As with most businesses, you are probably using Google Analytics to track the traffic to your dealership website – specifically to see how much traffic you are receiving, where it is coming from, what traffic sources are converting, and how long people are staying on your site. However, tracking a visitor’s time on site is hard for any analytics tool to do accurately – including even Google Analytics.
Interested in learning why Google Analytics comes up short on this front, as well as how Remora correctly accounts for these issues when reviewing your page’s time metrics? Then take a moment to follow along as we break down the particulars of how to accurately measure and quantify the time spent by visitors to your dealership site.
Google Analytics can only track time when something happens on the page; such events are known as “hits.” It is important to note that this type of interaction is not the same as hits to your website, as these hits are going to your Analytics account.
Another thing to consider when determining the accuracy of your analytics reporting is that you are probably using the free version of Google Analytics for your dealership website. These free accounts are limited to 10 million hits a month per property or website in the account. If you exceed the 10 million hit limit, your data collection will stop and you will need to upgrade to the Analytics 360 version to log additional hits – and a more accurate overall perspective of your website’s traffic.
In order for Google Analytics to track a user’s time spent on your site, it looks at the time difference between hits and pages. If there are no hits being sent from the last page visited, Google Analytics is unable to determine the correct time spent on the page, and thus it counts it as zero seconds.
Time on page one = 30 seconds
Time on page two = 60 seconds
Time on page three = ????
Analytics is able to determine that the user spent 30 seconds on the first page based off of the time difference of the initial page visit and when they clicked to go to the second page. The 60 seconds spent on page two is determined by when they first landed on the second page and when they clicked to go to the third page. The time stamps between those clicks is how Google Analytics determines how long the user spent on your website.
Google Analytics is unable to measure the time spent on the third page, so it is registered as zero seconds. Even if the user spent two minutes on the page, there are no hits being sent and the person on the other side of the screen did not click to visit a fourth page (which will now become the last page of the visit), so the true duration of this visit unfortunately goes unaccounted for in your Analytics breakdown.
30 + 60 + 0 = 90 seconds (page one + page two + page three)
Within your Analytics reporting, it will only count this user as spending a total of 90 seconds on your dealership site. Clearly, it does not take long for dealerships that desire accurate measurements regarding user interaction to see that this ineffectual approach is a problem when trying to determine your web traffic’s true time spent on site.
If the user in question did in fact spend two minutes on the third page, a more accurate representation of their visit would instead look like this:
30 + 60 + 120 = 210 seconds (page one + page two + page three)
As you can see, the difference in accurately measuring the activity of a digital visitor between these two examples is astounding – and clearly indicative of why rectifying this issue is essential if your dealership plans to get the most out of its Google Analytics account.
If a hit was sent to Google Analytics while the user was on the third page, it would be able to determine a more accurate time on site. This is why we use events to send hits back to Google Analytics and are able to track the user’s time on site much more accurately than other website vendors. These hits come in the form of a user scrolling his or her mouse, moving the side bar, spending a predetermined amount of time on the page, clicking an outbound link, etc. All of these are ways the user is engaging with the content on the page.
In reality, these assertions of “manipulation” and other purportedly underhanded tactics merely serve as further proof of our competitors’ inexperience and lack of understanding of how Google Analytics actually tracks time spent on site. Their inability to grasp this concept, and adjust their approach accordingly to promote accuracy on behalf of their customers, keeps dealerships in the dark regarding real metrics – and once again proves that the only way to pair your dealership up with industry-leading automotive marketing services is by connecting with the team of experts found here at Remora.
Here you can see the difference in the average time spent on a page by a customer that came from an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) website vendor. Since their website platform utilizes Google Analytics right out of the box, they are unable to accurately track the time spent on each page.
Their previous website was tracking an average time of just over one minute. Now that the customer is with Remora and we are accurately tracking the time spent on page with events, their reported average time on page tallies up to a little over two and a half minutes. This is not tricking Analytics in anyway; it is simply enhancing the accuracy of this data by properly applying features that Google itself has developed for this analytics platform.
Normally, a single page visit will show a time on site of zero seconds and have a 100 percent bounce rate because hits are not being sent back to Google Analytics. Additionally, the user is not navigating to any other page on your site, so no events are being tracked.
To prove how inefficient (and inaccurate) this method of tracking is, let’s say that you have a landing page with a three minute video on it. The user in our example watches the entire video, then leaves the site. Should that be a bounce? Absolutely not; the user was on your page for three minutes watching the video.
The proper way to track this video landing page would be to do the following:
As you can see, this simple example is just one of the many ways that utilizing the stock setup of Google Analytics (or working with a vendor that does not know how to optimize your reporting processes) is an easy way to let a massive amount of valuable information regarding visitor activity and their time spent on site slip through the cracks.
If you are looking for even more examples of ways to track user engagement on your landing page beyond waiting for the user to navigate to a new page, consider the following:
Naturally, this is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of how you can customize your event tracking capabilities to improve accuracy in Google Analytics. If you are interested in learning even more on this front, go ahead and connect with the team here at Remora – we are always ready and willing to discuss the finer points of configuring your Analytics account for accurate reporting.
At this point, we hope that our thorough review of the inefficiency of Google Analytics’ stock time metrics has helped you understand how hits and events work within this system – and also proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Remora is giving you more accurate web traffic stats by optimizing and enhancing these reporting practices.
To sum it all up: Every agency has a different way of defining (and measuring) visitor bounces. However, only Remora’s approach leverages an intimate knowledge of the machinations of Google Analytics to more accurately track users on your dealership’s website – and provide you with a better understanding of your traffic’s performance.
Considering how important optimizing each and every dollar in your marketing budget is to the success of your dealership, can you really afford to work with vendors that don’t understand how to properly configure Google Analytics and ensure that your time metrics are accurate and representative of visiting digital customers?