User Engagement Metric Mistakes And How You Can Avoid Them
Tracking analytics is essential to understanding how your website is performing. There are many different engagement metrics that you should be tracking, along with many others, that may benefit your specific business needs. However, many businesses misunderstand what these metrics are telling them, resulting in the wrong action, or no action, being taken to successfully leverage the insight that these metrics can provide.
On the other hand, businesses can also become so dependent on their analytics that they can’t see past the numbers, making it difficult for them to identify underlying problems. The following are some of the most common mistakes that businesses make when tracking engagement metrics and what you should do to avoid making those same mistakes.
Bounce Rate Related
The bounce rate is one of the most closely tracked engagement metrics. At first glance, it appears to be one of the easiest to read. This is because the bounce rate refers to how many visitors are leaving your page without engaging with it.
The issue is that many businesses assume that any kind of bounce rate is bad when, in reality, the average bounce rate is in the double digits. In fact, if the bounce rate is non-existant or incredibly low, businesses will often take this as a good sign and move on -- which is often a mistake. On top of this, even if there is an abnormally high bounce rate, many companies don’t know what’s causing this or how they can fix it.
High Percentage Of Bounce Rate
So what exactly does it mean if you have an abnormally high bounce rate? More often than not, it’s a technical issue. Visitors who arrive on your page and leave almost immediately without engaging in any way (meaning, they don’t click on any of your links or social buttons) are often doing so because something is prohibiting them from engaging.
However, it is important to understand that just because a visitor isn’t clicking on things doesn’t mean they’re not engaged. They may read your content thoroughly before leaving. If the content had a good effect on them, they may return to your site on a later date. This can happen more often than you realize and your bounce rate doesn’t reflect this. However, you can add a time minimum to your bounce rate so that it does take this type of engagement into account. For example, you may still see it as a success if a visitor spends more than two minutes on your page even if they don’t click on any links. By setting a time minimum, you can omit such instances from affecting your bounce rate.
Of course, if your bounce rate remains high, then you likely have some other issues you’ll need to address. The general rule of thumb is that if your page has a bounce rate that’s higher than 70 percent, then you have a serious issue that needs to be investigated. The following are a few of the main offenders when it comes to a high bounce rate:
Too Many Pop Ups
Pop ups, whether they’re in the form of ads or opt-in requests, can be effective when used sparingly and properly targeted; however, too many pop ups can annoy visitors to the point where they’ll just leave your page. Consider setting your popups to show up after a certain amount of time (such as after 60 or 80 seconds), this way, the visitor will have had some time to engage with your page instead of being bombarded by pop ups the moment they arrive.
Your visitors will only have a certain amount of patience when it comes to loading times. If your page takes more than two to three seconds to load, they won’t wait around. Not only will you be losing potential leads this way, but there’s a good chance that they’ll visit a competing website instead. Test the loading speed of your pages to ensure that this won’t be a problem.
Change Social Buttons
If visitors are reading your content but aren’t engaging, it may be because there’s not a whole lot for them to engage with. They may not be ready to click on your CTA right away, after all. Add social buttons, if you haven’t already, to encourage visitors to engage. Make it easy for them to like, share, or comment on your content through the social media channel of their choice -- and make it easy for them to find your business on social media as well.
If you notice a lack of interaction with your social buttons, you may need to change their positioning -- it could simply be because your visitors don’t see them. In some cases, the page may seem too cluttered as a result of your social buttons. The best solution in both of these instances is to use a floating social bar.
Categorize Your Sidebar
The sidebar can be a very effective way to encourage visitors to engage further. Sidebars contain content that is secondary to your main content. You can add a lot of different content to your sidebar, but if you want to encourage engagement, we recommend categorizing your sidebar. Adding links to relevant categories relating to the page’s primary content will encourage visitors to explore related content.
