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Engagement, that elusive measure

Figuring out who your engaged visitors are, can be quite the challenge. The problem is, there is no straightforward answer, and there certainly isn’t a single metric to define it. Engagement is an estimate of the depth of visitor interaction against a set of clearly defined goals – Eric T. Peterson (Web Analytics Demystified) As the previous statement suggests, the reality of it is that engagement comes from a number of different criteria.

Figuring out who your engaged visitors are, can be quite the challenge. The problem is, there is no straightforward answer, and there certainly isn’t a single metric to define it.

Engagement is an estimate of the depth of visitor interaction against a set of clearly defined goals.
– Eric T. Peterson, Web Analytics Demystified

As the previous statement suggests, the reality of it is that engagement comes from a number of different criteria.

According to the white paper published a few years ago, engagement can be expressed as the average of the sum of indexes, across specific segments, according to:

  • Click Depth Index – which captures the contribution of page and event views
  • Duration Index – capturing the contribution of time spent on site
  • Recency Index – which captures the visitor’s “visit velocity”—the rate at which visitors return to the web site over time
  • Loyalty Index– the level of long-term interaction the visitor has with the brand, site, or product(s)
  • Brand Index – the apparent awareness of the visitor of the brand, site, or product(s)
  • Feedback Index – qualitative information including propensity to solicit additional information or supply
  • Interaction Index – visitor interaction with content or functionality designed to increase level of Attention

According to Eric T. Peterson, “Visitor Engagement is a function of the number of clicks (Ci), the visit duration (Di), the rate at which the visitor returns to the site over time (Ri), their overall loyalty to the site (Li), their measured awareness of the brand (Bi), their willingness to directly contribute feedback (Fi) and the likelihood that they will engage in specific activities on the site designed to increase awareness and create a lasting impression (Ii).”

From these, you can generate an engagement score (see my post on Elusive engagement)

And then segmentation comes in.

Your best bet, when looking at engagement, is to view it through various segmented lenses – lenses that show different audiences.

For example, using the above method, you can get a good proxy for engagement from Organic Search traffic versus Direct traffic versus Paid Search traffic and I’ll guarantee that the engagement from those audiences is different.

I’ve used the engagement method above for Murdoch University, with some very illuminating results.

Interaction scoring

Visitors across your site do different things and often we want to know what leads to an outcome – outcomes are our KPIs.

While segmentation is one lens to use, another one that is becoming more popular is visitor scoring.

To score visitors, you basically define a set of key activities on your site, or mobile app, and assign points to the visitor when they complete the activity.

Overtime, the visitor accrues points and you can then segment your visitors based on the level of points that they have accrued. The more points, the more engaged they are. Note that engaged doesn’t necessarily mean they are positively engaged though…qualitative data will only assist you in that direction, such as an NPS score.

However, visitor scoring is another really good proxy to use, providing your analytics platform can keep track of the scores at a visitor level, and you can access those same scores.

For example, you might rate activities across your site from 1 to 10 points, as follows:

See the home page = 1 pt
View a product = 2 pts
Interact with a flash tool = 4 pts
Watch a video = 5 pts
Leave a comment = 6 pts
Rate a product = 8 pts
Purchase something = 10 pts

The actual score values don’t really matter as long as they different scores, with the higher scores indicating a higher propensity to be engaged.

As visitors go through your site, their scores increment, and eventually you’ll be able to see their scores based on different criteria and segments. For example, do organic search visitors tend to have higher scores than those coming direct? Do campaigns generally increase scores?

Armed with that information, you’ll be able to modify your digital marketing plan to target those with lower scores, to try to improve their scores, and consequently, their engagement.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on June 13, 2011.

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