February 25, 2007
Metrics for User Engagement
If you run an e-commerce website or have an otherwise clear conversion metric (e.g., filled in contact information, registration), then you probably have a small number of very clear metrics that you are using to monitor and manage to. But if you have a community, social, or entertainment oriented website, then your key metrics may not be as clear. Number of page views or Alexa ranking might be an acceptable starting point, but as you get more views and visitors, what are the truly best metrics for determining how “engaged” your users are with your site?
Eric Peterson has been running a really good series on measuring user engagement. His approach one of problem solving and also pointing out diverging points of view as he works through the issues in his series. Clearly, the issue is not fully resolved, but Eric (and others he points to) does a great job thinking through the issues as he works through the series:
I like Eric’s definition of engagement (as well as the more detailed components that I am not listing here):
Engagement is an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction on the site against a clearly defined set of goals.
I also like the thinking that Eric has done on the topic. While there is probably a long way to go before there are some common metrics that are shared across companies (that I am sure that Eric and others will continue working on), his thoughts are developed enough so that you can incorporate them now and probably get significant benefit from them (you don’t need industry standards to get benefit from them and many of the metric refinements will most likely be highly correlated anyway!)
The one, perhaps most important, issues that I would like to see Eric cover as he continues his series is How do you change your site to better engage the visitor? The obvious answer is that you should change things such that your engagement metric goes up, but you should also be using the components of the engagement metric to better understand what the users really want to do and then modify your approach as well as your goals (and metrics), so that they are more aligned with what your users want to do on your site!