Low session durations lead to high bounce rates and low conversions. Aside from the unicorn customer that comes, buys, and leaves, there is generally no benefit for a website when a visitor doesn’t stick around for longer than a couple of minutes.
Brands that want to reduce their bounce rate through conversion optimization often look into their session duration analytics to find ways to make improvements. There are things that anyone can do to increase the length of time that users stay on a site, including offering more than just eCommerce pages.
This guide will explore the details behind session duration and why it matters, as well as how it can impact sales and help improve conversions. In the world of digital marketing, it is all connected. Anyone trying to invest in solid CRO (conversion rate optimization) strategies will not be able to find success without at least considering their own session duration analytics and how that impacts bounce rates, sales, and other factors.
What is Session Duration?
Put simply, session duration is just how long a user spends on a website. Typically, the longer people stay, the better. If users are navigating away from a website after less than five minutes, in most cases, that’s a sign that there is something wrong. Immediate abandonment could be a sign of issues, as well. Almost every analytics and tracking tool out there offers insight and metrics for session duration, along with actionable tips to help make improvements.
Why it Matters
In addition to calculating the bounce rate of visitors that navigate away before making a conversion or sale, analytics tools calculate session duration because it matters. Search engines will track bounce rates, but they will also break it down further and check the duration of said bounces, to hopefully assist websites in figuring out where things are going wrong so that they can make improvements.
Typically speaking, for example, an instant bounce could indicate that someone was brought to the wrong website or they followed a link that led to the wrong information. If that’s the case, a website can use this information to correct broken or incorrect links, fix search engine optimization efforts, modify keywords, and find other ways to guarantee that when people arrive at the webshop, it’s where they want to be.
On Google Analytics, the tracking hierarchy for metrics is as follows:
Analytics tools track thousands of pieces of data. With session duration in the top four metrics, it’s no wonder it needs a little attention now and then. Keep in mind, also, that the “session” is the full time that a user is on the website. This could include multiple page visits and product views, which are other key analytics that are being tracked by Google and others.
Tips for Increasing Session Duration
There are a number of different ways that websites can enhance their offerings and provide a better experience that will encourage visitors to stay longer and engage more. For an eCommerce website, it’s often about offering more than just an online store. In addition to concise, well-optimized product pages, sites should also include informational resources, related insights, and other value-added assets that will set the webshop apart from its competition. Read on for more tips.
The first thing that most users will need to do is to clean up their website design a bit, improve readability, and optimize their website pages for easy consumption. Today's consumer doesn’t have time to sift through excess information or deal with confusing site designs. If the webshop they visit doesn’t have concise, effective information and optimized product pages, they will simply go somewhere else.
Every single page on the website, especially including those outside of the store itself, needs to be optimized to promote conversions to continue the customer journey. This should include internal links for the sake of SEO. Of course, it is important to ensure that all links are relevant in order to get the most out of this investment. Plus, adding in bad links just for the sake of linking can have a negative impact. Make sure that internal linking best practices are followed at all times.
Include a Visible and Accessible Search Bar
Again, users don’t have a lot of time to dig around to find what they need. In the event that the information sought isn’t provided above the fold, users need access to a search bar that will link them to whatever they need to find. Keep this at the top of the page and make it visible by using bold colors, a strong font, or other elements. One of the biggest reasons that people leave a site too soon is because they can’t find what they need, nor can they find the means to search for it.
Create Micro Conversions
Everyone knows that the end goal of any webshop is to generate a sale. However, today’s consumer doesn’t actually want to be sold anything. The website focus, therefore, should be about generating conversions through the customer journey that will ultimately lead them to complete a purchase or sign up for a paid service. For webshops specifically, there are plenty of micro-conversions along the path to a sale:
E-mail or newsletter signup
Clickable coupons or discount codes
Converting a visitor from a landing page to another URL
Profile and wallet creation in the eCommerce section of the site
Wish lists and saved carts that will cause visitors to return
Using the breadcrumb theory is easier than trying to focus on the overall goal of generating sales. Give people little pieces of information they can benefit from and offer multiple points of conversion that are quick and easy, with benefits for the user clearly stated to increase the likelihood of conversion.
Demonstrate Industry Authority
Consumers are savvy and they understand the unreliable nature of the internet. In fact, one of the biggest reasons people navigate away from a site is because it seems untrustworthy, or because they were falsely led to a site that doesn’t actually do what they need. These can be signs that a webshop isn’t worth the business, so it’s important to make sure that none of these red flags are present in any marketing efforts.
At the same time, webshops should utilize blogs and other resources to provide insight and present themselves as an authority within their specific industry. Consumers want someone they can rely on, and giving them that peace of mind could make them stick around a lot longer.
Offer Content Upgrade Conversions
Some of the best websites lure in long-term visitors with optional content upgrades. How does this work?
A site may publish information, such as the guide presented here, but in a limited format. They will still provide enough information to create a useful piece for the entire audience, but then they will create or offer an extended version or more detailed publication for users who complete a specific action. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be making a payment. Sites can offer expanded content in exchange for an email signup, profile creation, or other conversion.
This makes people feel like they’re getting the inside “extra” scoop, and that can be invaluable to increasing conversions and session durations.
Engage the Audience with Comment-Worthy Material
Visitor engagement is a great way to increase session duration organically. If a website can find ways to get users involved in their comments or other posts, they will typically see higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates. Plus, people tend to stick around longer when they are engaged, as opposed to just browsing a webshop or reading a blog.
