3 Ways to Measure Engagement with Google Analytics

Engagement rate Google Analytics

In today's digital world, your website is like your shop window. It has to look good, it has to have useful content, it needs a user journey plotted with relevant and regular calls to action, and it needs to be optimised for SEO.


Because not only does your website sell your brand, it is also a mine of useful data. And the more attractive your site is, the more data you can utilise in your favour.


Google Analytics is an audience engagement metrics tool that helps you monitor and analyse your website traffic.


But in answering the question how to measure your engagement rate with Google Analytics, we should first ask why.


To do this, let's use the power of metaphor.

Introducing Detective Google Analytics


Imagine your home's been broken into (stay with me here) and imagine every room might hold clues as to who committed the crime. To discover who did what and when, the world's greatest detective is on the case.


In mere minutes, the detective has worked out where the break-in occurred, in what rooms the thief went, what possessions were stolen and - most importantly - where the thief resides.


Boom. Another case closed.


In this scenario, the thief is a visitor to your website. Each room in the house is a page on your site. And the world's greatest detective is none other than Google Analytics (move over, Sherlock).


With Google Analytics' help, you can find all manner of clues to determine who, why, how and when someone might visit your website. The only difference to the break-in scenario is that a website owner uses this data to help attract people to them rather than keep people away!


Google Analytics lets you...

  • know where your visitors are from so you can target messaging or trace that knowledge back to your marketing data.
  • know your site's traffic sources (social media, PPC, referrals, etc.) so you know what is - or isn't - working to bring people to you.
  • know where people are spending time on your site - and for how long - so you know what content is and isn't working. Is your home page popular but your product page faring less well? Was your recent landing page campaign successful? How high is your bounce rate?


In short, Google Analytics gives you valuable insight from which better targeting, content creation, website user experience and conversion rate optimization can flow.


Great work, Detective.


So, that's the why...


But what's the how?


Here are three ways in which Google Analytics can help you measure the effectiveness of your site.


1. Bounce rate


(How to find it: Audience - Overview - Bounce Rate)


Bounce rate measures the percentage of people who left a website without visiting another page beyond the one they entered a site on. So, a 40% bounce rate means 60% of visitors felt engaged enough to visit another page.


Common wisdom has it that the lower your bounce rate the more engaging your site is. After all, if people are leaving having visited just one page it's surely a sign that they're not interested in what else it is you have to say. Right?


Bounce rates - important but not everything


Bounce rate is important, especially if your website needs to convert interest into sales. In such cases, a website acts like a sales funnel that requires multiple stages of interaction to 'seal the deal', and so a low average bounce rate will be a sign that people are going on that user journey.


But what if someone was reading a blog post? Or what if a viewer knew about the company already and wanted their address and so just visited their contact us page?


In both cases, each web page would have succeeded in their task. But it's possible the viewer ended their browsing sessions having got what they wanted, thus creating a 100% bounce rate both times.


Having read the blog post, the viewer may have clicked away, only to come back the next day, ready to engage further. Or the person wanting the contact details may have rung up to make a purchase within the hour. Which means in neither case was the 100% bounce rate figure a measure of the website's effective engagement.


A low bounce rate = a high chance of success


That said, a low bounce rate is something to be happy about, particularly the further down the buying-decision funnel someone goes. At this point, a high bounce rate may be a sign of people tuning out, deciding they don't want what you offer and - heaven forbid - going to a competitor.


So, yes, be aware of your bounce rate. If it's high  (70%+), find out where people are bouncing off and re-look at your efforts accordingly. For example, if you have a banner advert driving people to a landing page, perhaps that banner ad needs to be better optimised for your target market.


And if it's low (30% or under), great! Congratulate yourself on the fact that you've got a website people are engaging with - and make sure to do more of what you're doing!


2. Average session duration


(How to find it: Audience - Overview - Avg. Session Duration)


Average session duration measures the average time users are interacting with your site and is calculated by dividing the duration of all sessions by the number of sessions.


Whilst that sounds straightforward, there are a couple of complexities that make it a tricky metric to use.


