For many of us casual users of Google Analytics, we mostly pay attention to the traffic overview graph that is prominently displayed after logging in. If we are not the type that is into numbers, statistics, and testing, we will just look and fret over this graph a bit, and then log out.
There is no question that the traffic overview graph is important. After all, it directly addresses the main concern we all have about our websites: how our traffic has been doing so far. The visual nature of the graph allows us to instantly see patterns and trends over time. This data is useful, no question. However, there are two other statistics that are just as important especially when they are bad: site speed and visit duration.
It does not matter how much traffic our website gets if none of the traffic converts. Most people will not wait around very long for a sluggish site to load. If they land on a page that is several clicks away from the sales or offer page, then even if they had the patience to wait 10 or more seconds for the landing page to load, they certainly will never make it to our offer page. The slow load times will discourage any desire to explore the site. In addition to conversion problems, a slow site will suffer a reduction in traffic from Google because loading speed is a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.
There are many causes for slow loading speeds. It could be that our server is unable to handle the traffic load, or if our site has little traffic to start with, then perhaps there is a heavily trafficked site that is sharing our server. Other reasons for slow load times include having too many large images, or using too many plugins if we are using the WordPress content management system. To diagnose the particular issues of a site, try visiting GTmetrix or Pingdom to get an overall score of a site’s speed and a multitude of recommendations for improvement.
If the majority of visitors to our site will not stay for even ten seconds, then it is unlikely that they will become a customer. This means that most of our traffic is being wasted. In fact, this traffic will do little more than use up server bandwidth. Visit duration is a reflection of visitor engagement with our site. Unless someone already has the intent to buy a specific item, he will need time to read and think before deciding to purchase.
As with site speed, visit duration is a Google ranking factor and will affect search traffic to the site. The reasons for poor visit duration are many. The first thing to check is the site speed since few people will wait around for a very slow site to load. Another possibility is that the wrong traffic is visiting our site. They could be from the wrong countries or their intent is not matched to the objective of our site. If we are receiving the right traffic, then the problem is with our content or the site design. Correcting this will require a good deal of tracking and testing.
Many car owners pay lots of attention to the fuel gauge but neglect the oil level and tire pressures. This mistake can lead to a costly breakdown or accident. Likewise, paying too much attention to the traffic overview of our site at the expense of site speed and visit duration can be costly.