Why Google Analytics is showing 0 Average Time on Page

Google Analytics’ “Average Time on Page” can be a bit confusing and I’ve had people ask me why they’re seeing sessions with an average time of zero, wondering if they’d perhaps installed their analytics correctly. If you’re in a similar situation, there is good and bad news.

  • The Good News: There is probably nothing wrong with your GA integration.
  • The Bad News: GA’s method of tracking time on page can be misleading and leaves much to be desired.

How Google Analytics calculates Time on Page.

Google Analytics triggers upon page loads or other trackable events (which doesn’t include scrolling). What this means is that a visitor can visit your homepage, stay there for 10 minutes then simply close their browser and Google will track this as “0 time on page.” If on the other hand they spend 10 minutes and click to another page, whereupon they stay for 30 minutes before closing their browser, Google will track this as a 10 minute session. Google essentially just tracks pageloads (and events for that matter) and calculates time spent as time in between these requests. The default set up has no other way to track “time on page.”

What this means is that GA’s “Average Time on Page,” while not useless, needs to be taken for what it is. It doesn’t hurt to combine GA with something else like HotJar or Mousflow.


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