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Google Analytics Highlights Trends and Benchmarks :

At the beginning of July, Google sent out their first newsletter containing aggregate data collected from “hundreds of thousands” of websites that opted-in for anonymous sharing of their traffic data. These results spanned from November 1, 2010 to February 1, 2011 and were compared against the same time period from the previous year. What the newsletter offers is a unique glimpse into web traffic behavior and may provide insight into how future websites are structured, as well as offers greater understanding for which tracking metrics are most valuable.

Site Metrics

Compared to a year ago, websites are experiencing a reduction in the number web pages on a site that get visited (from 4.9 down to 4.5), the average time a person spends on a website (5:49 down to 5:23) and a reduction in bounce rates (48.2% down to 47%). This means that although people are spending less time on a website and do not explore it as deeply as before, it also means that the traffic websites are getting are not “bouncing” off (i.e. leaving immediately after landing on the home page). More users are giving the websites they visit a chance to make an impression, be it in a shorter amount of time.

As an interesting side note, users from the United States spend more time on the websites they visit than any other major developed country – more than visitors in the UK, France, Brazil, China or Japan.

Traffic Sources

The changes noted in traffic sources (i.e. how people are finding websites) between this year and last show two interesting trends. The first is a reduction in referral traffic (21% down to 19.4%). The second is an increase in traffic from search engines (27% up to 28%). Direct traffic and “other” traffic showed negligible differences. This would suggest that it is increasingly important for your website to wind up in people’s search results, and perhaps a little less important to embed your links on other websites.

Just by the fact that this information came from Google’s first newsletter on the matter means that these trends will need to be followed (and acted upon) closely in the coming year.