Getting visitors to your website is one thing, but keeping them there is another.
Average engagement time, previously known as session duration, is a measurement in Google Analytics 4 that shows how long visitors are spending on your website.
There are multiple ways you can increase this number, and you might be surprised at how much impact some simple changes can have.
Increasing your average engagement time can:
- Improve your search ranking, as visitors staying longer on your website shows Google that you have a website that people want to spend their time on.
- Improves your relationship with your customers — longer time spent on your website means a longer time exposed to your brand.
On rare occasions you may even want to decrease your average engagement time if you’re finding visitors are spending a long time on your checkout but not converting. This could be a sign that your checkout is difficult to complete and too long.
Struggling to get to grips with Google Analytics 4? Check out this video to learn where the most important metrics are, and how to include them in explorations (custom reports).
If you know what average engagement time is, and where to find it in Google Analytics 4, then you can skip straight to the tips and get started increasing the time visitors spend on your site or app.
What is Average Engagement Time?
Average engagement time is a measurement in Google Analytics 4 which gives you insight into how long visitors are spending on your website or app. The Google definition is:
The average length of time that the app was in the foreground, or the website had focus in the browser.”
Average engagement time is measured by the user_engagement event, which is triggered when the user spends at least 10 seconds with the page active (visible on their screen, minimised or in another tab doesn’t count), or views 2 or more pages, or triggers a conversion event (has to be a conversion event, not just an event).
In simple terms, average engagement time is measured from the moment your visitor is actively using your website or app, until they close the tab, navigate to a different tab, or move to a new app.
How to Find Your Website’s Average Engagement Time
Average engagement time is a measurement in Google Analytics 4, and doesn’t appear in Universal Analytics, which is the current standard. If you are still using Universal Analytics, we suggest setting up Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible.
On 1st July 2023, Google Analytics 4 will become the standard and Google will retire Universal Analytics. You’ll still be able to access your Universal Analytics data for 6 months after the switch over, and Google recommends that you export your existing data, as it will not be brought over to Google Analytics 4.
By setting up your Google Analytics 4 account now, you will have access to a year’s worth of data and have time to get to grips with the platform. Check out our beginners guide to Google Analytics 4 to learn how to set it up, and how to use it.
Once you have Google Analytics 4 set up, it’s easy to find your website or app’s average engagement time.
Average Engagement Time on the Home Page
Average engagement time is one of the metrics included on the trends graph on your standard home page. By clicking on it, you can see how it has changed over time. You can use the drop down menu in the bottom left corner of this widget box to change the time frame you want to view the graph for.
1. Standard 7 day average engagement time graph
2. You can change the time frame using the drop down menu
3. Last 90 days average engagement time graph
Average Engagement Time in the Reports Snapshot
The above graph is also included in the Reports snapshot. You can find this by selecting Reports, then Reports snapshot.
Average Engagement Time in the Engagement Overview
To find the Engagement overview, select Reports, then Engagement, then Engagement Overview. You can see some more detail about the average engagement time, engaged sessions per user and average engagement time per session.
Engaged sessions in Google Analytics 4 are described by Google as:
The number of sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, or had a conversion event, or had 2 or more screen or page views”.
Average engagement time per session is how long on average a user spent on the site each session. Here’s an example:
A person visits your website and navigates to a blog post. After 30 seconds, they get distracted and leave the site. An hour later they return to the website and spend 4 minutes and 30 seconds reading the blog post, before closing the site again.
This counts as two engaged sessions, with a total of 5 minutes spent on the site. The average session duration for this user would be 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
The data included here is across all users, as opposed to an individual user.
Average Engagement Time in Events
Average engagement time is measured by the user_engagement event. This is an automatically tracked event that is set up as standard when you set up Google Analytics 4.
This event is triggered when the user spends 10 seconds with the page active (visible on their screen, minimised or in another tab don’t count), or views 2 or more pages, or triggers a conversion event (has to be a conversion event, not just an event).
You can take a look at the user_engagement event in the events report and compare it to session_start. If you have a lot of sessions beginning, but users not engaging with the site, this is a sign that you need to optimise your site to keep visitors engaged.
This is similar to looking at the bounce rate in Universal Analytics. If there is a big difference between session_start and user_engagement it means that users are bouncing back to search and looking for different search results.
