What Google Analytics Can’t Tell You: Part 1

ClickTale
October 14, 2009

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”.

ga time on page What Google Analytics Cant Tell You: Part 1

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!

bounce What Google Analytics Cant Tell You: Part 1

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:

 

ga bounce1 What Google Analytics Cant Tell You: Part 1

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.

 

ct bounce1 What Google Analytics Cant Tell You: Part 1

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.

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18 Comments

  1. Mike Belasco Says:
    October 14th, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    very well done post and an excellent example of one of GA’s flaws. You could create a second profile in GA that ignores bounced visitors so that the time on site is at least close to accurate (i know you don’t get engaged time) since bounces are not included, Basically it would show time on site for everyone who did not bounce.

  2. Chris Hickey Says:
    October 14th, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Wow that’s great stuff! I would love to try this out with some of our clients… not to mention our own site!

  3. Weekend Links : Jeff Sexton Writes Says:
    October 16th, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    [...] Google’s Time on Page is Wrong – This one is an eye opener and well worth the quick and well-illustrated read. Â Also, Click Tale has a free version of its software/service – get videos of visitor activity for free! [...]

  4. shmuls Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 9:08 am

    See our follow-up interview here:

    http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/1329-Google-Analytics-Inaccurate-Expert-Says

  5. Steven Manning Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Nice post, I’ve been using both google analytics and ClickTale for a while now. It is clear that the two compliment each other and that they pick up on the weaknesses of each other and fill in each others gaps.

    In my mind, GA tells me about my site’s traffic, and ClickTale tells me about it’s visitors.

  6. Analysing Bounce Rates & Satisfaction Rates Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 3:47 am

    [...] to show engagement times rather than just time on page and this week they’ve been explaining why Google Analytics isn’t the best way to measure engagement. Like most traditional web analytics services, Google Analytics records a “Time on Page”, [...]

  7. David Says:
    October 29th, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Great points, the way that Google Analytics calculates bounce rate does present problems with many websites especially flash websites and landing pages.

    The ability to get a secondary measurement tool that compliments your other analytics solutions if it is WebTrends or Omniture makes sense. There is no point only using 1 point of data to measure campaigns when you can use multiple points that together deliver a more complete picture.

  8. Jeff Johnson Says:
    October 29th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I;m glad you get it

    thanks – now i want this to work in FLASH for pages in a magazine

    see
    http://madmenmag.com
    http://w.ctndigital.com

    contact me , i want TS and event tracking ( video launched, seen to completion, trigger subscription etc )

  9. Art Says:
    October 31st, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    It is the well known fact that the time visitor stayed on the Exit page is reported as 0 by Google Analystic. It’s good know that ClickTale does report the accurate time period vistor stayed on the Exit page. Also, I more like that ClickTale reports the visitor engaging time, than just visitor’s time on page Analytics reports.

  10. Alexey Gorlov Says:
    November 1st, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    GREAT! I searched solution of this problem about year. And now I’m happy!

  11. Measuring Website Usage With Google Analytics, Part I at Actually… Says:
    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    [...] to the ClickTale blog (What Google Analytics Can’t Tell You – Part 1), Google Analytics “has no way of knowing how long a bounced visitor, who only visits one [...]

  12. Measuring Website Usage With Google Analytics, Part I « JISCPress Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 7:42 am

    [...] to the ClickTale blog (What Google Analytics Can’t Tell You – Part 1), Google Analytics “has no way of knowing how long a bounced visitor, who only visits one [...]

  13. Jay Valento - Long Beach Real Estate Says:
    February 28th, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I’m planning on testing Clicktale vs Google to see how effective it is. Thank you for sharing the differences in this post.

  14. Ukraine, Chernihiv Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 2:01 am

    These tools analysts do not replace each other but are complementary.

  15. [EN] What Google Analytics Can’t Tell You Says:
    March 13th, 2010 at 1:28 am

    [...] ClickTale Bookmark Artikel Getagged met: [...]

  16. Bar Mitzvah Says:
    April 14th, 2010 at 3:06 am

    There is no better way to know exactly what your visitors do on your site

  17. Brian Clifton’s crusade « iMediaConnection Blog Says:
    June 7th, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    [...] Brian Clifton wrote a critical item about a Clicktale article which he claimed was a rehash of an article by me – The Disturbing Inaccuracy Behind Google [...]

  18. Hacker News vs. Facebook – A Look At How Their Traffic Differs | Naysawn's Blog Says:
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    [...] [...]

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