Engagement Time – What It Means For Your Website

Just counting visitors doesn’t tell you enough. Measuring conversions on your website is crucial in understanding how effectively your marketing channels and campaigns are performing and seeing where to make adjustments. If you’re not using campaign links and setting up Google conversion measurements, you’re missing out. That said, there are shortcuts to understanding the value of a visit. One is to focus on Engagement Time. You can find this in your Google Analytics under Audience > Behavior > Engagement.

Analytics Interpretation
An example of Engagement Time data from Google Analytics

Engagement time can provide a gauge for how engaged visitors are with your website once they visit. That said, it’s easy to draw inappropriate conclusions. Look closely at how each of these categories can tell us something about your website visitors.

0-10 Seconds: “Not Curious” Visitors

Increases here aren’t good. If your numbers here are growing, it’s likely a mix of

  1. referral spam: spammers repeatedly hitting your website to attract attention to their domains and get you hooked into their spammy web/SEO/free services
  2. a security hole: people using your site as a spam relay – successfully!
  3. poor content strategy: dissatisfied visitors from poorly designed social, search, or ad campaigns whose expectations on click don’t match what you’re delivering

Decreases on 0-10 sec visits, by contrast, can be good. A drop can reflect fewer referrer spam hits and doing a better job of matching visitor expectation with what they get.

11-30 Seconds: “The Barely Curious”

Increases in 11-30 can reflect doing a better job of satisfying visitor expectations. Thirty seconds isn’t long to capture an audience. If it’s your home page their hitting, that’s pretty normal. If it’s your blog posts, you’re not capturing this group with this content. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong content. It just means that a certain percentage of people are looking for something else. Interpreting this group depends largely on where on the site they’re spending their time.

31-60 Seconds: “A Little Curious”

Increases in 31-60 can mean doing an even better job of satisfying visitor expectations. Even if this is your blog posts, and your blog posts take about three minutes to read, a minute isn’t bad. Most people don’t read all of a post anymore. They skim, get the information they need, and move on. The drawback to this category is that one minute isn’t leaving much time to click through to anything else. If this number is growing and others are shrinking, it could be your posts have weak calls to action and/or not enough encouragement to consume additional site content.

61-180 Seconds: “Truly Curious”

The sweet spot: any increases here are gold! Three minutes is someone handing you an award in the form of their time. This is a group you really want to identify, and this is when it helps to know if they convert? Do they fill out forms? Do they click contact links? Etc. If not, maybe you’ve got readers, but it’s time to provide them a compelling offer. If they’re looking at core website pages, not just blog posts, you’ve really got to commit to capturing their info. Consider an offer in exchange for email address.

181-600 Seconds: “Extremely Curious Explorers”

Spending 3-10min means they’re deeply interested visitors – including probably blog post readers! This likely won’t be your biggest audience, unless you’re an actual publication, but it may well be your most committed and the one you want to most engage. Consider offering multiple kinds of media to them, like videos, combined with offers to engage more deeply with your brand, via social or a membership community. You really want a way to get their contact information to your sales team.

601-1800 Seconds: “Wildly Curious Diggers”

At 10-30min, it’s likely a mix of people reading more than one blog post and pursuing details in your content, as well as competitors or potential investors. This likely will be a smaller segment of your audience. Don’t get too excited. But find out all you can.

1801+ Seconds: “Too Curious”

These are the “suspicious fanatics”. Spending more than 30min is likely to be internal team members. You can reduce this by asking your W-2 and contract staff to exclude their visits from being recorded. But that requires, usually, installing and setting up a browser plugin, or having a permanent, fixed IP address from which they access the web (a rarity these days except in traditional enterprise workplaces). It can also be spammers/hackers scanning/testing for security vulnerabilities. Seeing a decrease could be beneficial to overall site security but, as long as your site has some serious security in place, it should withstand all but the least casual attacks.

Interpreting analytics shouldn’t be a knee-jerk activity. It’s too easy to make wildly wrong decisions from easily misunderstood data points. MadPipe’s marketing leadership includes the strategic savvy to sort through and understand what your analytics are telling us. Reach out to MadPipe, and start building the marketing department you always wanted.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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