Average Engagement Time in Pages and Screens
You can access the Pages and screens report by heading to Reports, then Engagement, then Pages and screens.
Here you can see the average engagement time per page of your website or app.
You can use this report to identify pages that visitors are spending lots of time on, and then use elements from those pages to encourage users to spend more time across other pages.
For example, if you have one blog post that people are reading for an average of 5 minutes, but another where visitors are only spending 15 seconds reading, then you can compare the two to see how you can improve the lower performing post.
How to Increase the Time Visitors Spend on Your Site
If you want to increase website average engagement time, there are multiple ways you can start to improve it. And it all starts with content.
1. Search Intent
Search intent is a vital part of any content strategy.
If a searcher is looking for an answer to the question, “how to do my tax return at home”, and lands on a page trying to sell accounting services, they won’t spend much time on that page.
If they land on a long form piece of content, explaining step-by-step how to do their tax return at home, their question will be answered and they will spend longer on the page, using the detailed content as a resource.
It’s important to consider the intent of your searcher when it comes to your content.
The four different types of search intent are:
Informational: the searcher is looking for information on a topic.
Examples of Informational Searches
- “How to fix a flat tyre”
- “What is the world’s biggest country?”
- “Tax return tutorial”
- “Project management tips”
Navigational: the searcher is looking for a specific website or page.
Examples of Navigational Searches
- “Facebook login”
- “Exposure Ninja website and marketing review”
- “Deliveroo Nottingham”
Transactional: the searcher wants to make a purchase.
Examples of Transactional Searches
- “Hire a solicitor”
- “Best iPad deals”
- “Boohoo sale”
- “Huel discount code”
Commercial Investigation: the searcher is in the market for a product or service, but has not made a final decision.
Examples of Commercial Investigation Searches
- “WooCommerce vs Shopify”
- “Best vegan café in Nottingham”
- “Top project management software”
- “Plumber near me”
If you are struggling to identify the search intent behind a search, these keyword “modifiers” are often used to indicate search intent.
|can||budget||buy||“brand name” log in|
Optimising your content for search intent will not only keep visitors on your site for longer, but will help with conversions too.
It’s important to note that some page types will always have a lower average engagement time than others.
For example, a product or service page will have a lower time than a detailed guide.
Website homepages often have a low average engagement time as the visitor is likely to navigate to a different page to convert or look for more information.
Don’t panic if you don’t see as big of an increase on some pages compared to others. The overall average engagement time of your website will still increase, sending a signal to Google that your site is worth ranking higher, as people are spending more time there.
Analyse your existing keywords and phrases and check that you are optimising for the correct search intent.
One of the easiest ways to check the search intent of your keywords is to type them into Google. Look at the results and see what type of content is ranking for this term.
If the results are all informational, using blog content to answer questions, then you will also want to create a blog answering this query. If the search returns service pages, you will optimise service pages instead.
If you want to expand and advance your keyword research, you can do so by following these steps.
- Use a keyword research tool such as Semrush* to generate keywords related to your business.
- Use a question tool, such as Also Asked or Answer the Public to generate questions searchers are asking about your industry.
- Analyse these keywords and questions.
- How high is the search volume?
- Who is already ranking for this term?
- What type of content is ranking?
- What is the search intent of this keyword or question?
2. Content Research and Writing
Now that you’ve identified the search intent behind your keywords and phrases, it’s time to create well researched content optimised for this intent.
Different types of pages need different types of content. You won’t see as much text on a product page as you will in an informative blog.
SERP and Competitor Analysis
Put your keyword into Google and take a look at the results. Pay attention to the organic results here. If there are ads running this shows that this is a competitive keyword or phrase, but the content that these ads link to are unlikely to be helpful when it comes to creating content to rank organically.
The first thing you should make a note of is whether the results are from businesses. If they are, the search intent is likely to be a good fit. If the results are from Wikipedia, or other sites dedicated to sharing information, then this is less likely to be a good fit for you.
Next, look at the content appearing for this search. Are homepages ranking? Are subpages ranking? Are blogs ranking?
Look at the content on the pages. Make a note of how much text is used, how many images are used, how the content is laid out. If they use checklists or numbered lists, then you may want to replicate this in your own content.
That said, you’re not stealing from other businesses. You’re taking inspiration to then make something better, so you can beat them in the search results.
