User engagement is not often a high enough priority for digital marketers, and that is both a big mistake and a big opportunity. Many reports focus on traffic, revenue, keyword rankings (and of course DataCube score), but user engagement metrics are usually an afterthought.
Unlocking the value of user engagement data should be at the heart of every report, whether the focus is SEO/SEM, content marketing, email marketing, or conversion rate optimization.
What is an engagement metric?
A variety of commonly tracked metrics tend to fall under the bucket of “engagement,” but they all focus on how people interact with your webpage. Do users spend more time on one page than another? Do users click back to a search result immediately after visiting your website? If a particular type of content is present, such as a video, do users watch the full video?
Note the difference between an engagement metric and an experience metric. Experience metrics focus on technical performance of your site, such as the page load speed.
In addition to the common engagement metrics discussed here, remember you can set up custom metrics to answer questions specific to your website or business. For example, if you’ve recently invested in new media (videos, infographics, etc.) to give your customers more information at various points of the sales funnel, you might want to see if the average order value of customers who watch a new video is higher or lower than those who don’t watch a video, and compared to those who watch a different video.
Really digging into engagement metrics helps determine ROI on recent digital implementations and gives you a wealth of helpful information for marketing resource allocation.
What are the most important user engagement metrics?
- Pageviews & sessions – All other engagement metrics give context to the traffic data (pageviews and sessions) in your analytics. Traffic metrics tell you what happened, but few clues to why.
- Check out Tips on getting more value out of your SEO reporting for more on SEO traffic analysis.
- Pageviews per session: At a very high level, comparing pageviews per session before and after a page/site update is a great way to see if people are engaging more or less with your website. That said, dependent on business goals, a better strategy may be shortening the path to conversion, so a lower pageview per session number might be an improvement. This is more commonly a focus for paid media than SEO, but it’s really a question of funnel stage. If a potential customer is higher in the funnel, like a business blog, you likely want a higher pageview per session number, but for top-converting product pages, a lower number.
- Conversion rate: Many reports already have some focus on conversion rates as an important KPI, but overemphasizing work on improving them may lead to poorer overall performance. For instance, removing a few paragraphs of text to boost the conversion rate may hurt your SEO keyword ranking and lower overall traffic and conversions.
- Bounce rate: What is bounce rate? A “bounce” is a single session where the user views no other pages. Understanding an acceptable bounce rate is unique to different intended user experiences, so while lower is usually better, if someone searches for a definition and finds exactly what they want, a bounce actually indicates high user satisfaction, not low. Read more about bounce rates in a recent post.
- Time on page & session duration: How long a user spends on your website and on particular pages is often most helpful for content marketers, as the time a person actually spends on an article is critical to understanding and predicting interest for upcoming content calendars. Content calendars always need more ideas, and making data-informed strategic decisions about what topics or types of articles to create is make-or-break for content marketers.
- Top exit pages: Limiting exposure to low-performing content, such as a distracting product selector tool that slows the path to conversion, can be a great way to quickly improve overall conversion rates, so taking a look periodically can open up quick wins when you need them.
Segment by design as well as category to uncover more engagement insights
Many traffic reports break down overall traffic numbers by category or topic, usually aligning with business objectives. Segmenting by page design or feature allows for more cross-channel analysis and optimization.
Example: An apparel website’s report might segment traffic by shoes, shirts, and pants. After a major website redesign, the report shows shoes benefited much more than shirts and pants. A number of business decisions might be made because of this, but if the report segmented by page type, such as category pages, product pages and product guides, the real story may be the shoe category had more product guides, which benefited the most from the design update, and drove the shoe performance. With that information, instead of investing more heavily in shoes, the company’s digital marketing director might invest in more product guides rather than more shoe-specific content.
Understanding user engagement in context of website performance
What’s more important, user engagement or traffic? What about keyword ranking? How do these impact one another? There are a lot of questions that can come up when you start digging into engagement metrics. Sometimes, if your keyword rankings and SEO traffic go up, your website might start to receive more casual users, who are less engaged than those who found you before.
To help make sense of this, build and refine a custom dashboard tailored to your business and website’s goals. Over time, it will go beyond telling you what is happening, and tell you why.