Category Archives: Analytics

Why does GA show 0 seconds Visit duration?

Symbol for 0 sec GA postThis situation is annoying to many of us. We are supposed to use analytics to make decisions.

But sometimes when you dig and try to eek out an extra bit of value from each page, impression and visitor when you get confusing answers it can tie you up in a knot.

If you see 0:00 average visit duration with a bounce rate of 100 % it can be very disheartening.

If I explain how GA code actually works this should make sense to you. It took me a while to figure this out, and now it is said, I think it is quite obvious!

Scenario 1 – a regular situation

  • Someone visits your site and lands on page X at 09:00 hours. Google will save this time stamp of 09:00 hours.
  • That visitor then clicks on a link and goes to page Y at 09:01 hours. Google will save the second time stamp when it loads page B. And let us assume that visitor then leaves your website after viewing page Y. Now duration of visit = 09:01 minus 09:01 = 1 minute.

Scenario 2 – a 0 second ‘false’ report

  • So, if someone stays and reads, scrolls, opens a different tab etc, around on page X for any amount of time, 1 sec to a full hour, but does not click on any link and leaves your page from page X, which will then also shows a 100% bounce rate quite rightly.
    • N.b If the user has come on in, got the right answer, and had a good experience a 100% bounce isn’t strictly a bad thing !
  • In this case, GA has no information about when the user left your website and instead of showing N/A it shows average visit duration 0:00. Which is not helpful. It would be clearer if they had – “we don’t know”

So, 0 seconds is just a “don’t know” as they came in and exited from this single page with no second time reference.



GA’s new tag manager

If have gone down the GA route and have more than just the absolute basic installation this latest development may be really useful, it is GA’s Tag Manager.

From their video it all seems quite easy. The basics are:

  • Log in with your G account
  • Create a container – this will hold all tags on site
  • Your container code is generated, paste into every before the closing tag

This can contain any marketing, measurement tag e.g. conversion goals, event tracking, conditional logic and the like. These containers can hold Google and other 3rd party codes which is helpful.

You pick up your ids from adwords interface and other places, and if you get it wrong you can make real-time changes, so no need to wait for a release or dev involvement.

See their video for more details.

Google pre-rendering in Chrome 13 – an analytics nightmare

The recent launch of Chrome 13 (auto updates means you might already have it) is causing some problems with onsite analytics.

If you assume that when a page is called and the referring server is Google then most analytics packages will register that as a Visit. This functionality they call is “Pre-rendering”. I guess a clue is in the name!

This is what we have seen recently. You may not of noticed yet. You should check. If Chrome represents 5 to 15% of your users browsers and your SEO accounts for 15 to 50% of your traffic. You might just be celebrating a small but steady growth in SEO visits.

As Chromes popularity increases this will become more obvious. And if you are taking credit for visit growth, you may have some back tracking to do publicly in due course.


  • Your conversion rate is decreasing from your SEO traffic
  • That your single page visits and ‘bounce-rate’ is increasing

And, if you look at the browser profile of those two things and you may find your smokin’ gun.

How does it work?

If you have a plugin such as Firebug, activate it.  Open a Google SERPs and when you hover over the magnifying glass, watch the code actually change in its open connection.  You will see that it actually calls the page. And there lies your analytical headache.

What can you do about it?

  1. Understand if your analytics are affected by this. If not, you are lucky.
  2. You may need to update your tracking code on the site to accommodate this new behaviour
  3. Do some proactive explaining to your stakeholders

The cynical part of me may suggest that Google trying to be more relvant to users and speeding up their experience, may have a happy byproduct of disrupting all analytics providers that arent theirs !

References and notes

A big thank you to Jason Moorman who works in the analytics team who has done so much of the heavy lifting in this investigation which lead to this discovery.

Google SSL search could hurt SEO tracking!

I was reading a post on GoogleSystem after reading a related post on Matt Cutts’ blog regarding Google’s new SSL search.

I get the idea.  You are out in the open and don’t want anyone and everyone knowing what you are Google are talking about.  A bit like you and your doctor/priest/accountant etc etc. I like this.

Google Secure Search

Google Secure Search

When viewing the images on the Googlesystem post with the data omitted when encrypted, so I opened up Fiddler and started playing with and how they would arrive on my employers site.

The two scenarios are:

  • If you are in regular Google. You get the referrer information and the query string passed through
  • If you are in Secure Google, well you get NO referrer and NO query string.

This made me think and consult the highest ranking stato I could find.  And I hated the confirmation I received.

As most web analytics use referrer information and look for the &q= in the URL, secure Google would not show up at all.  In fact the first entry is your own site.

The implication could be that all natural search traffic from secure Google would look like direct type in/bookmarked or another fringe case when there is no referrer.

This is currently limited to and to only those who know about it.  But, it will be spreading shortly I am sure.  And they are talking on how to change this as the default search widget in Chrome.

This also doesn’t work inside Google Analytics.  So, hopefully the GA team will shouting at their colleagues very quickly!

SEO tracking might be dead soon? Ideas – please help!!!

Changes coming the Google referring string – part 2

adrianland-graphic-statsFollowing up from the post yesterday >>

There was a follow up post on Blogstorm.  This post actually looked at the detail at the new URL structure and summarised that we (the SEO fraternity) might get some brand new data our PPC colleagues are all too used to.

Patrik Altoft suggests that

Perhaps the cd=7 (click detail = 7th?) is the ranking and ct=res (click through = results?) is indicating that the click came from organic search rather than a universal search (news or video) result.

Matt Cutts chimes in later on in a comment to this post.

I think if you do experiments, you’ll be able to confirm your speculation, Patrick and Brent Nau. As Jamie mentions, I think this is awesome for webmasters–even more information than you could glean from the previous referrer string.

So, watch this space !

Changes coming the Google referring string

On the official Google analytics blog they have pre-warned us all that they are making some changes to the referring string from Google natural search. You are OK, if you use Google Analytics, you will just need to do a software update.

Other wise depending on your particular set up you may need to make some changes. You can see their article here.

This will gradually roll this out. And the main difference they explain is the change from the part that starts “/search?” to “/url?”.

What does this mean? Well if you use this ‘search’ to determine that the visit is from natural search you need to make a change. Otherwise you will get confused between your paid and natural search results.

Now see part two >>