Understanding Time Calculations By Google Analytics

Real Time | Audience Overview

Google Analytics tracks traffic and source of traffic on your website and is capable of displaying the information for you via info graphics. Traffic simply refers to the amount of visits to your website. A conversion, depending on the type of website you have, can be a clicked or shared.

The tab Real-Time allows you to monitor activities which are presently going on your site or on your app. The reports are updated continuously and each page view is reported seconds after it occurs on your site. This stat shows the numbers of people are on your site right now and all their information like:

  • Their geographic locations
  • The traffic sources which referred them to your site or app
  • Which pages or events they are networking with
  • Which goal translations have occurred?

Audience Overview reports provide a deep view at your sites traffic and the behavior of users after they arrive and give a view to it.

To traverse to these reports, you need to select your site within the Google Analytic dashboard and select ‘Audience’ from the left-hand toolbar. The key element on this page is a graph that shows clicks per day. You can check this graph to show different metrics like average visit duration or bounce rate. You can also change the unit of time to display hourly, monthly and weekly.

How Google Analytic trail time on page and visit length?

The key to understand Google Analytic time calculations is understanding the data which is sent to Google. These data are called as HITS. Data hits are basically the image requests sent to Google Analytic. There are six types of data hits:

  • Page view hits
  • Event hits
  • E-commerce transaction hits
  • E-commerce transaction item hits
  • User defined hits
  • Social plugin hits

The most important ones are discussed below:

An engagement hit is any hit which is not noticeable as “non interaction” hits. Implies that the hit has at least page information, E-commerce item information, E-commerce transaction information or social tracking information.

Now the questions arises here is that what is the link between these hits and the Google calculations?

Most Analytic tools use page views to track time. But Google Analytic time calculations uses engagement hits to get a more accurate results of time on page and site.

How Time on Page is calculated?

Time on Page is calculated in two ways. The calculation depends if the visit has one page view OR it has multiple page views. If there are multiple page views in a visit then the time calculation is based on the start time between the current page and of the next page hit. But we cannot calculate the time on the last page of the visit because there is no page view after the last page.

When there is Only One Page view in the Visit?

Most people believe that Google Analytics is unable to calculate time on page when there is only one page viewed in a visit but this is partially correct. In case if no other page is viewed during the visit, Google Analytics use the time between the initial page hit and the last engagement hit which follows the page hit.

Time on Page = time of last “engagement hit” on page – time of first hit from page

How Visit Length is calculated?

Visit length uses engagement hits to get more accurate results of time. Instead of using just the time between page views, the visit length dimensions includes the time between the first hit and the last engagement hit of the session.

Visit Length = time of last “engagement hit” of visit – time of first hit of visit