Rules of Engagement

As the Internet has matured, so have the ways in which we understand how consumers or readers interact with websites. Generally this is measured by engagement, or what the user does when they access the site. Engagement can also mean how long viewers are there, or if they end up purchasing something or clicking on an advertisement, the two ways websites generally make money. Using these engagement numbers lets us see what is or isn’t working on a website, and allows for A/B testing on any page within a site.

So what kind of metrics should we use to put our websites to the test? One of the most important variables, especially for mobile, is speed. How fast your website loads is vital to its success. Did you know that 40 percent of users would leave a page on mobile if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load? Then think about the fact that the average mobile site in July 2016 took 6.9 seconds to load. That’s time a publisher simply can’t afford to lose. If we can’t get users to view the site in the first place, then none of the other metrics matter.

Speeding up your website is key to getting users onto the landing page, but what happens once they’re there requires engagement metrics that you may or may not already be using. First are page views. The page view measure is the classic among an ever-evolving set of numbers, and essential as a baseline, to see how many people are visiting your site. But page views can’t tell you what users are doing when they actually get to your site. That’s where statistics like bounce rate and internal link clicks come in.

The bounce rate metric adds another layer to page views. While page views show you how many people are visiting, bounce rates tell you what percentage of people are quickly leaving your site. The remaining number is the sweet spot for engagement. The people who actually stay with your website instead of leaving right away are naturally the most valuable customers or readers. Internal link clicks show how often users move around within the site.

Once you have attracted those valuable customers, do you know what they’re doing on your site? Numbers like scroll depth and form submissions can be extremely useful for determining how interesting your website is, and how many leads you’re actually getting from your site. Motivating readers to fill out a form on your site provides you with valuable information, and indicates that the reader wants more of what you are offering.

Unlike these familiar engagement metrics, viewability is a relatively new measurement. This number has more to do with the advertisements on your page, and is vital for site monetization. In the past publishers got paid for a served impression, which may may stay off screen, but viewable impressions are quickly becoming the metric of choice. Viewability means that the advertisement must display at least 50 percent of its pixels, and be viewable for one consecutive second. For video that number increases to two consecutive seconds.

Keeping track of the hard data associated with your website is a must if you want to continually improve traffic flow and engagement. Use these metrics as an essential baseline—and stay on the lookout for any other measures that can help monetize your online publication as the metrics for success continue to evolve.

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