Let’s say your keyword is “outsourced HR”. Half the organic results are informational pages explaining what outsourced HR is, and the other half are subpages offering HR as a service. You could create an in-depth subpage that includes lots of information about the keyword, while also giving you space to pitch your product or service.
This might seem obvious, but consider the target audience for each piece of content you produce.
If you have customers who are experienced with your industry and jargon, you’ll want to include that jargon in your content. If they land on your content and it is too simple for them, they will assume the content isn’t for them and leave your site, which of course, will lower your average engagement time.
Now you’ve done your research and identified your audience, now it’s time to write your content.
Start by identifying the target keyword for this page, with secondary keywords if applicable.
Next, write your H1 title heading. Use your keyword in this heading and put it close to the front of the title if possible. If your primary keyword is “Outsourced HR”, then a potential title for this page would be “Outsourced HR Services”.
Follow this with your H2 headings. You can take inspiration from competitor content for these, but as always, don’t steal.
Using the HR example, your H2 headings could be:
- What is HR outsourcing?
- The Benefits out Outsourcing HR
- How much does HR outsourcing cost?
You may also want to include some subheadings under these main headings. Think about how a visitor to your website will navigate this page. They are likely to scan the page for information they need and headings will help them find what they need faster.
If they are hit with a wall of text, they may well head back to Google as they don’t want to spend the time reading the content if it might not even answer their question.
Your page title and meta description are important for SEO, but they can also benefit your average engagement time. If your title and description are accurate, the searcher will get what they expect when they click through to your site, and therefore spend longer on your site.
If your title and meta description are misleading, visitors will not have the experience they expected and leave.
Treat your metadata like an advert for your site. You want a searcher to choose to click on your result over another.
Page titles should be longer than 30 characters, but no more than 60 characters.
Meta descriptions should be more than 70 characters, but no more than 130 characters.
Writing and Publishing
Once you have all your headings in place you can start fleshing out the rest of your content. Here are some of our top writing tips.
- Stick with your brand’s tone of voice.
- Write for people, not for Google’s SEO crawlers.
- Write as much as you need to. Think about what your best sales person would say to your best customer. Don’t try and hit a word count just because you feel like you should.
- Use internal links to other pages on your website so that readers can get more info.
- Ensure external links open in a new tab so they don’t take the visitor off your website.
- Add high-quality images and videos.
- Get an editor, or a patient colleague, to check your work.
All these elements used together will help engage your visitor, keeping them on the page for longer. Always remember that to keep someone engaged with your website, you need to be writing for people, not robots.
Too many websites fall into the trap of stuffing keywords into their content in an attempt to rank higher on Google, but all this does is create a bad experience for those who would buy from you if the content was good.
If you’d prefer to get this info in video form, you can do below. This video has a focus on SEO rather than average engagement time, but the lessons and tips are still the same.
3. Improve Readability
So you’ve created some great content, but your average engagement time is still low.
This could be because of the readability of your pages. These tips apply to all pages on your website, from the homepage to your blog content. They will be formatted differently, but these principles are the same across your entire site.
We already touched on using headings to improve the readability of your content, but there are some other adjustments you can make to give your readers the best experience.
Font Size and Readability
Adjusting the size or style of your font can make a big difference to the readability of your content.
It’s important to remember that you know what you have written, so it will always be easy for you to read, even if you use a fancy, difficult to read font that you chose to use because it looks cool.
If you do have a font that is easy to read, then make sure that it is easy to read on mobile as well as desktop. You may need to increase the font size, as well as adjust the line height so that each word is clear.
If your content is unreadable, your visitor will leave, no matter how good the content is. This will have a negative impact on your average engagement time, and can easily be avoided by making good choices when it comes to your font.
Adding padding to your web pages not only looks professional, but also leads the readers eye to where they should be looking.
Landing on a page with text from wall to wall looks outdated too. It’s likely that someone would assume your content was outdated, and head back to search to look for more up to date content, even if you only uploaded your content yesterday.
It’s vital that there is enough contract between the colours on your website, mainly between your background and your text, to ensure your visitors can read your content.
You can check the accessibility of your website’s colour scheme using the Accessible Web Colour Contrast Checker.
Not only will this make it easier to read, it also makes your website more accessible for visually impaired visitors.
Johnson boxes are used to highlight a paragraph of information. They not only break up the rest of the copy, but make the reader aware that this is an important section.
