6 metrics that reveal more than clicks

Online engagement has other, more significant benchmarks, including depth of visit, time spent on your site and return trips to view your content.

Marketers love counting clicks to measure user engagement, and understandably so.

In theory, clicks tell us whether target audiences are reading our emails, interested in our headlines and open to engaging with our sales teams. They affirm our confidence in our marketing strategies.

The problem, however, is that clicks often send us the wrong signals. For one, people often click on things accidentally. Also, clicks are superficial. As much as we’d like to equate clicks with engagement, we can’t be certain what users are actually thinking.

If we want to quantify visitor engagement, we have to look beyond clicks. Here are five things that every marketer should measure instead:

Return visits

No matter your business model, return visits are important. When people come back to your website or app, it’s a sign that they’re eager to learn more about your company, make a repeat purchase or share your content. You’ll want to calculate—and optimize—this metric at the user level. Experiment with personalized, targeted offers to see what brings people back to your site.

The ideal return visit rate will depend on your specific business model and marketing goals. An ideal visitor engagement threshold will correspond with your revenue goals.

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Interaction depth

Though first clicks may not tell you much, second and third clicks provide a wealth of information. When people click on multiple articles or pages within your site, it’s a sign that they’re interested in learning more.

In addition to looking at the depth of pages viewed, pay attention to what types of content you’re using. For instance, if you notice someone lingering on your case study pages, you may want to share a promotion or personalized call to action.

Timing

In addition to visiting your site often, engaged visitors should come to your site at the right time. If you’re running an e-commerce store, for instance, you’ll want prospects and customers to browse your website around major holidays. If you’re running a B2B operation, you’ll want to make sure that you’re generating visibility during key times in the year and/or quarter.

Timing is a variable that you’ll want to measure at the user level among both repeat customers and prospects. If you’re running a SaaS company, for instance, you’ll want to check whether people have used your product recently. Engagement depends on a number of variables, and timing is among the most important. With this information, you’ll be better positioned to launch tailored marketing campaigns.

Interaction per unique view

Unlike the metrics referenced above, this one should be calculated at the page level. This perspective will help you identify your most engaging pieces of content, which will help guide future marketing campaigns. Here’s how you calculate interaction per unique view:

  • Take the sum of your “likes,” comments and shares per page.
  • Divide that sum by the number of unique visits.

This metric will give you a straightforward view of the concurrent engagement levels that are happening with your content. No single dimension (e.g., “likes,” comments or shares) are enough to quantify engagement at a macro level. At any given time, there are various user types on your site. Some are lurkers who don’t share or comment but will readily “like” your content; others will readily participate.

Some engagement items will be worth more to your marketing team than others. In that case, you can assign weightings to each variable in your numerator. For instance, you can weight shares as being twice as valuable as comments.

Quantities

Marketers can measure engagement levels by monitoring values that are disassociated from specific actions. These metrics can take the form of volumes, scores or amounts. For a SaaS business, for instance, you might examine how many documents are being used or how many collaborators a person has.

Knowing these numbers and their rates of change at the user level can help you benchmark how engaged a customer actually is.

Time spent on site

Time spent is one of the most crucial indicators of customer base interest. The more time a person spends looking at a product, the more interested they tend to be in that product, brand or category of product. People don’t waste their own time. Likewise, the more time a person spends on a blog or article, the more interested they are in the subject, keywords and opportunities, services and products related to that content. Not to mention that time spent is a clear, straightforward way to segment your most engaged visitors, leads, prospects and customers.

Basic measures of time spent are not sufficient. After all, you don’t want to mistake a person’s leaving the screen to get a glass of water as interest in your article or product. Make sure to measure time in a sophisticated way that counts only truly engaged interaction time.

Take these metrics and make them your own—or choose a different set altogether. Your analysis should capture the intersection between your customers’ values and your business’s bottom line. Challenge your analysis, look for gaps, and, most important, venture beyond clicks. A nuanced and thoughtful view will help you see what’s lurking beneath the surface of your brand.

A sophisticated personalization platform can double as your listening device. Track visitor behavior, conversion-oriented actions and time spent on site. With this information, you can more effectively present relevant content, products and offers to delight and engage your visitors.

Ritika Puri is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Storyhackers, a company that helps business create impactful, inspiring and data-driven content programs. She writes about data, teaching others things she’s learning and helping other entrepreneurs succeed. A version of this article originally appeared on Business Collective.

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