How to improve your sites user engagement


improve your sites user engagement

Whether you’re a business owner or blogger, you’ll know that the key to your website’s success is about offering people great content, products or services they can’t get elsewhere.

But there’s one other critical success factor – and that’s how well your site encourages people to interact with it, and ultimately stick around as long as possible.

This is known as ‘user engagement’. It’s an especially important metric if you sell ads based on traffic volume, because the longer you can keep people engaged with your content (and your ads), the more revenue you can generate.

In this article, we’ll explore ways you can measure your website’s user engagement levels, how to make improvements, and which pitfalls to watch out for along the way.

Why user engagement matters, and how to measure it

In the same way that restaurants periodically update their menus to phase out unpopular dishes and keep the best sellers, you should also monitor your content to see what’s engaging users, what’s getting overlooked, and what’s causing people to exit.

You can measure this in a number of ways:

  • Bounce rate The percentage of visitors who leave your site without taking any action – like clicking a link, buying something, or filling out a form.
  • Time on site Also known as ‘session duration’, this is the total amount of time someone spends on your website.
  • Pageviews Describes how many times a page is loaded or viewed in a browser.
  • Comments or shares This will give you an approximate feel for how popular and interesting your content is.
  • Returning visitor percentage This describes the number of users who have already been to your website within a certain timeframe, then returned to it on the same device.

To measure these (and other) user engagement metrics for your website, you’ll first need to have site analytics in place. One option here is Google Analytics, which is simple to set up, and works seamlessly with Google AdSense.

Next, how to improve user engagement

Now that you know which interactions to measure, and how to go about doing it, let’s explore a few steps you can take to improve your user engagement levels.

  • Start with a hypothesis and test For example, if you want to improve your pageviews metric, you could run a test where you add links to the end of your articles that take users to other content they might like. Then you can use a tool like Google Optimize to quickly set up A/B tests, and see which content, messages or other experiences engage (and delight) customers the most.
  • Keep an eye on bounce rates If your analytics shows one of your pages as having a lot of traffic but a high bounce rate, further investigation may be needed. For example, you may need to speed up your page load times, or simplify your navigation. Do you have any pop-ups that prevent people reading your blog? Do you have sound auto-enabled when landing on your site? How easy is your site to read on mobile devices? Issues like this can all affect your bounce rate, so be sure to check each one, iteratively test changes, and measure the impact as you go.
  • Are you a news publisher? If so, try using News Consumer Insights to help build loyalty and capture better and more accurate data about your users.

A few things to watch out for

Run industry benchmarks first

Before measuring your site’s user engagement levels, always check the benchmarks for your specific industry. This will give you a yardstick to compare your site’s performance against, help you track progress, and flag up if there’s even a problem that needs fixing. A good place to start is Google Analytics, which lets you compare your site’s bounce rate and other performance data with over 1,600 different industry categories.

Don’t misinterpret bounce rates

Bounce rates are a useful metric, but it’s important to understand them in context. For example, if a user visits just one page of your website then leaves, you might think your content isn’t engaging enough. But that takeout could be misleading if the page they visited held long-form content, and they actually remained on your site for several minutes or more. In this case, you may find scroll depth a better and more insightful metric to use.

Be wary of the time on page metric

Just as with bounce rates, time on page can also be a little misleading.

Imagine this scenario. A user lands on your homepage, and your analytics tool notes the time as being (for example) 11:05am. This same user stays there for one minute, then clicks to another page on your site. Again, your analytics tool notes the time as 11:06am. After staying there for a full five minutes, the user then exits your site altogether – making their time on site an impressive six minutes in total.

But the problem is, pretty much every analytics tool wrongly records total time on site as being just one minute in total. Why is this? It’s because these tools can only ‘speak’ to your own pages, and not the pages on other websites. So when a user exits to another site, that new website won’t send back a timestamp for you to calculate time spent on the last page. As far as the analytics tool is concerned, the user stayed on your homepage for a minute, then left.

Try not to overmeasure

Deciding to improve user engagement levels is definitely a positive step, but it’s important you don’t try and measure too many metrics at once. It’s far better to identify the single metric that’s shown to have a positive effect on your revenue – whether it’s time on site, shares, etc – then focus on defining the benchmark, and creating tests that drive your desired outcomes.

For more resources on improving your site’s user experience, performance, and earnings potential, head over to our Resources section.