What is Engagement?

At the recent eMetrics conference in Toronto, Canada, I heard a number of people talk about site engagement. They all seemed to have their own idea of what it was exactly, but for the most part, it all had to do with time on site and page views.

Time on Site/Page Views Engagement

I heard the Director of Customer Intelligence and Analytics for a certain major software manufacturer say that they have such a successful site because people spend so much time on it, and look at so many different pages. I have my own idea about what that is called, and it is not engagement.

I think people spend a lot of time on his website because they have purchased the new operating system, are having problems with it, so they go on the the site to find help. They look at so many pages because they can’t find what they need.

Frustrated Customers are Not Engaged Visitors

Is that engagement?

Are visitors really engaged with your website when they are unhappy?

As an analyst it is always very tempting, and easy, to tell a client, “Look at that, people who searched for this term spent 10 minutes on our site, and looked at 20 pages. They are really being engaged on SuchAndSuch.com.” But let’s break that down. 20 pages in 10 minutes. That is an average of 30 seconds on each page. That is a decent amount of time on a page, but it’s a lot of pages. Did they find what they were looking for? Are they being engaged?

If this an e-commerce site, did it result in a sale? If they didn’t buy, they didn’t find what they were looking for. Were they engaged?

Successful Visitor Engagement

Now let’s look at another scenario. The average visit to a site lasts 10 minutes, and has 2 page views. That is 5 minutes on a page. They are obviously either reading, or watching video.

Who is more engaged? 20 seconds on a page, or 5 minutes on a page.

Now for the big question. If a visitor to your site is unhappy, and leaves unhappy, were they engaged?

I believe that engagement is something more than page views and time on site. It is deeper than that. It comes down to whether or not a customer on your site is successful , and found what they came for.

Successful Customers are Engaged Visitors

If a visitor is successful, they have been engaged.

If they are happy when they leave, they have been engaged.

If they found information they needed, they were engaged.

If they bought something, they most likely were engaged.

Measuring Visitor Success

Now you’re asking “Well, how do I measure engagement now?” That’s a good question. There are many companies out there offering to tell you if visitors are happy and engaged. Usually by using annoying pop-up surveys which defeat the purpose of wanting people to be happy.

You need to figure out what the purpose of your site is, then find out how you can make people happy. After that, you can start to find out whether or not people are engaged.

Are you still measuring engagement as time on site and page views? Or are you doing something new, exciting and different?