'Engagement' is open to interpretation but for the purposes of this post and in the context of a website, it means how well your site captures people's attention and encourages them to do something – be it read content, push buttons, fill out a form, make a comment etc.
So, how do you know? You can't actually measure how engaged a person is, but you can infer it by what they do on the website. And how do you measure it? - enter Google Analytics statistics
Of course you need to be clear about the goals of your website and how you want people to use it to really understand how you are doing and what your engagement statistics mean. Everything may not be what it seems at first glance.
Remember that these statistics are averages so if you are concerned you need to drill a bit deeper.
Time on site
It goes without saying that if people only spend an average of ten seconds on your website there is something wrong.
This could be the fault of the visitors you are getting – i.e. they aren't ones that will buy from you anyway so if you do have a low time on site, then check where you are getting the visitors from, what keywords they are using to get there and make sure it's not all spam or ghost visits.
Also, if you have a high bounce rate (single page visits) this could affect your average time-on-site. Google Analytics relies on code being triggered when a page loads, so if a visitor lands on a page on your site then leaves without going anywhere else, there is no 'next page' to tell them how long you were on the first page.
But generally, a low average time on site means people aren't sticking around to look at all the content you've spent hours preparing (which you have done, haven't you) and you can imagine if they come, then whizz all over the place they probably aren't that engaged.
You can look at the average time spent on a page, but the same applies as to the site average overall – i.e. if the user exited from that page, the statistic for that page has a lower accuracy
% new visitors
If 99% of your visitors have never been to your site before it could mean one of a couple of things.
One – your lead generation is going great guns and you're getting in front of lots of people that haven't heard of you before.
Or (and more likely) people come to your site and never come back.
It's possible that people come, are so impressed they buy from you straight away but that is probably a utopia that is hard to achieve.
Number of pages
As mentioned before, if a visitor only looks at one page then leaves, this probably isn't a good thing. You need to think about what you want people to do and how many pages that would involve. Generally a low average pages per visit goes hand in hand with low time on site.
But be warned – if you have a high average page number but a low time on site it could be that people can't find what they are looking for!
Exits may be more useful when considered at a page level.
So if there is a page on your site that has a high number of exits it means people go there and left. This could be ok if its' your sign up thank you page or contact page, but if it's your main sales page or your home page there is an indication that people aren't finding what is on that page all that engaging.
If you have content on your site specifically intended to draw people in – like a special offer, an up-sell, free give away, PDF download etc you can track these with event tracking code.
If people aren't looking at this content, it's probably time to change it.
What should your statistics say
Time on site and percentage new visitor statistics in isolation will tell you nothing. What you really need to know is whether your visitors buy from you or contact you – or whatever the conversion goal is for your site.
If the conversion rates aren't good, then your engagement statistics are a tool you can use as a place to look for improvements
And what the statistics should be does depend on your business model, but try and map out what you want your audience to do depending on where they are in the purchasing process and what they would do on the site, how long they would spend etc
You may also want to drill down to certain groups of visitors and look at them in isolation to get a better view – e.g. only visitors from your location, or only search visitors or only those that visit between 9am and 10 pm – whatever makes sense
So, why should you care?
Because if they don't engage, then they aren't going to do what you want them to – whatever that might be – and your website will be failing. Its the equivalent of someone wandering into a store, staring blankly into the distance for a while then walking out again.
Probably the only exception to this that I can think of is if the sole purpose of the site is to give out your phone number and it's prominent on every page, but in this day and age I can think of few instance where that would be the case.
What makes for an engaging website
- Have a website that is unique – don't follow the (current) web trend of a single scrolling page that is light on content
- Create awesome readable content that is useful and interesting to your audience
- Use video and images to help tell your story
- Interact with visitors to your blog – respond to comments and discussions
- Collect email addresses – in return for some thing of value like a news letter
- Link to other content on your site that is related or may be of interest
- Have clear navigation
- Include trust building features – testimonials, about us content etc
- Make sure its mobile friendly
- Putting social buttons doesn't make a site instantly more engaging!