Measuring Basic Online Engagement

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 12.09.59 PM

Image source: Flickr 

We touched on Engagement at the start of the chapter but let’s dig deeper for further clarity.  Engagement is often confused with a term called “vanity metrics” – a measurement that sounds impressive but does not provide any real value to evaluating the success of an online marketing initiative.

For example, a marketing team might boast they have 30,000+ Users per month to their site. As burgeoning digital marketers, we might question this a bit:

  • Are these New Users (first-time visitors to the site) or Returning Users?
  • What is the Bounce Rate?
  • Most importantly, what is the Conversion Rate based on the referring traffic source as it relates to the KPI’s? In other words, how many of these Users are actually engaging with us by taking actions according to the Goals we’ve set up.

All of these questions point to how, with just a few simple tools, we can start to track User Engagement with our web property. However, keep in mind that web analytics measures what happened but utterly fails to capture why it happened.

For example, we might see tremendous amounts of time spent on the site and call this “good engagement”. But upon reflection, is this because Users are interested in our brilliant content or because they can’t find the information they’re looking for?

This is when we need to overlay Qualitative measurement methods (user experience studies and interviews) – but more on that in a second.

Measuring Engagement – A Case Study

Let’s walk through a quick example around measuring Engagement.

Let’s say we are building an ecommerce website to target new parents looking for baby products. In the brutal paid advertising world this can be a big challenge. We might look at ways to win at the original content game and pull traffic in through organic search.

Next, through an empathy exercise, such as user interviews and observations, we discover that many new mothers are incredibly nervous about when to feed newborns. We craft some helpful articles with tips around things like ideal infant feeding times.

Using our analytical skills, we see that our content targeting the keyword phrase “tips on infant feeding times” starts to perform very well for New Users. The traffic has a low Bounce Rate and a high Conversion Rate, which in this case, would be purchasing an actual product on the site. The content also shows decent shares on social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (which is particularly powerful for this audience). Over time, we build our weekly email newsletter on top of this type of content and discover that it has a high open-rate and drives Returning Users back to our website.

All these signals point to the fact that we have good Engagement online.

The above example illustrates an important part of defining Engagement: it comes in ranges and can be defined across a variety of metrics to produce a blended snapshot. On one end we will have Users that show up and never come back. Unfortunately that will likely be a good chunk of your Users as you dial in your content, site experience and search strategy.

On the other end, we’ll have Users show up, Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Pinterest, opt-in to our email campaign and purchase products. Given the vast opportunity for ways to spend time online, we’ll have far more people with minimal Engagement versus the ‘super fans’ just described.

But take heart, we can always work on our Nurturing efforts to raise the level of Engagement.