This was a question that was on my mind for some time, but while researching I was getting different answers from different resources.
A common answer and reason for these strange stats was bots/spiders visiting and people bouncing directly off your site. This sounds about right because we have zero time on page with a 100% bounce rate.
But when you start to understand how Analytics calculates the average time on page and bounce rate, you then know that there could very well be more to these stats than meets the eye. Needless to say, that’s one reason I decided to perform the following test.
Time On Page & Bounce Rate – Test Details & Results
The test I performed is very straight-forward, I simply visited one page per browser session and perform a different action each time as you’ll see below.
For this test, I setup and installed Analytics on a demo site I created months ago. Google had indexed several pages and this was just what I wanted for my test. It’s important to note this demo site gets zero traffic.
All links clicked during this test open in the same window/tab causing me to leave the demo site.
The Wealthy Affiliate link I used was created via the plugin called Pretty Link Lite, all other links were direct clean links.
Paste URL = I opened a new incognito window and pasted the URL directly into browser.
Google URL = I opened a new incognito window, visited Google.ca and search site:test-domain then click on the URL from the list of indexed pages.
I’m going to explain in more detail below what actions occurred during the test. But first I want you to see the final test results in the following screenshot, click to enlarge if needed.
As you can see from the screenshot, I tested 4 different pages. The reason for this was to have the option to break down the data and understand what was going on if needed, but as the data is almost all the same it didn’t really matter in the end.
So first on the list is the /author/admin page, I use this page simply because it was also indexed in Google’s search results. Here are the following actions:
- Paste URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click thewiseaffiliate.com link in post. (This site has Analytics)
- Paste URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click demo.siterubix.com link in post. (This site has NO Analytics)
- Paste URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click Youtube.com link widget area.
- Paste URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click WA link (Pretty link) widget area.
- Google URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click Youtube.com link widget area.
- Google URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click WA link (Pretty link) widget area.
- Google URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click thewiseaffiliate.com link in post. (This site has Analytics)
Google URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click demo.siterubix.com link in post. (This site has NO Analytics)
Here are the homepage actions completed: /
- Paste URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click WA link (Pretty link) widget
- Paste URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Close browser
- Google URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click Youtube.com link widget
- Google URL – Wait 10+ seconds, hit back button
Here are the Contact page actions completed: /Contact
- Paste URL – Wait 10+ seconds close browser.
- Google URL – Wait 10+ seconds, close browser.
Here are the Sample page actions completed: /sample-page
- Paste URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click WA link (Pretty link) on page.
- Google URL – Wait 10+ seconds, Click Youtube.com link on page.
What I’ve Learnt
I already somewhat knew before conducting my test, many of things I’m about to say, but without testing it was hard for me to share/show you the details.
Let’s start with “Time On Page”, Google can only track the time on page if the visitor visits another page on the site. When this occurs Google then counts the time difference. So if a visitor only visits one page on your site, no matter how long they stayed on that page, the time can NOT be counted.
This then brings us to “Bounce Rate”. If you’re into affiliate marketing and create product reviews or perhaps you post tutorials like on this site. It’s possible visitors have no reason to visit other pages on your site.
You’re either getting them to click on your affiliate link or showing them how to do something, in this case, visitors only see one page of your site and this is a bounce according to Analytics. So don’t stress out too much about bounce rate.
As for Exit % rate, this is going to tell you the % of visitors that left your site (finished a session) from that page no matter what page they first arrived on. This could be hitting the back button to Google or a referring site, closing the browser window, clicking on any link on the page that leads them off your site.
So if your goal is to get people who visit a specific page to click on an affiliate link and leave your site, 100% Exit rate is a good thing.
Google Analytics by Yoast Test Results
I love the plugin “Google Analytics by Yoast” as it does more than just insert the analytics tracking script. When I first created this test I’d installed this plugin on the test site.
What I didn’t realize at the time was my bounce rate results would by different, the possible reason for this is the Yoast plugin creates events when links are clicked in comments, widgets, outbound links and more.
Anyway a long story short here, Julie made on comment over on Google+ asking if you used the Yoast plugin would the results be the same. And no! the results aren’t the same as you’ll see in the image below. (Thanks again Julie)
Bots Spiders & Spam Traffic
One final thing I’d like to mention is that bots and referral spam can and do alter your stat too. If possible it’s best to try block and filter out this traffic.
Fake referrer traffic is a major problem right now and one reason I create a tutorial on how to filter/block this traffic from being tracked in your stats. You can view the tutorial here: Block Analytics Spam