Time on page and its value for your content strategy

Time on page and its value for your content strategy

Nearly everything we produce online these days is content. It varies in depth, breadth and purpose from fun and shareable to detailed and converting. In business terms, the former equals more leads and the latter means better quality leads. Ultimately, your content strategy becomes a balancing act where you draw in more of your audience whilst sifting through it in search for gold dust.

How do you know your content strategy really works? As we have already established, there is content that you intend to go viral, i.e. get vast social media engagement and, thus, increase your visibility (note: not necessarily brand awareness), and there is content that serves a strategically different goal: it is thoroughly thought through and aims to resolve a problem.

Content marketers use a number of metrics to measure the ‘quality’ of content. The most commonplace and, let’s admit it, the most simple one is social media engagement. We look at how many likes and shares we received and consider it to be a valid estimation of success. Most of us also look at bounce rate. Google defines it as ‘the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page’. One would consider it a fair way to assess the engagement of your website. There is also another metric that is often neglected and misunderstood – Time on Page. This is how it works:

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 Time on Page X = Time on Page Y – Time on Page X

For example, someone spent 5 minutes on Page X, then visited Page Y for 7 minutes and then exited the website. In this way, Time on Page for X would be 5 minutes, but Page Y will be left unaccounted for since there was no further visit

Page Y is the page visited after Page X. Therefore, the time spent on Page X is calculated only if there was another page visit. This is the main reason why many do not consider this metric to be a reliable representation of the success of their content. However, this does not mean that it should be neglected. On the contrary, for the above mentioned ‘problem-solving content’, Time on Page becomes increasingly relevant. Let’s see exactly why.

Time on Page provides you with a unique insight into how visitors interact with your content and your website in general. That is all very well, but what makes it so special?

Normally, you would expect the most accurate data to come from your audience’s natural habitat . In this way, many content creators turn to social media for their content performance indicators. However, the way people consume and react to digital content is very different from the way they interact with the traditional content. The fact that you acquired an X number of views or shares does not indicate that your content reached an X level of audience engagement. If you look at the time users actually spent on your page, it might paint a completely different picture.

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HubSpot published an interesting chart that shows the correlation between the time we spend consuming content and our reaction to it on social media.

The conclusion can be drawn roughly as “we don’t tend to share what truly interests us”. If you think about it our behaviour on the web in many ways mirrors what we do offline. We tend to display things that help us create a certain perception of us by the outside world and do not necessarily want to share things that might make us seem overly mundane or even strange, although very often these issues resonate with us a lot more than those we actively share.

In terms of content, Time On Page reflects the quality of your content in a more accurate manner. Content quality is your ‘soupe du jour’ if business value is your primary focus. It has an incredible effect on search rankings, and the higher Google ranks you, the more visibility you gain for those who are actively looking to solve a problem using the web. In this way, Time on Page becomes a key metric if your content strategy is heavily inclined towards providing business value.

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