long your visitors are actually interacting with your content. We'll be looking closely at how it works, what it tells you, and how you can ultimately use it to improve your web content, conversion rates and ROI.


"Time on Page" vs "User Engagement Time"

Traditionally, "Time on Page" tells you one thing and one thing only - how long a visitor has a web page open for. However, we've seen from countless observations that users will often open a new tab, minimize their browser or even go off and do something else while browsing a site. All of this is normal browsing behavior, but it gives rise to one major point: "Time on Page" tells you nothing about how long your visitors actually interact with your online content!

Time on Page can change drastically, as it can be skewed by normal browsing behavior User Engagement Time however, provides steady, reliable and more representative statistic

Knowing how long your visitors spend interacting with each page is vital. You need to know what content keeps your visitors interested, what keeps them busy, and what bores them. For example:

  • If you have a product features page, then you want to maximize your customer's interaction with the page, keeping them interested until they convert.
  • On the other hand, if you have a signup form, you want to keep the necessary user actions to a minimum, improving usability and minimizing form abandonment.

Knowing how long the average customer really takes to convert or fill out a form is the critical first step towards tightening the funnel and increasing your conversion rates.

That's where "User Engagement Time" comes in. Clicktale can tell you how long customers actually spend reading your content, looking at your pictures, watching your videos and browsing your products. Not just how long they had a page open for, but how long that page held their attention, and whether or not they liked what they saw.

How user engagement time works

Unlike traditional web analytics, Clicktale records every mouse move, click, scroll, hover and keystroke. As well as using this data to create User Videos and Visual Heatmaps, Clicktale can work out exactly how long a visitor spends interacting with a page or site. Engagement Time starts counting the first time the visitor clicks, scrolls or moves and stops counting after 20 seconds of inactivity. This is best explained visually, so let's look at a timeline of a typical visitor on a webpage:


A typical visitor to your site
A typical visitor to your site

As you can see, when the visitor has been inactive for over 20 seconds, Clicktale stops counting the Engagement Time. Therefore, if the visitor steps away from their computer or opens a new tab, this "inactive time" does not count towards the total Engagement Time. However, if they come back and start looking at the page again, the counting begins once more, adding it to the total Engagement Time.

How to use Engagement Time

More important than knowing how Engagement Time works, is knowing what Engagement Time tells you. For starters, it is a good indicator of site health, as it is a far more accurate way of keeping your finger on the "pulse" of your website than Pages Visited or Time on Page. Secondly, it is an invaluable tool for web-site optimization and troubleshooting.

For example, if you have a page on your site that has a very high exit ratio (a high number of visitors leave your site on this page) and you want to reduce it. How you fix it depends a great deal on the page's Engagement Time:

  • If the page has very low Engagement Time then the problem is straightforward, your visitors simply aren't interested in the content. By looking at your pages with higher Engagement Times, you can see what content interests for your visitors, and improve the page based on those examples.
  • If the page has very high Engagement Time then your problem is different. This tells you that your visitors like what they see on the page, but for some reason don't continue browsing through your site. This could be because they don't think there's more to see, or perhaps they want to see more but can't work out how to get there! Either way, this is a serious problem with your funnel. After watching videos of visitors with high Engagement Times using Clicktale, you'll know if you need to use Call to Action buttons, clean up your navigation or fix any broken or missing links.

Again, to get the best conversion rates you should find the content that optimizes User Engagement Time on product and landing pages, while minimizing it on shopping carts and forms. On checkout pages you can also compare Engagement Time to Time on Page to see how much "wasted time" there is during the payment process. This "wasted time" should be minimized, because once a customer has chosen to pay, you want their conversion and checkout to be as quick and easy as possible.

Engagement Time is one of the many valuable features of Clicktale, which is available to all our subscribers, even on our Free Plan*. Our powerful and flexible tools enable you to get the most out of your website by increasing conversion rates, minimizing abandonment, and maximizing profits. So sign up today and start learning how to optimize your website based on your customers' actual behavior.

*Terms and services have changed since the publication of this article.

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