If you are a retailer the longer you can keep people in your store (on your site) the more likely you are, to a point, to upsell or sell add-ons. Of course there is a point at which they are no longer buying and are simply hanging out but that is beyond the scope of this short article. To define “time on site” let’s use the simplest of definitions: the number of minutes or seconds a visitor keeps your site open in their browser in a single visit. Fair enough?
It should be self evident when your average time on site, I use Google Analytics primarily to measure this time, is less than 20 seconds you are falling short of requirements. Even to read a short joke and look around your page for more points of interest should take longer than that. We already talked about “bounce rate” so when combining a time on site of say 10-15 seconds with a bounce rate of say 70-90% chances are your site can use some attention and improvement.
The first rule in time on site is to give the visitors what they expect to find. If your site is about your plumbing business the reality may be your visitors don’t care about your flower garden. Of course if that’s a tie-in with gray water recycling then it may be. What visitors expect to find on a plumbing site is (a) what area you cover, (b) what services you offer, (c) your credentials/customer testimonials, and (d) how to contact you. Beyond that it’s all superfluous and may help or harm your all important conversion rate. Conversion rate for a plumber would be how many people pick up the phone, click the chat button or use the automated scheduling system to schedule a visit to there point of need.
Cluttered web pages are difficult for visitors who need information now. If I am visiting the front page of the Wall Street Journal I expect it to be somewhat busy and cluttered. Even then the index of links and lead stories should not be buried under 3 or 4 pop-ups and drowned out by videos or audio clips which play automatically when I visit. In fact for me that will cut the time on site drastically because I will leave the page quickly if it starts making noise. Millions of others agree.
For most of us a clean, simple design without extra advertisements from Google, Yahoo, Bing, ClickZone or whatever is the best approach. Even if you do chose to have some ads to support your site (I make about enough each year to cover hosting costs and maybe a couple of nights out with my wife and that’s it) make sure you monitor the effect on traffic and the return from your advertisers. Keep in mind if I go to your plumbing site and I see an advertisement for a sea cruise with open gambling tables I could be offended. Control what is on your pages!
Have you ever been to a web page where they proudly announce their next great event coming up in exactly 2 years ago? Keep your site current. My military unit recently heard from me because I sent someone to the site to find out about an event we were having and checked (after the fact) to make sure it was there. No – it was not. In fact the most recent event posted was September 2011 and it was under “Upcoming Events”! If you have your 20th anniversary 3 years ago that is now old news and irrelevant for your visitors. If you are having your Summer Sale and it is now October this makes people wonder if reading the rest of the information on your site is going to be just as accurate. Capiche?
Video, audio and slide presentations will definitely help increase time on site. In my opinion (as well as others) this may be a false feeling of success. In fact right here on this site I have a fairly acceptable time on site ratio. When I factor out time on pages which have videos I am somewhat dissatisfied with my results. Keep in mind we are working toward the ultimate goal of having conversions and not “just” or “only” increasing the time people spend on your (or my) website. So if you simply want to increase time on site powerful, relevant multimedia content is certainly a hug plus. How you convert that time to transactions is an entirely different story.
I would love to hear your input and so would the others. What have you done or what do you plan on doing to increase the time on your site? Are you getting the amount of conversions you are expecting based on your activity? Listen to Social Media Edge Radio every Tuesday at Noon Eastern and make sure to get in the chat room where the fun happens! (Since 2008)