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Is Your Marketing Cutting Through? An Introduction to Measuring Engagement

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Key Take Outs:

  • Engagement doesn’t just have to include how people are interacting with your website. Be sure to investigate how people are responding to your advertising and with your social media channels too. 
  • There are a number of indicators you can use to measure your audience engagement including time on site, pages per session, bounce rate, conversion rate, the percentage of people clicking on your advertising, how often people are visiting your website, online conversations and social media interactions such as likes, comments and shares. If you don’t understand some of these ‘metrics’ yet, then don’t worry, we’ll go into them in detail in this article!

Note: If you find this article helpful or useful in any way, please feel free to ‘tip’ its author with a share on your preferred social network!

Over the past few years, there has been a definite shift in the world of online marketing (search engine optimisation in particular) towards creating valuable content that serves a real purpose and that provides tangible value for audiences. Here at Reload, we no longer measure a campaign’s success simply by the number of visits we’ve been able to drive. Now, there is a greater purpose to ensure your brand stays relevant with your target audience. That is, generating meaningful engagement.

But what exactly is engagement? What does it mean for brands and how do you measure it?

In this blog post I’ll discuss the different measures of engagement across different platforms, and why tracking engagement is so important in an era when social networks dominate and word-of-mouth can spread around the globe in a matter of seconds. Engagement is about establishing meaningful relationships with your audience, and like all relationships, success is earned over time.

Engagement means different things to different people, but let’s start with dictionary.com’s definition.

Engage [en-gayj]

  1. To occupy the attention of a person or persons.

  2. To attract or please

  3. To attract and hold fast.

Attracting, pleasing and holding an audience all seem like key goals and relevant objectives for any brand – so how does this term apply to the online environment?

There are three media elements of online marketing where you can leverage engagement with your brand – owned media, paid media and earned media. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with these terms as I’ll explain each in more detail below.

Owned, Earned and Paid Media

Owned Media

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Measuring engagement on your owned media channels is crucial as it allows you to see whether or not your audience enjoys and values the different platforms and conversations you’ve created to reach them.

A brand’s website and social media pages are usually the first contact point for potential customers. For this reason, it is crucial that marketing managers and business owners understand the different ways that people are interacting with these pages. Monitoring and analysing website engagement is a powerful tactic with regards to understanding your audience’s behaviour. Check some of the metrics below to see what you should be looking for.

Some Website Engagement Metrics

  • Average time on site: As the name suggests, this engagement metric informs you on the average amount of time users spend on your website. Depending on the objectives of your website, you may want this to be a big number (online retailers of expensive items like cars and electronics spend a lot of time and money ensuring that users can find all the information they need about their product on their site, so want to see that people are spending a while exploring the pages) or a small number (a tow truck or taxi website want people to quickly find their phone number to call their service, a long time on site would suggest users are having trouble finding what they need).
  • Pages per session: Pages per session tells you the average number of pages on your website users look at before leaving your site. Generally the more pages the person views the better, however as with time on site, certain websites will be designed to give the user what they’re looking for quickly and easily. In this case, less pages per view can actually be a positive sign. Comparing this metric with your conversion rate will give you an idea of the ease at which people are finding the right information on your site. For example, if your website has a high average ‘pages per session’ figure but a low conversion rate, it might be an indication that users are spending a long time on your website looking to solve a problem without much success.

Audience - Avg Pages per Session

Fig. 1 – Looking at pages per session, average session duration and bounce rates in Google Analytics
  • Bounce rate: The bounce rate shows you the percentage of people who exit your site immediately after arriving on a specific page. Ideally the overall bounce rate for any site will be as low as possible. A high bounce rate shows that users are immediately given a bad impression – that the site won’t be able to achieve what they’re after – and thus are navigating back away from the website. However, it’s important that bounce rates are analysed in conjunction with other engagement metrics. Why? Because Google Analytics will still count a user as having bounced if they only visit one page on your website (no matter how long they spent on this page). If you are looking to gauge engagement with a single blog post, average time on page or a ‘scrolled to the bottom of article’ metric might be more beneficial for you.
  • Different types of websites have different average bounce rates, check out the table below:

