Example uses of the visitor engagement metric
My post last week on measuring visitor engagement was pretty long by the time I outlined the calculation, so I put off publishing examples of how the metric could be used until now. I’m excited to see that this topic has generated so much interest, both in terms of comments and emails sent to me directly.
My goal for this post is to provide a few examples and explanations to show how the metric can be used to supplement our otherwise already-rich set of web analytics data. Since so many folks have been willing to explore the engagement metric, I have embedded a bunch of questions in this post in italics that I’d love your feedback on.
Distribution of engagement scores and segmentation. Here is the distribution of engagement scores for about six months at Analytics Demystified by percent of visitors. As you can see, these scores are left-skewed and tail off as the score increases, showing that nearly half (47.6%) of visitors to my site are “poorly engaged”. When I look at this distribution it makes perfect sense to me — what do you think?
I have created segments to group visitors by their engagement score: “Well engaged” visitors have engagement scores over 30%, “moderately engaged” visitors are those between 10% and 30%, and”poorly engaged” visitors score less than 10%. These segments can then be used to explore how the behavior of visitors in each engagement group differs by looking at my page and referring source dimensions (page, content group, referring domain, campaign, search phrase, etc.)
Identify relationships that might otherwise not be found. At the top of this report you can see the pronounced difference in visitor engagement (and traditional metrics) for “branded” and unbranded searches (“None”) bringing visitors to my site. Now, because branded searches are a component of the calculation (Brand Index), you definitely expect to see a difference between the two engagement scores. What is interesting is that while other metrics (duration, sessions per visitor, page views per session) show a slight difference, visitor engagement and conversion are all three times higher for branded searches. I think this difference observed in all the metrics is further evidence that brand-driven searches are bringing more engaged visitors — what do you think?
In the middle table you can see search phrases bringing visitor to my site, showing visitor engagement, page views per session, and sessions per visitor. Here three phrases stand out to me:
- “web analytics book” and “web analytics process”, neither of which are particularly distinguished from other search phrases based on page views per session or sessions per visitor but both of which have visitor engagement scores over double my site-wide average of 8.8%. This is important to me because these are un-branded search terms that are critically important to my business.
- “vendor discovery tool” which would appear to be pretty important based on traditional metrics but only stands out slightly using the visitor engagement score (at 13.6%) I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to drive folks using the vendor discovery tool to take other actions (buy books, inquire about consulting) and this data suggests that there is an unrealized opportunity.
- “performance indicators” which shows that the visitor engagement metric is useful to identify terms that you’d think are important to the site but aren’t attracting the right audience (average engagement score for these visitors is only 5.6%)
I think this level of information is actually pretty helpful for identifying search marketing opportunities — what do you think?
Engagement-derivative metrics like “Percent Highly Engaged Visitors” are useful. Here you can see a select group of referring domains showing the percent of highly and percent moderately engaged visitors they’re sending my way (with conversion to show that engagement and conversion are in fact different!) Avinash Kaushik is sending me a few (0.2%) highly engaged visitors (thanks!) but Ian Thomas is sending me a bunch (70.4%) of moderately engaged visitors, many of whom are purchasing books (1.2% conversion rate.)
By looking at traffic from Avinash’s site over time (bar graph) I can see peaks and valleys in overall engagement from folks coming from his site, which would be useful to back into those peaks to try and determine what other blogger’s readers might be reacting to when they’re exhibiting highly-engaged behavior on my site (see late August and early September.) Given that Clint proved that conversion is a poor measure of success when trying to evaluate traffic from other bloggers, I think visitor engagement is useful for examining the non-revenue value of referring sources — what do you think?
Those of you who are looking for correlation between engagement and conversion, have a look at the data for Mr. Jim Sterne’s wonderful site emetrics.org — 5.6% of the folks coming from Jim’s site are highly engaged, 66.2% moderately engaged, and man-oh-man does Jim help sell some copies of Analytics Demystified. You’re the man, Jim!
Visitor engagement is globally useful. At least in Visual Sciences Visual Site you can apply engagement metrics and segments to pretty much any dimension tracked. Here I’m looking at the percentage of “highly” engaged visitors (50% or more) in my “well engaged” segment broken down by country. Now, this is certainly more interesting in light of the total volume of traffic coming from each geographic location, and as I think about localizing my books and planning future trips around the world this information becomes very helpful.
There is more, including some of the more granular visitor-level stuff I talked about in the first series of posts on the subject, but I want to be sensitive to protecting the identity of individual users on my site. If you’re interested in helping me collect some “ground truth” regarding the engagement calculation, write me and I’ll explain how you can help.
So what do you think? Do the screen-shots help you understand the calculation better? Or do they still make it look super-complicated and scary? Is there something specific you’d like to see me demonstrate with the calculation? Or do you think you could come up with these same insights using more traditional metrics?