They are most often seen as a box behind the text on a webpage, which is a different colour to the background. The text written here is inside a Johnson box. You can also see an example in the screenshot below.
You can also break up your content using multimedia elements, such as videos, images and podcasts too.
4. Add Multimedia
Adding images can make your content more engaging, but why not take it a step further and embed videos within your content too?
Adding videos to your website is a great way to improve average engagement time. If you have a video on your homepage explaining your business, people will spend more time there watching the video, sending a signal to Google that your homepage is useful.
This will help your Google ranking, as well as offering more value to your website visitors. They get to see a person from your company explain what you offer, which is much more personal than only having text on your homepage.
You can also include video content on your product or service pages. Videos give you the opportunity to show off your product or service in a more engaging way, rather than just writing a description of what you do.
- If you offer a SaaS product, include an explainer of the key benefits of your software.
- If you sell a physical product, demonstrate it on your product pages so potential customers can see how it works.
- If you offer power washing services, show your process in video form.
Videos also work great as part of blog posts. Different people learn in different ways, so offering a video explanation in a blog can be extremely useful. It also helps boost that all important engagement time.
Every type of business can find a way to incorporate video content into their website, and improve the average engagement time in the process.
5. Internal Linking
You can improve your average engagement time further through internal linking. If you include links to other pages on your website throughout your content, your visitor won’t need to leave your website to get more information.
Let’s say you’ve written a blog on the best weed killer to use in your garden. You may have another blog on your website that explains how to manage weeds using natural methods. In your weed killer article, you can mention that there are also natural methods of controlling weeds, and then link to your other blog post.
This means that people who want to read about natural methods aren’t forced to leave your website to get the information that they need.
6. Improve Page Loading Speed
If your web pages are taking too long to load, your visitors are going to leave, fast.
They don’t want to wait around for your website to load, and will leave, giving you a lower average user engagement time.
You can use a tool such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to give you an idea of how fast your website is loading, and what elements might be causing it to slow down.
Let’s use the SHEIN website as an example. It’s important to check your site’s speed on both desktop and mobile.
Desktop PageSpeed Insights Results
Mobile PageSpeed Insights Results
Please note: if you add a video to your site, but see your page loading speed drop, don’t worry. Test the video for around 3 months and see if your average engagement time increases. If it does increase because you’ve added a video, then don’t worry about removing the video just to improve page speed.
For the extra talented people reading, you can lazy load YouTube videos and save on loading time.
7. Use Pop-Ups
If you’ve done all of the above, then here is your last option for keeping someone on your site.
Exit pop-ups are what you’d expect – a pop-up that appears when the user goes to leave your website.
These are often used as a last chance to pitch the visitor before they leave, potentially getting them to stay on the website for longer.
We have an exit intent pop-up on our website, reminding the visitor about our free website and marketing review, in case they missed it while they were browsing the site.
You can also add scroll depth pop-ups too, which are triggered when a visitor reaches a certain point on your page. These are useful for getting users to sign up for a mailing list, but won’t have huge benefits when it comes to average engagement time.
8. Revise Old Content
You’ve nailed all of the above steps, and your new content has an increased average engagement time, but your old content is falling behind.
It’s time to repeat these steps with your old content.
Making new blog content for your website is a great way to bring new users to your website, but so is updating old content. If you have several blogs on your website that have a high average engagement time, or get a lot of page views, then it’s worth updating them.
It could be as simple as updating the content to include more recent stats, updating the images, or going further and adding in a video explanation or podcast.
Here’s an example of the impact updating old content can have on your organic traffic. If you follow the steps above and give it an engagement overhaul, you’ll see your average engagement time increase too.
There are lots of different ways you can increase the average engagement time on your website. Here are the top eight ways you can keep visitors on your website for longer.
- Identify Search Intent
- Content Research and Writing
- Improve Readability and Website Design
- Add Multimedia
- Improve Internal Linking and SEO
- Improve Page Loading Speed
- Use Pop-Ups
- Revise Old Content
What to Read Next
- Learn how to track your average engagement time with our beginner’s guide to Google Analytics 4.
- Keep visitors on your website even longer by increasing your website’s views per user.
- Use this guide to improve your keyword research and become an SEO pro
*Some links within this article are affiliate links which Exposure Ninja receives a fee for promoting (these links are not sponsored). Exposure Ninja only promotes services we already use within our marketing stack.