What Google Analytics can't tell you: part 1



Time on Page and Engagement Time

We love Google Analytics, we always have. Just like Clicktale it's free*, easy to set up, comes with a lot of helpful tools, and is a great way to collect analytical information about your site. However, there are several things Google Analytics just can't tell you, and in this post we're going to talk about two of them:

  1. Google Analytics cannot tell you anything about bounced visitors! These are visitors that come to your site, only look at the page they land on, and decide to leave. These are the potential customers you didn't get, they are the lost sales, lost leads and lost profits.
  2. Google Analytics gives you no information about how long your visitors actually interact with your online content. All it can see is the amount of time a page was left open, which doesn't tell you anything about how long your visitors were actually looking at your content.

And now we're going to tell you why...

Like most traditional web analytics services, Google Analytics records a "Time on Page", denoting the time a visitor spends looking at each page in your website. It does this in three stages:

  1. It records the time your visitor opens the first page.
  2. It records the time your visitor opens the next page.
  3. It subtracts these two times and calls the result "Time on Page".


This method has been used by Google since it started it's analytics service back in 2006, and while it is a simple way to gauge user interaction, Google Analytics' method for calculating "Time on Page" and "Bounced Visitors" is woefully inaccurate!

If the visitor doesn't move through your site, Google Analytics can't record a second page being opened, so it has no way of knowing how long a bounced visitor, who only visits one page, spent on your website. Finding out what these visitors do on your landing page and converting them into happy, paying customers is essential for your business growth, and Google Analytics just can't tell you that.

Additionally, Google Analytics has no idea what happens after the page is opened. For example, if the user minimizes the browser, changes tabs or leaves their computer on overnight, the "Time on Page" could be hours, when in reality the user only looked at the page for a couple of seconds.

That's where Clicktale comes in. We use our unique analytics tools to solve both these problems and show you EXACTLY how long your visitors spend on each page. More importantly, we'll show you how long they're actually engaging with your online content. As well as recording when your visitors land on the page, we record absolutely everything they do when they get there: Mouse moves, clicks, scrolls, keystrokes and even the exact time they close the page!


The Experiment

So that's the theory. But is this really true in practice? Obviously we don't want you to take our word for it, so we thought we do a little "field research".

We created a simple website with a single page, and set up both Google Analytics and Clicktale's own analytics suite to monitor it. Then we simulated a typical Bounce Visitor by opening the page in our browser, looking at it for a few minutes, then minimizing the browser for about half an hour before moving on to another site.

These are the results from our two analytics suites:

A single Bouncing Visitor shown with Google Analytics
A single Bouncing Visitor shown with Google Analytics

Google Analytics noted our visit, but could not give us any qualitative or quantitative data about our time on the site.

A single Bouncing Visitor shown with ClickTale
A single Bouncing Visitor shown with Clicktale

Clicktale, on the other hand, was able to show us the bounce, the time spent on the page and the exact time spent engaging with the content. What's more by clicking on the "Play" button, we were able to watch a video of our entire browsing session.

Now you can re-live your Bounced Visitor's actual browsing experiences! See what they looked at and what they didn't, what they read and what they skimmed. Find what failed to catch their eye and why they fell out of the funnel. There is no better way to know exactly what your visitors do on your site, empowering you to minimize bounce rates, optimize conversion rates and maximize profits!

Want to see for yourself? Both "Time on Page" and "Engagement Time" are available to all our subscribers, even on the Free Plan**, so you can sign up and try it out today! We believe these features, as well as our visual heatmaps, conversion analytics and full video playback of your visitors browsing sessions make Clicktale the perfect complement to your traditional web analytics suite.

*Our pricing have changed since the publication of this blog article.

** You can request demo

Talk to us to explore how customer experience analytics can improve your business