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Capturing time on site for single-page visits

by Intlock Team on

A key metric in web analytics is the amount of time a visitor spends browsing your website. To calculate it, most analytic tools rely on measuring the time between visits to different pages on your site – meaning, for example, that if a visitor clicks on Page A at 11 A.M. and then on Page B at 11.05 A.M., the time spent on Page A will be reported as five minutes.

But what about the last page a visitor looks at during a session? And what if they only look at one page? Most analytics tools have no way of capturing this data and, when it comes to single-page visits, it will seem as if the visitor was never there at all.

CardioLog Analytics, however, has managed to overcome this problem.

  • Get an accurate picture of the amount of time visitors spend on your site
  • Fire “pulse” events every few seconds for continual recording
  • Factor single-page and last-page views into the calculation
  • Avoid the under reporting that most other analytic tools deliver


Since they rely on measuring the time between a click on one page and another, most analytics solutions companies admit that their web analytic tools cannot present an accurate picture of how much time a visitor spends on your website.

Here’s Google, in its own words, on Google Analytics: “When a page is the last page in a session, there is no way to calculate the time spent on it because there is no subsequent pageview.” Google adds: “When that page is the only page viewed in the session, no time on page is calculated.”

Likewise, WebTrends has this to say: “Naturally, if a user only visits a single page, it may not be possible to determine the length of time the visitor spent on the site. Something has to occur to fire off the Java Script or to initiate another request from the web server (if you are using log files) and that’s usually a click to go to another page. WebTrends treats these as a zero-length visit and removes them from the calculation of average visit duration.”

It’s very common for a visitor to look only at a single page – clicking on a direct link to a blog or using a search engine that enables them to go straight to the information they want, then reading, and leaving. And it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which visitors click quickly through several pages until they find what they’re looking for and then spend the majority of the time looking at that last page. In both of these instances, most analytics tools will record the page request and start time of the session, but they won’t know how long such a visitor was at the screen looking at your content, and so will leave single-page and last-page views out of the equation altogether, as if they never happened. Such omissions mean you will be seriously underreporting the amount of time visitors spend on your website.

With such a high risk of inaccuracy, with most analytic tools, time spent on site ceases to be a useful metric at all. CardioLog, however, has managed to overcome this tricky limitation.

CardioLog has a unique way of tracking the amount of time a visitor spends on a page that enables single-page and last-page visits to be factored into the calculation. This is achieved by having the CardioLog JavaScript tracking code fire “pulse” events every few seconds, until the visitor leaves the page either by navigating away from it or by closing the browser.  These “pulse” events are then processed by the reporting engine to calculate the overall amount of time a visitor spends on a page in a more accurate, meaningful way.

This feature also has some additional uses, including providing real-time data about which of your visitors are online. “Pulse” events are being fired as long as a visitor is viewing a page, enabling you to engage him by pushing personalized content or sending chat messages.

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