How do you calculate engagement? Part I
Published by Eric T. Peterson on December 8, 2006.
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My good friend Clint Ivy and I were talking awhile back and he asked me, “So what do you think about Scoble’s call for an engagement metric?” I said, “Huh?” since I had long since stopped reading Robert Scoble, but apparently he had rubbed Clint the wrong way.
Anyway, I had been working on a project for a customer and we had been talking about how to measure engagement on their web site. We’d gone round-and-round on ideas about what constitutes an “engaged” visitor and narrowed it down to a few key areas:
- The visitor views “critical” content on the web site
- The visitor has returned to the web site recently
- The visitor returns directly to the web site some of the time
- Some high percentage of the visitor’s sessions are “long” sessions
- If available, the visitor is subscribed to at least one available site feed
So, with this in mind, visitors that are consuming content slowly and methodically and returning directly to the site are well-engaged. Visitors who have also subscribed to some type of “push” feed are more engaged, and even more so if they’ve returned to the site recently.
Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Using this model, sites like Yahoo! and Digg will have very engaged visitors, whereas sites like mine will have slightly less engaged visitors. That also sounds reasonable, given that Yahoo! and Digg are social networks and Web Analytics Demystified is more or less a weblog, a geek hub, and a job board (in that order).
It turns out that my audience is, on the whole, 32.3 percent engaged.
Perhaps more importantly, visitors that I get from the following sources are engaged at the following rates:
You can see there that my friend Avinash is sending me pretty good folks but Avinash’s people are slightly less engaged with my site than the “average” visitor. That and they hopefully already have my books because pretty much none of them are buying Web Analytics Demystified or The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators from my site! They’re not even taking advantage of the great combo-offer I have on both books!
Perhaps most interesting and wonderful is that my engagement metric allows me to build wonderful visualizations like this scatter-plot to compare the volume of referred visitors to engagement in a way that more easy on the eyes than your basic table or line graph.
Most importantly, because I am running the industry’s most easy-to-use yet powerful web analytics application supporting multi-source and multi-channel data analysis, I can vet my engagement index against real people who have come or are coming to my web site!
So Bill Gassman from the Gartner Group is among the most engaged visitors I have (I am quite honored, Bill!) Bill is consuming the content I deem most important to creating a relationship with my visitors, he is subscribed to my weblog, he keeps coming back, his sessions are of reasonable length, and he comes directly to my site or feed over 2/3rds of the time.
Bill is nearly 54 percent engaged with my site, approaching twice the average!
Compare Bill to Frank Faubert from Sane Solutions. Frank is seeing all of the content I believe to be most important and he also is well retained. However, Frank is not subscribed to my RSS feed so most of the time he is getting to my content indirectly then only spending a short period of time reading that content. Moreover, Frank hasn’t been to my site in the last 90 days.
Frank is only 21 percent engaged with my site so I guess maybe he doesn’t like me now that I’m not an objective, third-party anymore.
I’m interested in your thoughts about my engagement metric. Do you think I’m using the right inputs? Or am I missing something critical to how this metric should be calculated? I’d love you input since I know that the folks reading my weblog are among the brightest in the web analytics industry …
Next Time: Being a big fan of “showing my work”, I’ll provide the calculations behind my engagement metric so that you can calculate your site’s engagement in the safety of your own home. My hope is that through your comments and criticism I’ll be able to refine this metric down to something that any vendor can implement and any practitioner can use.
About Eric T. Peterson
Eric T. Peterson is the founder of Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. and the author of Web Analytics Demystified, Web Site Measurement Hacks, and The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators. Mr. Peterson frequently presents on web analytics, is often cited in articles about digital measurement, and has been blogging on the subject since 2004.
Want to speak with Eric? Contact Web Analytics Demystified