Include User Success Stories
Today’s consumer wants to know what a business can do for them. As such, it is important to lay out all of the aspects of the business, as well as the products available to purchase. In order to keep people engaged and have them stick around longer, consider offering reviews, testimonials, or other success stories that will engage people and show them that this is the product or brand that they need to be working with.
Pay Attention to Abandonment
Cart and site abandonment are common. In fact, the myriad of options for online shopping means that eCommerce shops typically see higher bounce rates than other businesses. People come and go, but it is important to pay attention to the ones that are going and focus remarketing efforts there. Consider implementing cart abandonment tools that can generate pop-ups, send out notifications and emails, and otherwise reach out to visitors who didn’t convert to figure out how to get them back.
Use Exit-Intent Pop-ups
Most users find pop-ups annoying, but the fact is that they work. In fact, adding pop-ups at the point of exit, known as Exit-Intent Pop-ups, has proven to increase conversions by as much as 20% for some websites. These pop-ups could be simple notices like:
“Are you sure you’re ready to leave?”
“Wait, you didn’t complete your purchase! Come back to finalize the transaction now.”
Exit-intent is more effective, however, if it offers more than just a suggestion to stick around. Common options for webshops include limited free shipping offers or special discounts for staying and completing the transaction at the moment when the user initially decides to leave. Another option is to provide an email signup so that even if a user doesn’t make a purchase, they can keep in touch and remember the brand in the future.
Session Duration Optimization Tools and Resources
In addition to the tips listed above, there are a number of tools and resources out there that can help websites improve their session duration, reduce bounce rates, and improve overall conversion optimization efforts. Some of the best programs have been seen before, as they’re popular platforms for total CRO strategies. After all, in the process of conversion optimization, reducing bounce rates and increasing time on site are two key elements to success. It makes sense to have multi-functional tools that can address all the areas of improvement at once.
Here are some of the best and most popular tools on the market today, listed in no particular order and with no preferential treatment.
OptinMonster is one of the leading CRO tools available online today. This platform is used by almost 300,000 different websites and online stores that have high bounce rates or other conversion issues that need to be resolved. The tool includes a variety of features and has a scalable format that works for businesses of every size. Page-level monitoring and other features are also included.
Google has a full suite of tools for digital marketing. Analytics is the hub of them all, offering a place where all kinds of data can be measured, analyzed, and evaluated. Plus, the platform even has its own suggestions for users based on the data provided, as well as in-depth explanations of the information offered. In addition to analytics software, users can also add Google’s Pagespeed Insights and other optimization tools to help figure out why users are leaving and what could increase their time on the site.
iPaper Displays is a layer on top of your webshop that presents your products in an inspiring and engaging format. Your Display acts as a channel to convert the website traffic you have acquired into customers. You don't need to be a designer or developer to get started, all you need is your Google Shopping feed. It's a fast and easy to use tool that will help reduce your bounce rate, increase time spent on your webshop and put your products front and center.
For those who already know what’s wrong, WebEngage has a platform for setting up the ideal optimization strategy and building the business brand. The platform has customizable solutions for conversion optimization and reducing bounce rates, including personalized campaigns, pop-ups, push notifications and other tools that can get people’s attention and generate results.
When it comes to engagement, HotJar has a full suite of analytics that offer more insight than some programs. The platform includes scroll maps, heat mapping, move maps that visualize user movement, and more. Users can set up tracking for up to 2,000 daily visits, which will allow for powerful real-time insight into session duration issues, including why people leave and what they navigate to upon exit. This information can be invaluable in improving session durations, which will lead to increased sales in the long run.
Optimizely and its new platform, Optimizely Program Management, are designed to streamline testing and analytics to help ensure that websites are functioning at their best. Designed specifically for user testing and A/B testing, Optimizely also has a lot of different platforms, new plugins, and features that can be used for conversion optimization, reducing bounce rates, and more. Quick single-page testing features make A/B testing a breeze. This platform also includes enterprise-level options for larger corporations and integrated platforms scaled back for the entrepreneur or small business.
How to Choose
With so many programs and platforms out there, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees at times. Make sure that the focus, however, is on gathering information and implementing solutions specifically to increase session duration. Generally speaking, conversion optimization tools like those listed above will offer integrated solutions that include all of the resources that a webshop needs for increased session duration, reduced bounce rates, and improved conversion rates.
Make sure that the platform includes all the necessary tools and features, including things like:
Data and analytics
Online performance ratings and insight
Page optimization techniques and tools
Marketing automation features
A comprehensive solution is going to allow you to address conversion optimization, session duration, and other potential issues all in the same place, which saves time and effort with every CRO strategy.
Whether someone stays on one page or they visit 10 pages, the goal is to get them to stay on a website as long as possible and not leave until they have converted. Ideally, this will mean that they make a purchase or sign up for a service. However, as discussed earlier, a conversion can be any number of actions that are desired by the company for the user to take, including email signup, click-through from a landing page to the eCommerce store, profile creation, and more.
Session duration goes hand-in-hand with conversion optimization and reducing bounce rates. By adopting a comprehensive CRO strategy, websites can ensure that they cover all the bases. It’s a simple concept that makes a complex impact on a website. If people stay longer, they’re more likely to convert or buy.
By utilizing the tools provided here, every website can make sure that it has the ideal optimization and gives users the best chance of turning into customers. Plus, the added analytics make it easier to measure site activity and promote increased conversions as a whole, which is crucial to any conversion rate optimization strategy that includes improving things like session duration.