Comparing Google Analytics Time on Page to Pressboard’s Active Reading Time
Google is great at a ton of things, from search to self-driving cars. When it comes to measuring content however, Google Analytics (GA) falls surprisingly short. While GA provides a metric called Time on Page, it’s not exactly as it sounds. The problem with Time on Page is that it is unable to measure “bounces”. Bounces are visitors that only visit one page on a given site. Bounces can make up over 80% of all visitors on content-focused sites, such as news sites and lifestyle blogs.
Pressboard has introduced Active Reading Time to leverages GA’s strengths while also compensating for its weaknesses. Active Reading Time measures ALL visitors to a page and analyzes how active and engaged they are, how far they are scrolling and what they do after they’re finished.
Using Pressboard’s Active Reading Time instead of GA’s Time on Page can produce vastly different results at times. Here are 3 scenarios where you may see a difference.
Let’s call our reader Shawn.
Scenario A: Shawn is reading about a great burger joint on his favorite site, Lifestyle.com. After reading the article he clicks over to a second article on that same site, this one is about an up and coming local band. Next he heads over to a news site, Newsy.com, to see what’s been going on in the election.
Since Shawn visited two pages on Lifestyle.com, GA can calculate the difference between the time stamps recorded on both pages. GA records it as 10:16:20 – 10:15:15 = 1 min and 05 seconds.
Pressboard is checking every second and calculates the same result for Article A: 1 min 05 seconds. All good so far.
It’s when Shawn heads over to Newsy.com where he loses GA. Since Lifestyle.com’s GA isn’t seeing Newsy.com’s time stamp, the calculation can’t be completed and so GA returns nothing.
Pressboard on the other hand has been checking in for activity from Shawn every second, so as soon as he leaves, we know it. Pressboard records the time spent on article B as 1 min 45 seconds.
Scenario B: The next day Shawn is reading about how to care for your pet on Lifestyle.com, which reminds him that his own dog, Simba, needs to go for a walk. He leaves the article open on his laptop and heads out. After a 12 minute jaunt Shawn and Simba return and he finishes reading his article about pet care before checking out a movie review on the same site.
Google doesn’t know that Shawn left and so when he returns and heads over to the movie review article Google calculates the time stamps as usual and reports Article A Time on Page as being 13 minutes and 40 seconds.
Pressboard meanwhile has been checking in every second and noticed that Shawn hadn’t been active; no mouse movements or scrolling, for about 20 seconds. Since he’s no longer actively reading, Pressboard calculates only the active time and reports 1 minute and 10 seconds on Article A. When Shawn comes back Pressboard will start calculating his active time on the movie review article.
If you relied purely on GA you’d have to assume that Shawn was a pretty slow reader, but you’d have no way to really know what happened.
Scenario C: Shawn is scrolling through his Facebook feed when he comes across an article highlighting amazing local daytrips, sponsored by his favorite car share company. He clicks through to the article and then once he’s finished he heads back to Facebook.
GA cannot record any time on page for this scenario because Shawn is considered a “Bounce”. This is one of the most common scenarios that we see on socially driven traffic. With Facebook representing over 50% of all traffic to sponsored content, that’s a big reason for the huge number of bounces.
Fortunately, Pressboard’s been checking in with Shawn the whole time he’s been on the Lifestyle.com daytrip article, so the calculation is easily recorded as 1 minute and 45 seconds.
While there are other factors that can affect attention, these 3 scenarios represent the majority of use cases.
As you can see, Active Reading Time provides a much more accurate and robust measurement than Time on Page, that’s why we knew we had to build it into our platform. Over the next few months, as we are able to analyze more and more data, we will begin to produce benchmarks to help you measure success and provide deeper insights into your campaigns.
If you are interested in learning more about our measurement methodology please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org