How does Parse.ly measure engaged time?

To explain our engaged time measurement, we’ll first explain the current industry standard, and then, how we use a more accurate measurement technology.

Traditional Time-on-Site Measurement

Many analytics platforms, including Google Analytics and Adobe’s Site Catalyst (Omniture), measure engaged time based on a user’s entry event (when they come to the page) and exit event (when they leave the page to go to another page on your site), both of which come with a timestamp. From there, these platforms calculate the time delta between each of those events per user session.

However, this way of measuring cannot take into consideration sessions that do not include an exit event. For example, if I visit your site and then leave to go to another site, or leave the tab open, an exit event never gets recorded.

This is an issue, as single-page visitors can comprise anywhere from 30-70% of the publisher’s audience. That’s a pretty substantial chunk to leave off of any benchmark analysis one might provide regarding time-on-site.

Parse.ly’s Engaged Time Measurement

To avoid the issue of exit events, Parse.ly uses a “heartbeat” pixel to measure engagement. This pixel pings every several seconds to check if a user is still active on an article as defined by:

  1. The browser tab is open, and,
  2. The user is presently engaging with page. We detect this by identifying cursor movement, scrolling, video playing, clicking, etc.)

After 10 seconds of inactivity, the heartbeat no longer considers the user engaged, and the time stops tracking. It can pick up again later, if that user re-engages with the article. Note that you’ll need to set the “PARSELY.videoPlaying” value to track engaged time on pages with embedded videos. See our documentation on that here.

Since we aren’t dependent on entry/exit events, we are able to encapsulate a more precise time measurement of your audience. This includes the time spent on the final page in a user’s session, and single-page visitors. And while heartbeat pixels still technically estimate actual time spent, they are markedly more accurate in terms of actual engagement on the page. Note that due to limitations imposed by Google and Facebook, we can’t currently track engaged time on AMP or Facebook Instant Articles.

See the technical documentation for integrating engaged time and engaged time in the data pipeline.

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