Google Analytics Glitch – 300% Increase in Average Time Spent on Site

Google Analytics inflates time spent on site Google Analytics is probably one of the best pieces of web analytics software I have ever used. Not only is it powerful and free but it’s extremely comprehensive. Recently, Google rolled out a new version of Analytics and usability soared through the roof. The newer version is easier to use and finding information is just a few clicks away. Unfortunately, there seems to be a recent glitch in the reporting.

Specifically, average time spent on site seems to be incorrect. How do I know this? Because at the end of every month, a client of mine records a few key metrics provided by Google Analytics and average time spent happens to be on the list.

Time Spent on Site Increased by 300%

During the last end-of-month record keeping, Google Analytics showed a significantly higher than normal time spent on site. In this client’s case, it’s reporting about 300% higher than historical. After digging in to previous reports, it looks like prior months (up to and including January 2007) are also showing higher than normal visit durations. These new times are much higher than previously recorded readings taken at the end of each month.

Even is Affected

Even for this blog, Google Analytics is reporting about 200% higher for average time spent on site during July 2007. Awstats on the other hand has not reported any increase in length of visits during the same time period. I am not saying Awstats is more accurate but unlike Google Analytics, reports from previous months of Awstats have not changed. Based on this alone, it looks like the glitch is occurring on Google’s end.

Normally, tech support emails are promptly replied by Google Analytics support staff. But it’s been a few days since I sent in a message to their help desk. I will just have to be patient and wait for a response.

Is anyone else seeing this artificial increase of time spent on site in your Google Analytics reports?

Ian Lee
Work from home dad, marketer and photographer. Fallen in love with basketball all over again as I coach my daughter's team.

14 thoughts on “Google Analytics Glitch – 300% Increase in Average Time Spent on Site”

  1. Now that you mention it, yes I did notice that Analytics had reported that the average time spent on my site had doubled, from about 4 and a half minutes to over 9.

    And here I was thinking I was just getting more interesting to people. 🙂

  2. I noticed the same problem when checking statistics on my site. At first, I was ecstatic by the jump in average time on site, but then I checked previous months and noticed the stats had gone up for those as well. Bummer.

  3. I am seeing some of the mentioned time spent increases as well. It may be happening across the board and a glitch that Google is sure to fix once this issue is brought to their attention.

  4. Thanks for the heads-up, I was surfing for ‘average’ length of visit info when I came across your article. I was surprised by a 450% rise in average length on one of my client’s sites – then after reading your article I checked the ‘previous period’ figure against last month’s report and noticed it had jumped by 400%! Ridiculous. I checked the client’s reporting package, they host all their sites and record raw stats and they were recording significantly lower average times. Definitely something fishy going on.

  5. I attended the GA Conversion University earlier in the month and recall someone brought up the same issue after having pulled past reports and seeing the jump.

    GG explanation is that GA is no longer counting visitors who bounce in their TOS calculation. Not sure when the change took effect (end of july I think). The Google folks agreed it should have been announced. That should explain your jumps…

    I think most agreed that this was a better way of measuring time on site becaues the way it was explained is that TOS is calculated is looking at the time between one page is called to the next. With those that hit the homepage and leave, they were getting zero values, bringin the TOS down – even if they spent a couple of minutes looking at your homepage, then left.

    Hope that helps.

  6. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the helpful information. It’s appreciated.

    As I mentioned in Pageviews Distorted by AJAX Pageless Technology, engage ability and time spent on site is becoming more relevant with the adoption of Ajax and streaming technology. Recently, even Nielsen/NetRatings announced it would focus more on Time Spent on Site and put less emphasis in reporting page views.

    I am not disagreeing with Google’s new methodology, but it’s unusual that 2 emails to Google tech support about this issue have gone unanswered. Normally, they respond relatively quickly.

    This new calculation has me wondering if it has also affected user loyalty (length and depth) reporting. Interesting.

    I hope Google does make a formal announcement. This is important information and is definitely a new way of measuring engage ability.

    So does that mean we can feel happy about our increased time spent on site as reported by Google Analytics? 🙂

  7. I’m using google analytics to track my blogs traffic, I too feel the some sudden higher changes in the average time spend on my blog. I thought I’m getting good visitors, who spends more time in my blogs, but after read this article I should rethink.

  8. Google apparently modified the calculation for the average time on site to no longer include bounce visits. I’m not sure why they tried to do this so quietly.

    Google Analytics: Bounce Visits are excluded for Avg. Time On Site

  9. We have just optimized our portal conform Goolge standards; actually, an agency has done that for us (last week).

    As marketing manager, I just received the stats today and I was flabbergasted. Our visitors usually spent 5- 10 minutes on our sites but since this week, this is 19 minutes (average) and on some sites (we publish in 6 countries), even 27 minutes!

    I discussed this with our interactive agency partner and they claim that they have implemented everything conform instructions.

    However, I have serious doubts about the stats!

  10. I have not noticed a thing. I wonder if this challenge is happening to my site as well. I will have to look further into it. Thanks for the heads up.


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