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Is engagement an excuse?

Published by Eric T. Peterson on October 13, 2007 All posts from Eric T. Peterson

Blogger Avinash Kaushik kicked off a little debate in the blogosphere a few weeks when he declared:

“Engagement is not a metric that anyone understands and even when used it rarely drives the action / improvement on the website.


Because it is not really a metric, it is an excuse.”

Suffice to say, some pretty bright folks disagreed with Avinash, openly and vocally. Anil Jasra has a good summary of a panel from WebTrends Engage where Gary Angel, Andy Beal, Manoj Jasra, Jim Novo and Jim Sterne all apparently voiced their opinion that engagement is a metric, not an excuse.

Perhaps ironically, in an interview with Eric Enge from February of this year, Enge asked Kaushilk about my long series of posts on measuring engagement (emphasis mine)

Eric Enge: Another thing I read about recently was Eric Peterson’s notion of an engagement metric. Can you comment on that?

Avinash Kaushik: Sure. You know that Eric is obviously a leader in the industry. We are all following the trail that Eric has blazed. He is just an awesome guy and a really great thinker. And, in terms of the specific post that you are referring for engagement, I think Eric’s initial proposal for the methodology is a very good one, and it does extend the conversation in terms of what it is possible for us to measure, because Eric obviously has access to some pretty good tools that allow for deeper analysis. But my preference is to ask a random sampling of people, or every single person who comes to website, are you engaged, here is my definition of engagement, do you like this site or product, are you going to recommend it, or whatever is the case.

Now, to be fair, I agree with part of Avinash’s argument — qualitative data is a valuable input into measuring visitor engagement — I just don’t think qualitative data is the only input. Nor do I think that it is “nearly impossible to define engagement”. For over a year I have been calculating visitor engagement on my site using the following equation:

Looks complicated, huh? It is. But if you’re running a site like mine where the major outcome you’re trying to create is simply not measurable online, wouldn’t you like to have some reasonable proxy that would help you identify where your best leads are coming from, what those leads are looking at, and who your highest quality leads actually are?!

I know I do.

Obviously the equation above doesn’t tell you very much. If you want to hear the rest of the story, you have two options:

  1. Come to my Web Analytics 2.0 presentation next Wednesday at 1:30 PM in the Blue Ballroom at Emetrics
  2. Wait until next Thursday and download my updated Web Analytics 2.0 presentation from my web site

Ironically this little debate prompted me to stick the long-awaited explanation of how to measure and use visitor engagement into my Web Analytics 2.0 presentation. Thanks to Avinash for kicking off a nice (if a bit lopsided) debate!

See you in Washington!

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Categorized under Engagement, Key Performance Indicators, Presentations, Web Analytics 2.0, Web Analytics 3.0, Web Analytics Blogs, Web Analytics Demystified Business, Web Analytics People

  • http://webanalysis.blogspot.com Anil Batra


    You wrote my name as Anil Jasra, it should be Anil Batra :)


  • http://manojjasra.blogspot.com/2007/10/tv-show-market-share-hitwise.html Manoj

    Hi Eric,

    I think you meant “Anil Batra” not Jasra :)

  • http://paultrumble.blogspot.com Paul Trumble


    I didn’t have time to talk after your presentation today, but I’ll bite. I’m intrigued. I might have to bug you for a couple of those workspaces. I don’t know if you heard the anthropology discussion on Monday, but he made an interesting comment about engagement. It went along the lines of: Of course you can measure engagement, it already has a definition, anthropologists have recognized engagement for years.

    Good to see you again. Do I count as engaged now?


  • http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com eric

    Paul: Yeah, I was pretty busy after the presentation but thanks for writing! You are absolutely engaged now as you have done several measurable things on my site.

    I’ll get you a copy of the presentation later this evening. Thanks for writing!

  • Pingback: Web Analytics Demystified » Blog Archive » How to measure visitor engagement, redux

  • Pingback: Engagement is an Excuse for Deeper Analysis | plusoneanalytics.com


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