Pages per Session & Average Session Duration
First, it would be helpful to define a session. A “session” is, “a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame.” Sessions last 30 minutes by default. Here is a graphic that helps explain what a single Session entails.
Pages per Session
Google defines Pages per Session as, “the average number or pages viewed per session.” The above graphic illustrates six pages over the course of a single session. Before creating a goal for this metric, consider: How many pages does the average user view on my website? Does this align with our campaign expectations? What does this mean in terms of our conversion funnels?
· Top Funnel – We expect higher average Pages per Session rate in the Top Funnel for two reasons. First, these users are in the early research stages. Secondly, these ads direct users to a generic landing page (usually the home page) forcing them to navigate deeper into the site to find the product or service that may interest them the most. For instance, a user might type in “new trucks” when starting their research for their next truck purchase and dive into their research based on these Search results.
· Bottom Funnel – We would expect to have a lower average Pages per Session rate here. Why? Users that are targeted in this funnel have already done their research and/or are close to making a purchase. Thus, ads that are being triggered for these users are much more specific. For instance, our user who recently searched “new trucks” has now narrowed his sights and is now searching “2015 Ford F-150 for sale” to specific websites/landing pages with this particular model for sale. If the Search campaign is set up correctly, this interaction can be accomplished on a single landing page.
Average Session Duration
Google defines Average Session Duration as, “the total duration of all Sessions (in seconds) divided by number of Sessions.” With this metric, consider: How long is the average user interacting with your site? Is this long enough to accomplish the goals that you have identified while building your advertising campaign? What does this data say about your conversion funnels?
· Top Funnel – Top Funnel users are at the beginning stages of product/service research, so they may take a long time on a site after clicking a Search ad or not. Look at your product or service and think like a potential customer. How long would it realistically take you to decide on making a purchase?
· Bottom Funnel – You would expect bottom funnel searchers to spend the least time on site. They have done their research and are being landed on an interior page with a more specific product. These people are closer to converting and for this reason, less engaged on moving around the site. We should see high conversions for this group, but less time on site or pages visited.
Bounce Rate is a tenuous metric. Google defines the Bounce Rate as, “the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).” This means that the Bounce Rate skyrockets when a potential customer enters and exits on the same page, with no other movement on the site. Best practices for paid search dictate landing consumers on the most specific website page to their search. If done correctly, this could result in a higher bounce rate because the need to find the product or service on site is lost. Consequently, you have a high bounce rate on a well-placed ad.
· Top Funnel – It is not unusual to want a Bounce Rate of 50% or lower for this type of user. This is because they will generally land on a more generic page and the campaign might be designed for them click through different products or services (think about our initial truck buyer searching for “new trucks”)
· Bottom Funnel – Bounce Rates for this type of user may be higher because of the decreased need to navigate through the site. Our truck buyer searches “2015 Ford F-150 for sale” and reaches a dealership site with all the information on this specific truck with dealership info in the footer. The user sees then calls the dealership, closes his browser and leaves to purchase the truck. There is no need for this user to click around the site if the Search ad directed him to the perfect landing page.
As you can tell, there is never a hard and fast rule when it comes to analyzing user engagement metrics. But, the more we understand about user engagement data the more informed decisions we can all make whether we want to increase brand exposure or to close sales.
So with this in mind, we think it depends on the site as to how we use the information. Most of the writing on the web says this has to do with visitor engagement. Were your ads misleading and brought a visitor who did not find what they wanted because your ad was bad? Or was your ad good and they found all they wanted on the first page? That would mean they had to spend some time – duration on that page.
So what we might begin doing is look at three metrics. Compare the bounce rate and session durations from CPC, Organic and Referral visitors. Looking at these sources may help us validate that we are getting high quality visitors or point out problems with the site.
We might also use this comparison to see which keywords/ads perform best. Google doesn’t provide the organic search terms anymore, but they may tell us what keyword triggered the search.
If we learn anything we might use this to help turn off keywords, change ad content, or recommend changes to the websites. Of course all of this is speculation, but this gives you some insight on how to utilize these main data points within Google Analytics.