The concept of audience engagement intuitively makes sense to website owners because you want to “engage” your visitors by giving them what they want, hoping they’ll return, prompting them to share your content, and ultimately hoping they’ll improve your business in some way. However, engagement means different things at different stages of the website-visitor relationship, and that’s why there’s no single engagement metric you can use to measure it.
Engagement with a skeptical first-time visitor means something different than engagement with one of your biggest fans. Therefore, it’s important to look at a variety of metrics when evaluating audience engagement. Five important metrics that help you quantify visitor engagement are bounce rate, comments, emails, pages viewed, and time spent on your site.
Your website’s bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who arrive at your site and ”bounce” back out within a pre-determined time frame rather than viewing other pages on the site. Different analytics software uses different on-site time limits to determine bounce rate. For example, if a visitor comes to your page and spends 20 minutes on it before leaving, it wouldn’t count as a bounce because the visitor stuck around for awhile, presumable because he or she found engaging content.
What Bounce Rate Indicates About Audience Engagement
Generally you want bounce rates to be low because a low bounce rate indicates that the page causes visitors to stay around or delve deeper into the website. An average bounce rate is about 50%. If your bounce rate is over 60%, you may need to make changes to engage visitors better. If your bounce rate is 80% or more, then your site may have serious problems engaging visitors. However, bounce rate doesn’t tell the whole story. It could mean a visitor showed up, found what they were looking for quickly, and left satisfied. That’s why bounce rate shouldn’t be your only measure of audience engagement.
Inviting reader comments after articles and blog posts puts a ball in the visitor’s court should they want to have a swing at it.
What Comments Indicate About Audience Engagement
Usually, if an article or post generates lots of comments, it’s a sign you have engaged readers who not only take in your content, but care enough to say something about it. However, like bounce rate, comments can’t tell the whole story. Some topics naturally prompt more comments than others, such as controversial issues, or topics that affect users in their everyday lives. While you hope for comments on all your content, it’s not realistic to make a lock-step correlation between number of comments and reader engagement.
When visitors are inspired enough to email you about your site, you can assume that you have engaged those visitors.
What Emails Indicate About Audience Engagement
Don’t expect a regular flood of emails, because it’s more common for visitors to indicate engagement by comment rather than email, particularly if you encourage comments and have a thriving online community. On the other hand, if you do suddenly get a flood of emails concerning one article, and the emails indicate a trend in what visitors are thinking, you should look at these trends and try to determine what engaged readers, whether for good or ill.
It’s a positive sign when visitors look at multiple pages on your site. It usually indicates they’ve found something they like and want to see what else your site offers.
What Pages Viewed Indicate About Audience Engagement
Not only do the numbers of pages viewed indicate positive audience development, learning which pages get the most views can give important clues about what you’re doing that particularly engages visitor interest. For example, if you have a page about a case study that is heavily viewed, it indicates that something about that page engages visitors. You can then look at comments on the page for more clues about what specifically engages them.
Time Spent on Site
For the most part, the longer visitors spend on your site, the better. However, a site that’s difficult to navigate can show longer times spent on the site due to people getting lost in navigation.
What Time Spent on Site Indicates About Audience Engagement
Assuming your site is easy to navigate, an increasing value for your “time spent on site” metric is a positive indication that your audience development is coming together nicely.
Audience engagement is complex enough that it can’t be measured by a single metric. If audience monetization is your ultimate goal, then you should keep a finger on the pulse of your audience engagement and make modifications as necessary to improve it. Ideally, you should have a dashboard of several audience engagement metrics that you monitor regularly. Over time you’ll get a better idea of what piques your visitors’ interest and whether they’re casual or first-time visitors or long-time fans of your site.