Website Tracking

Misunderstood: Session Duration in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a great free tool to get a better understanding of what happens on your website. Once you have the tracking code on your site, you can start analysing the data to improve your website.

In this article, we’re gonna dig a bit deeper in understanding a key metric in your Google Analytics account: session duration. This metric is often misunderstood, which can let you interpret the data differently and make the wrong decisions.

What is session duration?

First let’s explain what this metric represents: The time on site metric is close to what you think it is. It measures the time a visitor spends on your site.

Attached to this metric is the avg. session duration and the avg. time on page metrics, they work in the same way, so in this article, we tackle these as well.

Screenshot of session duration in Google Analytics.
Average session duration in Google Analytics.

How Google Analytics tracks a visit

The Google Analytics tracking code gets loaded every time a visitor lands on a page of the website. So let’s say a visitor visits 3 pages on the site before it leaves the site:

He spends 3 minutes and 22 seconds on the first page;

1 minute and 8 seconds on the second;

44 seconds on the third page;

After that, he leaves the site.

Google Analytics is not able to see how long the visitor stayed on the third page, as the Google Analytics tracking code doesn’t get loaded after this page.

So even though the visitor stayed 5 minutes and 14 seconds on the site, the session duration in Google Analytics is tracked as 4 minutes and 30 seconds (excluding the 44 seconds of the third page).

Example of how session duration works in Google Analytics.
Session duration in Google Analytics explained.


Help, my page has a low average time on the page and a high bounce rate

A low average time on the page is not necessarily a bad thing.

For example, if you’re using a typical SEM (search engine marketing) landing page that is built around 1 goal it’s normal that a large portion of your visitors only visits one page.

Also, blog articles often have a low time on page and a high bounce rate. (Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave after just visiting one page). Visitors often find the information they need on these pages and then leave without taking action.

Keep in mind that a low average time on page or a high bounce rate it doesn’t necessarily mean that the visitor didn’t read the page. Google just didn’t register the actual time that they’ve spent on the page.


What is session duration in Google Analytics?

Session duration measures the time a visitor spends on your site.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that can give you most of the information you need to optimise your website. It’s the most popular web analytics tool around and is known to be easy to use and reliable. Made for small and medium-sized websites to give them an opportunity to track, analyse and improve their online presence.

What are some of the benefits of Google Analytics?

See where your visitors are coming from. See which pages your visitors have visited. See how long your visitors spend on each page. Track key conversion points on your site.

How does Google Analytics work?

Google Analytics works based on a piece of tracking code that is being placed on every page of your website.

About Vazooky Digital

Vazooky Digital is a Google Analytics specialist based in Sydney, Australia. Need help with your website tracking? Please get in touch.

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By Jeroen

Having worked as a PPC freelancer for many years, Jeroen helps businesses to get more results out of their online advertising budgets.

He is the founder of Vazooky Digital, a Google Ads agency in Sydney, Australia.

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