the single most important metric for website success

September 9, 2016

website success, average time on pageEveryone wants to know what blogging and website success looks like. The list of measurements most people look to contain the usual suspects… page views, social media likes/shares, number of followers on social media, and number of subscribers. Understandably, those metrics are simple numbers which show how visible your content is.

But, one number is likely a better gauge of success than any of the others most think about. Work on this one measurement, and you’ll launch your blog to new levels. What metric is it?

Time on page.

This one measurement can tell you more about the behavior of your readers than anything else. Think about it. You write a 600 word post that gets 100 page views, and it gets an average time on page of 30 seconds. Since the average adult reads approximately 250-300 words per minute, then that means most people hitting your post aren’t reading very much of it. That realization can hurt when you know you’ve poured out your heart and soul to write something you think is amazing.

On the other hand, imagine the same post had an average time on page of 1:30 or more. Some readers lose interest and drop, but this would definitely indicate that what you wrote is resonating more with your readers.

Why is this important?

Two reasons, really. First, time on page speaks to the quality of your content. Increase this metric, and you’re probably getting at a more engaged, connected reader. Second, it’s a metric that Facebook (and Google) is looking at in their algorithms to determine which link posts get pushed up/down in people’s news feeds (and search results). It’s a way for them to battle click-bait links, and push up good quality content.

Here are a few tips on how you can improve your time on page:

(1) write great titles

Your first, and most important task is to write great titles. The reader should be able to look at the title of the post, and anticipate what they’ll find when they click-through to read it. It also helps if the title contains some sort of emotional connection or value statement. What will they get out of reading your post? Not only does this help get them to click-through in the first place, but it also sets proper expectations. If they know what they’ll be getting, then they’re much more likely to stay on the post long enough to actually get it.

(2) write an amazing first paragraph

Once you have them on the post, then it’s the first paragraph which will set the tone for everything else. Your opening statement should hook the reader and give them even more reason to keep reading. If the title left any question on how long they should stick around, then the first paragraph should solidify that buy-in. Don’t feel like you have to give everything away up front. But sell your big idea right away, and make sure the reader knows what’s in it for them.

(3) improve the graphic appeal of the post (and whole website)

Using strong images has proven to increase the reader’s time on page. Think about the images your add to your blog post like adding art to the wall in a museum or art gallery. Good art will cause someone to stop, and spend time just looking deeply into to piece. They’ll analyze the colors and different parts in the work. They’ll try to figure out what it means, and what message it sends. If a picture is like a thousand words, then try using one that will get them to spend the time on your page equivalent to how long it would take them to read a thousand words. In addition to strong post images, there’s much to be said for keeping the overall visual appeal of your site clean too. Having a cluttered sidebar (or two) can create visual noise for readers, and cause them to disengage with the content.

(4) use embedded video

Having a video embedded in your post is not only a great way to bring in a different style of communication alongside your writing, it’s also a great way to easily boost the time on page. Even adding a one-minute video could quickly double the average time on page. But don’t just add any video. Make sure it’s relevant and engaging. Having a five-minute video on the page doesn’t add as much value if people are only watching the first 30 seconds. So filter this in the same way you would any other content. Make sure the reader has enough buy-in to stick through the whole video.

(5) make it easy to read

Lots of really long paragraphs can tire your reader and cause them to lose interest. One of the best things you can do is offer regular visual breaks and work on making the content easily scannable. Breaks can be created by using images or header tagged breaks. In fact, getting some of your desired keywords into H2 (or Heading 2) format can be good for your SEO. These breaks makes the content which follows them easier to read because it’s a smaller piece of content to consume, which increases the likelihood they will continue to work through it. This is particularly effective with long-form content.

last thought…

As you look at your average time on page metrics (or any others), it’s important to have benchmarks. One trap to avoid when benchmarking is comparing yourself to others or a magical standard published by some social media “guru”. The best numbers to measure yourself against are your own. I’m not going to tell you that ___ number of minutes on the page is what you should target. Instead, figure out where you are now, and simply try to improve that by 10%. When you reach that number, then try to improve by another 10%. Keep pushing yourself for a personal best, and make whatever adjustments are needed in order to get you to the next level. That’s when you’ll start to realize the greatest success with your website.


Note: This post was originally published on the Allume Blog.

Dan King

Dan is the founder and president of Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (2 biological, 3 adopted).

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