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Why is Browsing Time on Sites different to Users

Last Updated: Aug 01, 2018 07:20PM PDT
There can be confusion when comparing the browsing time for a user, and the browsing time for the sites that the user visited.

For example, a report may state that a user has been browsing for 6 hours, but when you run a report on the user’s activity, you may see browsing to site A being 4 hourssite B being 5 hourssite C being 6 hours - a total of 15 hours!

The totals obviously do not add up here. Why is that?

Overlapping Sessions

The main reason for this is that the user may be browsing in multiple windows or tabs simultaneously, and other applications on their machine may also be generating traffic at the same time. These overlapping browsing sessions get merged together when viewing the 'users' total browsing time, but get separated out when viewing the 'sites' the user visited.
For example, if I go to www.webspy.com and browse that site from 12:00 to 12:05, then I have 5 minutes of browsing time tor www.webspy.com.

However, if at the same time I open a second browser window to www.cnn.com, and also browse on that site from 12:00 to 12:05, then my total browsing time is still only 5 minutes as I browsed the sites simultaneously. But when viewing the browsing time of my list of sites, the table will show 5 minutes on www.webspy.com and 5 minutes on www.cnn.com, giving a total of 10 minutes at the bottom of the table.

Single Downloads (Hits) with Zero Browsing Time

Sometimes you may download a single file from a website. Or a website may call out to another website to show a single image, or load a single script. In these cases, there is only one timestamp logged for that site, and the browsing time will be zero (see How Browsing Time Is Calculated).

So if you download a single file from www.webspy.com only at 12:00 and a single file from www.cnn.com at only 12:05, then the browsing time for www.webspy.com would be 0 seconds, and the browsing time for www.cnn.com would also be 0 seconds, however the browsing time for the user would be 5 minutes as there are two hits, 5 minutes apart.

Background Web Sites

Another major reason for this is that their browser may be accessing many different sites simultaneously without the user knowing it.

When you browse to a website, your web browser actually downloads material from several different sites. These can be advertising servers such as doubleclick.net, visitor tracking scripts such as google-analytics.com, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) such as fbcdn.net or akamaihd.net (both used by Facebook), social sharing widgets such as addthis.com, tweet buttons and so on.

Fastvue's Site Clean feature attempts to solve this problem (available in Vantage using the Origin Domain summary in your reports), however, there are various reasons why certain traffic may not be 'cleaned'. 

Any sites that cannot be 'cleaned' by Fastvue Site Clean will show up as separate domains that have been accessed by the user, and each will have its own browsing time.

Fastvue is continually improving the Site Clean algorithm, but please be aware that certain traffic (such as HTTPS traffic) is very difficult to clean accurately, and the 'extra' domains in the reports may bloat the browsing time figures. 

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Hopefully that helps explain some of the issues around regarding browsing time in your reports. If you still have questions, please get in touch!

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