For example, the time spent by a user on the final page of your site isn't calculated. So, if someone goes to two of your pages but spends four minutes on the first and eight on the second, because Google doesn't count the last page in the average, the average session duration will be four minutes, not six.


These little quirks aside, this metric matters because it's a way of understanding how engaged people are with your content and whether it prompts further exploration of your site.


So what's the average session duration?


Short answer: there isn't one. It varies according to the type of site you have and the industry you're in.


Worth noting is that, according to HubSpot, 55% of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on a website. Although this metric is more geared towards media sites than ecommerce or blog-related ones, the point remains that people are quick to vote with their fingers if they're on a site that doesn't immediately grab them.


And whilst there's no definitive answer that says how long visitors should spend on your site, you can at least measure your average session duration against your own data and try and improve month on month, year on year.


Improving your average session duration


There are a number of ways to get people to spend longer on your site.


Incorporate great design

People like to spend time in beautiful places, so try and make your design as striking or elegant as possible. By injecting craft and consideration into your design, you instil a sense of trust in your user, compelling them to stick around for longer - and come back regularly.


Make your website interactive

Want to encourage people to stick around? Then ask them their opinion. Post up polls, ask for reader thoughts on blog posts and add engaging surveys and forms. One of the best tools for forms is Typeform, which offers intuitive and creative ways to ask your viewers what they're thinking.


Add video

Video is perhaps the dominant medium in content consumption. In fact, 54% of people want to see more video from businesses they support - more than any other medium. It's also the most engaging form of content, with 55% of respondents to a HubSpot poll saying they consumed video content thoroughly instead of skimming over it. The corresponding figure for long-form content was 32%.


Internal linking

This is the linking of keywords and phrases on one of your pages that takes you to other, relevant pages on your website. If you're not sure what I mean, think Wikipedia, a site you can go on to learn about World War II and then finish three hours later having learned the birthdays of all S Club 7 members.


3. New and returning visitors


(How to find it: Audience - Behaviour - New vs Returning)


Google defines new visitors as those coming to your site for the first time on a particular device. So, if someone visits your website for the first time from a home laptop and then from their phone, that will register as two new visitors.


A returning visitor is someone who's liked what they've seen of you and, using the same device, have come back for more. Google set a two-year timeframe on cookies, so visitors will be considered new if they spend more than two years away from your wesbite.


Why is the new and returning visitors metric important?


Well, in an of itself it's not a terribly important way to measure user engagement. After all, we need a steady flow of new and returning visitors. New visitors feed the top of your marketing funnel and bring the potential for new growth. Returning visitors are your loyal base from which most of your engagement and business will come.


The power of segmentation


Where this metric becomes useful is when you segment this metric by how the visitors reached your site, such as via social media, search engines, referrals or email campaigns. (You can do this from the Add Segment menu at the top of the New vs Returning page.)


This helps because it allows you to drill down into what's working for you in how you're attracting new and returning visitors. This, in turn, means you can decide which channel you might want to engage in should you want to attract new visitors (feed that funnel!) or spend time engaging with existing/returning visitors.


For example, if you find that email marketing generates more new visitors to your site than social media, and your aim over the next three months is to generate more new visitors, then you know an email campaign will be an effective use of your time.


Going social


You can drill down further, too, within these segments. Want to know your new vs. returning ratio for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Hey, knock yourself out! Here you'll see which social channels are better at driving new or returning visitors, so you can focus time on those channels that best suit your marketing goals.


And you can drill a lot deeper into your statistics in a myriad of ways - over time, by user demographic, by the keywords they used to find you and many more.


Essentially, the key to this metric is to understand whether you want new or returning visitors to come back to your site. Once you know this, this tool is a great way to focus your energies into making it happen.

Want to track your engagement rate in no time? 


Try DashThis for free!
Jaymini Mistry

Jaymini Mistry is a copywriter for Turncoat Marketing and a second-year English Literature student at the University of Huddersfield. In her spare time, Jaymini throws herself into helping local charities. She also loves writing and watching films, and combines her two passions at her blog, Screen Tapestry.

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