In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s no secret that the advent of Social Media has prompted a steep decline in attention span. In 2000, the average attention span was considered to be 12 seconds, but, after only 15 years, this average had already dropped to 8.25 seconds. To put this into perspective, according to scientists, goldfish seem to be able to focus for longer periods of time than modern day humans, averaging at around 9 seconds of intense concentration.
In the virtual world, attention is particularly fragile. Users browsing the web are prone to distractions unless they have a specific goal in mind. And understandingly so. Messages, social media notifications, paid ads, and emails are always just a couple of clicks away promising instant gratification. Therefore, it’s no surprise that nurturing customer engagement is fast becoming a priority for companies looking to create an effective website. If a user is not engaged, his attention will drift away after just a couple of seconds, even before he eventually clicks away from the website. And each user that quickly bounces off an ecommerce or corporate website is a missed opportunity to establish a connection.
But how can companies know whether their website is truly engaging users and supporting their long-term business goals? Welcome to the enchanted land of website analytics and metrics! Tread lightly. As we will soon discover, engagement metrics can be mysterious and even a little dangerous if misunderstood. So, before diving deeper into what metrics could be useful for engagement monitoring, one should first establish what types of engagement are truly worth nurturing for a particular business.
In the virtual world, website engagement is a broad concept that encompasses many different types of actions: everything from reading and scrolling through content, to making a purchase or writing a review.
Is the website meant to generate sales, downloads, subscriptions, or just awareness through informative content? Knowing the end goal is vital because it determines what types of metrics are most appropriate for monitoring user engagement on a specific platform, as well as how those metrics are interpreted.
Most engagement metrics are really a lot like double edged swords. A high value for a particular indicator can mean success for a certain type of platform and spell disaster for another. That’s why in this article we will explore the most important metrics for successful engagement monitoring while also offering insight about when and how they should be used.
Having a thorough understanding of how many users reach your website and how many actually choose to stay and engage with the provided content is important when beginning to monitor engagement. Metrics such as bounce rate, unique visitors, new visitors and returning visitors can provide a valuable overview of how the website is performing with the targeted audience.
1. Bounce rate is frequently used to determine website effectiveness, but it’s also one of the most complex metrics, due to the numerous factors that influence it. A website’s bounce rate value indicates the percentage of users that abandon the website in the first couple of seconds, before any meaningful interaction can occur. And while a high bounce rate can indicate that a website is not engaging users, it can also point towards other problems. It can mean that the website doesn’t load fast enough or that it doesn’t work properly on certain browsers. And even if there are no technical issues, a high bounce rate can simply mean that the company’s marketing efforts are simply not attracting the right audience.
So, before rushing in and changing your website’s content strategy, make sure to look at other metrics as well.
2. The Unique visitors metric can help companies determine how many individual users are actually reaching the website. This metric is vital for websites that focus on raising awareness because it allows marketers to see if the brand’s fanbase is actually expanding. However, in order for it to be relevant in terms of engagement it needs to be corroborated with other metrics like sessions. If unique users are initiating multiple sessions in a given time frame, it means they are engaging with brand content on a regular basis.
3. New visitors and returning visitors metrics are often best used together in order to determine if the website is engaging consumers. Naturally, a high new visitors rate and a low returning visitors rate can indicate issues with retention and overall user experience that should be addressed. In short, it means that the experience is not memorable enough and that the team should dig a little deeper in order to pinpoint the problem.
Content Interaction Metrics
While some traffic related metrics can point towards issues with building engagement, the only way to be sure that one is correctly interpreting them is to take into account content interaction metrics as well.
1. Page Views is a key metric that indicates the number of pages users view on your website. For an online publisher, a large number of page views can mean that the website’s content strategy is working, and users are reading multiple articles before abandoning the website, while for a corporate website it can mean that people are unable to find the information they need. Like many other metrics, the Page Views indicator is not relevant by itself and it needs to be interpreted in context, preferably along with other complementary metrics.
2. Average session duration indicates how much time users spend on average in one session. This information can help marketers understand user behavior when corroborated with another metric such as page views. For instance, if users are accessing a limited number of pages and spending a copious amount of time in each session, it can mean that they are engaging with content and diving deep into the provided information. However, although a media outlet would probably see this as a sign that the company’s content strategy is performing well, this might not be good news for an ecommerce website, where spending excessive time on a page before a purchase usually translates into poor sales.
3. But how can one know if users are actually engaging with content and not just simply having a bad user experience? There isn’t really a way of knowing with absolute certainty, but metrics such as page/scroll depth can help bring more clarity. This metric indicates if content is interesting by tracking at what specific point users stop scrolling and exploring. Aside from providing the information needed for evaluating the overall quality of your content, this metric can also be used to identify pain-points in the user journey. If users usually stop scrolling before a very important call to action or information, it can be recommended to simply move that particular section in a more prominent position.
4. A website’s conversion rate is one of the most important metrics because conversions occur when a user actually takes action. Conversion goals can be set up to monitor purchases, downloads, form completions, or any other type of engagement. The conversion rate indicates the percentage of users that perform the desired action. If a website has a poor conversion rate but performs well according to other metrics such as scroll depth, page views or returning visitors, it can mean that the call-to-action messages are either not visible enough or not persuasive enough. However, it can simply boil down to an unattractive offer or price, so it’s best to remain mindful of all possible explanations.
5. The Cart abandonment rate can provide important information about the user’s experience during the purchasing process. It refers to the percentage of carts abandoned after the checkout process is initiated. Users are fickle creatures that change their minds in a split-second, so it’s important to keep them engaged and focused throughout the checkout process. A high cart abandonment rate can indicate a checkout process that is too complex or time consuming, or an overall negative user experience. Either way, in such cases it’s recommended to diligently evaluate all components of the checkout process.
In conclusion, we can only remind marketers and business owners that no two websites are alike, and that success can look differently depending on a website’s goals, target audience, and even industry. There are many factors at play that metrics alone cannot account for, but engagement metrics do provide insights into consumer behavior if consistently monitored over time. By continuously analyzing engagement metrics, businesses can make better data-driven decisions that nurture user engagement and generate conversions.