In Part 1 of this 2-part series on blog statistics, we looked at a few of the most fundamental types of statistics that can help you understand more about your blog, your content and your readers. If you missed Part 1, you can read it by clicking here.
In that article, we defined ‘visits’ (or ‘visitors’) vs. ‘unique visitors’, and took a look at page views and bounce rate. We discussed how it is not uncommon for the majority of your visits to be ‘bounces’, i.e. visits that resulted in only one page view before the visitor clicked away. Finally, we performed a few calculations and came to the conclusion that only 10-20% of your reading audience are likely to be engaged with your online content.
An ‘engaged’ reader is someone whose behaviour demonstrates a genuine interest in what they find on your blog. While there is no way to peer into people’s minds, what we can do is measure the amount of time people spend on our site and how many pages they read while they are there. Thus, in Part 2, we’ll be looking at the parameter ‘Time Spent on Site’ to see how the information it give us, in combination with the other statistics we’ve already explored, can provide us with a much more accurate picture of the success and breadth of our blog marketing efforts.
As in Part 1, the ideas in Part 2 are taken from a much more detailed discussion you’ll find in Chapter 16 of my book The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging (coming January 2016).
Time Spent on Site
As the term implies, this parameter measures the average time your readers spend on your website. This statistic can be one of the most informative, if not occasionally disconcerting! Why? Because studies have shown that, in this information-saturated world, people don’t tend to spend a particularly long time on a website – ever. Somewhat depressingly, one study looked at 2 billion visits across the web over the course of a month and found 55% of visitors spent fewer than 15 seconds on a page.1, 2, 3
If that makes you want to throw in the towel, it might be a consolation to know that this study mainly examined news sites, rather than content-driven blogs like yours. The point made, however, is valid:
Human beings tend to make snap judgements.
This truism does not merely apply to web browsing, but to our behaviour in general. In fact, author Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book, entitled Blink, on this very topic. While we might like to tell ourselves we are considerate and thoughtful entities, all human beings evaluate what is happening around them within seconds (or micro-seconds) of its occurrence. It doesn’t mean they won’t rethink their evaluation later; that’s where being ‘considerate and thoughtful’ enters the picture. But long before we reach that thoughtful stage, we’ve already made many measurements and judgements. This doesn’t mean humans are inevitably prone to bigotry, prejudice and close-mindedness; to the contrary, it means we are adaptable. The ability to make snap judgments has been vital to our survival as a species.
This is why I have always stressed the importance of having an effective blog title and including a ‘teaser’, summarising the article, at the beginning of every blog post. These two elements help your readers make a more accurate snap judgement. Without these elements, people might dismiss (and click away from) your article within those crucial first few seconds, solely on the basis that they cannot evaluate it. Rather than complain about this human tendency to judge, we have to learn how to work with it and make it easier for our readers to come to their own conclusions.
Different analytic tools will provide different levels of detail regarding the amount of time your readers have spent on your site. For example:
- Alexa and Google Analytics give you only the average visit duration of all your visitors.
- Piwik gives you the average visit duration, as well as the total time your visitors have spent on your site.
- AWSTATS gives you the average visit duration time plus a detailed breakdown of how much time your visitors spent on your site. I have found this to be a fantastic resource that can provide you with a much better picture of how engaged your readers actually are.
Here is an example of an AWSTATS ‘visits duration’ table for this site back in 2014:
|Number of visits: 476,576 – Average: 707 s||Number of visits||Percent|
The ‘bounce rate’ for the site during this period was about 70%. That is consistent with the information we see in the first two rows, and possibly a portion of the third row. Things start to turn around in rows 4-7, as people who stay on the site for more than 5 minutes are likely to have viewed more than one page.
While the ‘bounce’ figures might seem really high, take a look at the people who stayed on the site for 30 minutes to an hour or more. You can safely assume that 20-25% of the visitors to this site do read the content. Not only do they read it, but they really read it. Clearly, these people are actively engaged.
The Shape of Our Stats
What I find so fascinating about these statistics is that they form an inverted curve:
While perhaps not a true bell curve, it’s a curve nonetheless, with a dip after a sharp decline, and then a significant rise at the end. What is interesting is to see how the largest percentage of visitors are those whose opinion of the site is clearly obvious:
- 70% are definitely disinterested (leaving the site within 30 seconds)
- 25% are definitely interested (staying on the site for 15 minutes or longer)
- Only about 5% could be classified as ambiguous or undecided, (staying on the site between 2 and 15 minutes)
To me, this demonstrates something I would call the ‘Marmite Factor’: most people either LOVE or HATE the site when they come to it.
Let’s look at these figures another way. If we ignore the 70% who are definitely disinterested – who are either spammers or people who are clearly disinterested and unlikely to return another day – and subtract them from our monthly total, we are left with a total of 137,349 visits. Of those 137,349 visits, 111,989 of them (about 82%) are comprised of people who stayed on the site for 15 minutes to over an hour. This shows that an overwhelming majority of people who actually READ our content are very engaged. In fact, among those engaged people, the LARGEST percentage of spent over an hour on the site.
In my eyes, if you’re a small business owner, WHO CARES if you have a 70% bounce rate when nearly 50,000 of your readers spend over an hour per visit to your site, and over 100,000 stay more than 15 minutes (and obviously read multiple articles while they are there)? The important thing is to maintain this level of high engagement, while steadily increasing your overall traffic.
Statistics aren’t just about quantity.
Their ultimate purpose is to help us understand the quality of your audience’s experience.
The Bigger Picture
I say this many times in Chapter 16 of The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: to understand your statistics in context, you have to watch how they change over time. Look for improvements in how they work together. For example, since these stats were taken, the bounce rate on our site has decreased by 4% and the average time on the site has increased to 2.33 minutes. Even if the quantity of visitors had not increased (which it did), it shows a significant improvement in the quality of audience engagement. Better engagement is a sign that we are reaching the right audience with the right content.
I hope these two articles have given you a new perspective on the value of statistics when it comes to blogging success. If you liked them, I invite you to register for a reminder for when The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging comes out in January 2016. When you do so, you’ll also get instant access to a free 5-page blog article template, with many tips to help you structure your blog articles so they become effective marketing pieces without actually marketing.
As always, I value your comments and questions about this article below, and invite you to drop me a line via the contact form on this site if you’re interested in working with us on any aspect of online marketing for your ethical business.
2 October 2015
- Haile, Tony. 2014. ‘What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong’. Accessed 22 September 2015 from http://time.com/12933/what-you-think-you-know-about-the-web-is-wrong/
- Soskey, Ginny. 2014. ‘55% of Visitors Spend Fewer Than 15 Seconds on Your Website. Should You Care?’ Accessed 22 September 2015 from http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/chartbeat-website-engagement-data-nj
- Haden, Jeff. 2014. ‘2 Web Metrics You Should Be Watching All the Time. What’s more important: average session length or repeat visitor ratio?’ Accessed 22 September 2015 from http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/web-metrics-average-session-length-vs-repeat-visitor-ratio.html
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketing strategist, social media expert, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
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