Since the early days of the web we’ve always measured website traffic using pageviews as the standard metric. However, with the birth of new digital media it has become necessary to use different methods to measure popular, “sticky” and altogether successful content.
You can’t understand why a piece of content is good or bad from pageviews alone – you need to go deeper than that. This is something we’ve been focusing a lot on at GoSquared over the past few months. Where a lot of people consider engagement to be all about a bounce rate, we’re taking the measurement much further.
GoSquared has a number of great widgets within Dashboard to help monitor what’s happening around your site on social media including detailed breakdown of real-time incoming links from Twitter and who they’ve been retweeted by.
How to increase Engagement
Let’s start by looking at some great ways to increase engagement on any website and then we’ll look at the tools GoSquared offers to measure engagement in real-time.
Make the content flow
Making it easy for visitors to your site to find what they’re looking for is the easiest way to keep them engaged. Navigation should be, well, easy to navigate and offer a continuous flow that aids the visitor in getting from one place to the next. On pages of a certain subject offer links to similar pages, don’t just try and attack attention to the most popular stuff but ensure that visitors get the most out of their visit.
If a page has a lot of text, break it up with images. Avoid splitting long articles up with multiple pages – that might be great for upping your page view counts but can often be a great way to encourage visitors to hit the back button and head to another site.
Reduce page load times
A really easy way to stop a visitor giving up before they’ve even reached your site is to have it load quickly. A site like Pingdom has an excellent suite of tools to measure how quickly a site loads and importantly they measure this data constantly and from across many locations around the world. It’s important to remember that just because a site loads quickly in your home or office it doesn’t mean it does in Europe, China or Australia.
Trim down your web site by removing unnecessary scripts. Keep the size of images and icons to the minimum and as mobile devices with the ability to surf the web become more ubiquitous it is important to either create a responsive design that will work across these devices. It can sometimes make sense to design a site specifically for mobile users. Some even suggest designing for mobile first.
Where many countries are adopting super fast broadband and on mobile newer faster networks, it’s important to remember that a large proportion of the internet still has dial-up (3% in the USA) or simply slow connections.
Make it accessible with design and function
Much the same as making the content easy to get to and easy to follow, the content should be accessible and legible. For best accessibility your website should be tested for basic functionality in as many browsers as possible and that includes mobile browsers. Simply put, if it doesn’t work properly or look as intended then they’ll go somewhere else.
The content on your site should be designed to be read. Use large and spacious fonts that render well on displays both small and large. Help the text readability with neutral background colours that don’t overwhelm the text. Make headings clear and bold to break up the sections of text and space things out with clear and relevant images. If at all possible get to the point as well, if a paragraph of text can be said easier with an image then do so. It’s an old post, but check out Information Architects’ 100% Easy to Read Standard for some common sense tips.
The above actions are relatively simple ways to use good design to immediately increase engagement from visitors to your site. There is however a more scientific approach to understanding what layouts work best for your readership. The best solution to understanding how different designs work is to A/B test them. This simple method shows a different layout to different visitors (usually just two are tested at the same time).
So let’s say you wanted to increase the number of users commenting on your site, you could create a design that has a stronger emphasis on commenting and deploy it alongside your existing design.
Tools like Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer can test variations of a page against live traffic and return measurements on how each different design performs. You can also get even smarter about A/B testing if you take a lead out of Steve Hanov’s blog.
The benefits are clear; pages that have been carefully crafted and individually tailored to a specific need will perform better at not just engaging visitors but also increase conversion rates and revenue.
Having readers be able to share pages from your site on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and all the rest is a great way to ensure higher engagement. Seeing that their friends have liked a page or seen a tweet recommending a product then they’re far more likely to give it the time of day. Social media not only encourages further sharing with a level of trust involved but also helps build an audience of long term readers and loyal users.
How Does GoSquared Define Engagement?
The new Engagement widget in the GoSquared Dashboard gives you a better understanding of how the people on your site are responding to your content and importantly allows you to measure how the improvements above are driving up engagement.
Time on Site
It’s impossible to use traditional ideas of bounce rate to define the engagement on a page. Instead, GoSquared uses a more useful measurement of how long a visitor has been on your site. This metric alone can show whether a site’s content is sticky or not. But on its own this may not be enough – perhaps your site is full of content that should take upwards of 20 minutes to read or it’s made up of some very short pages. The Time on Site metric can give you a good indication of how well the changes you’re making are keeping people online longer.
Depth of Visit
The traditional way of measuring bounce rate is to see if a visitor visits a single page and then leaves. However, in an age with fast moving information and links on Twitter timelines it is not uncommon or necessarily bad for a visitor to pop onto a website read a single page and then leave. It’s easy to assume a high bounce rate equates to low engagement. At GoSquared we simply measure the depth of the visit and present the numbers along with an average to summarise the information. One look at the Engagement widget and you can see whether the majority of your visitors view one page or 10 pages, it’s as easy as that.
Active vs. Idle
GoSquared shows the number of visitors actively browsing your site as a percentage of total visitors online. GoSquared’s detection of visitor activity is more accurate and powerful than any other service on the web. With GoSquared, you can trust that if a visitor is classed as “active” they’ve got your page open in their front most window or tab, they’re on the page and browsing through, and they’re engaged in the content. So your numbers won’t be polluted by those visitors that have gone off to make a cup of tea or have even have switched to another tab to check their email. “Active vs. Idle” helps you understand more than just how many people are online, but how many people are actively engaged by your content right now.