bounce rate industry benchmarks


Image source

  • Conversion rate: This is a juicy engagement metric that tells you whether your site is achieving what it’s meant to – whether that is provide information, sell a product or connect users to a service – and can be customised based on the objectives of your website. For eCommerce sites, a key conversion would be a sale. For sites designed to provide information to users, the downloading of a PDF may be considered a key conversion. Whatever the end goal is for your site, ensuring you have conversion goals set up in Google Analytics to record these actions is crucial for measuring engagement and the return on investment (ROI):

Goal completions

  • Visitor Recency: Visitor reach and frequency are great metrics of gaining an understanding of how popular your site based on how often people are coming back. It looks at what percentages of your visitors come back each day (or week). Visitor recency tells you whether people who visit your website are coming back, and how often, letting you track the engagement rate of your site.

recency and frequency

  • Conversations on site: If your site facilitates the posting of comments, tracking these conversations is a great way of measuring the engagement levels on your site. By encouraging conversation through fun topics or questions, you can leverage the power of opinion to boost engagement.

Some Social Media Engagement Metrics

Likes: A digital ‘thumbs up, a ‘like’ shows that a user has enjoyed a particular piece of content on Facebook. Ideally, the more ‘likes’ a post receives the better.

Comments: A digital ‘soap box’, comments allow people to express their opinion online. Comments generally produce more comments, as more people join the conversation, more opinions and shared and as a result, your social media post will be seen by a far greater audience. Comments show that users are engaged enough to tell others how they think or feel.

Shares: Shares carry the most weight in terms of engagement, as a share shows that a user connects with a piece of social media content on such a strong level that they wish to publish it themselves to show their friends. Sharing is what leads content to go viral – the ultimate outcome for any piece of digital content.

Likes, shares and comments should be measured.


Paid Media

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Measuring engagement becomes even more important with paid media. Because you’re paying for the interactions with your audience, you need to make sure that those interactions are meaningful and lead to some sort of valuable engagement. Paid promotions are also great ways to boost engagement on your owned media channels, so tracking the impacts of paid media is key. Advertising on the Google Display and Search networks is extremely popular with brands both big and small. The following metrics show you how you’re performing:

  • Click-through-rate (CTR): Your click through rate shows you the percentage of people who clicked your ads in relation to the number of people who had the chance to see an ad.Within Google AdWords,  click through rate is also a critical contributing factor towards your Google Quality Score, so making sure your ad is appealing with a strong call to action to encourage a click is crucial. A low CTR shows indicates that people aren’t clicking your ads when they appear. this could flag that your ads lack relevance to the search terms or that they might not possess compelling enough copy. Adding negative keywords within your Google AdWords console to filter out irrelevant searches can improve your click through rates. Another way to increase your click through rates would be to experiment with adding a more compelling call to actions to your ads to see if this impacts the number of people clicking on your messaging.

Paid media engagement metrics


Earned Media

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Because earned media often happens without the brand being notified, the first step to measuring engagement on earned media is ensuring you’re actively monitoring the media itself – so that when a news story or blog about your brand is published, you can take the necessary steps to measure the result and possibly leverage it further through other channels. Additionally, as the engagement with earned media often takes place on a 3rd party channel, gaining the information you need to measure engagement can be more difficult, and often relies on observing the domino effect on your owned channels.

Online word of mouth is earned media

For example, if a news channel runs a story about a funny or inspiring piece of advertising your brand has produced, it is likely you won’t be able to learn the ratings/impressions the broadcast received, so monitoring the lift in your social media ‘likes’ or rise in your website traffic following the story is a way of tracking the impact of that earned media.

To sum things up, I really just want to emphasis the fact that engagement does not come down to just one or two metrics, but is a combination of many. Engagement occurs in different ways across different channels, and is often a result of a mix of paid, owned and earned media impressions. Meaningful measurement occurs over time, with the picture becoming clearer as more data is collected and analysed.

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