Absolutely Tiny Bounce Rate
Any bounce rate in the single digits should be viewed suspiciously. There will always be visitors who leave your page without engaging, even if you addressed all potential technical issues. Some visitors will read or scan your content and realize it wasn’t what they were looking for (or, in some cases, just didn’t like what they read). As such, if your bounce rate is less than 10 percent, then there’s something wrong. If you have a particularly low or non-existent bounce rate, it could be a result of the following issues:
Check for Multiple Instances of the Tags
Each page should be tagged only once with a Google Analytics tracking code. If a page is tagged twice, it could cause a 0 percent bounce rate. You can check for multiple tags by looking at your real-time reports on Google Analytics or by using the tag assistant chrome extension. You can easily remove extra tags by logging into Google Tag Manager.
Trusting Google Analytics Times Too Closely
Google Analytics is one of the most widely used analytics tools available and for good reason -- it’s built by Google and it’s free to use. However, many businesses may depend a little too heavily on Google Analytics. For example, time on page and average session duration are two metrics that businesses tend to follow closely. While they may seem like important metrics to track upon first glance, they may not be as helpful as you think they are.
How Google Calculates Time on Page
The time on page is identified by subtracting the timestamp of the second page a user visited by the timestamp of the first page that user visited. For example, if a user visits your first page at 12:00 AM and then visits the second page at 12:03 AM, the time on page of the first page is measured as three minutes.
How Google Calculates Average Session Duration
Average session duration is determined by dividing the total duration of all the sessions on your website by the total number of sessions. This number is expressed in seconds.
Why These Aren't Ideal Options
You would think that time on page would be a good metric to judge the engagement levels of each page. You can assume that the longer a visitor spends on a page, the more engaged they are. However, because of the way that time on page is calculated, the page cannot be an exit page. Let’s say that a visitor spent four minutes on a page before leaving the website entirely. Since they did not visit another page, Google can’t calculate the time on page since there’s no second timestamp to use in their calculation. Because of this, the time on page for exit pages is zero.
Fortunately, Google does take the exit page into account when calculating the average time on page, which is why that metric is more reliable than the regular time on page metric. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do this when calculating average session time. Average session time is severely affected by the lack of timing on exit pages. It also means that the higher your bounce rate is, the more drastically your average session duration will drop. In fact, it could even end up being lower than your average time on page, which doesn’t make much sense.
Creating a Slow Load Speed in the Name of Testing
Testing your website (such as using heat mapping, A/B testing, multivariate testing, and more) is a good way to optimize its performance; however, it is important to understand that the actual testing itself can temporarily hurt the performance of your site by lowering its loading speed. This is especially true if you’re running more than one test at a time because most testing software requires an additional step in loading and rendering your web pages.
Testing tools use extra scripts that are executed on the visitor’s browser, which is why they’re known as client-side scripts. As a result, there is often a delay as the script modifies the elements on the page. Users may even see elements on the page change as the page loads. Keep this in mind as you run tests and make sure that you only run one test at a time to limit the effect it has on the page load speed.
Not Closing the Loop
One of the biggest mistakes a business can make when tracking their engagement metrics is not closing the loop. Closed loop reporting is important because it provides you with more comprehensive engagement data.
What is Closed Loop Reporting?
There are generally four stages involved in turning a lead into a customer and closing a sale. These stages include the visitor arriving to your site, the visitor engaging with your site, the conversion of the visitor to a lead, and finally the lead becoming a customer. The problem is that most marketing departments only track engagement metrics in the first two or three stages. In such instances, the metrics involved in the fourth stage are tracked individually by the sales team. With closed loop reporting, marketing and sales both track engagement throughout all four stages.
The Importance of Closed Loop Reporting
The data that the sales team collects in the fourth stage can be incredibly beneficial to the marketing team. It allows your marketing team to understand which of their efforts actually resulted in sales. This understanding can help you identify what methods of engagement were the most successful, thereby allowing you to adjust your engagement efforts to be more effective in helping to close sales.
Missing the Small Wins
There are a few easy fixes that you can make to your website that can help improve your overall engagement without getting too distracted by a variety of vanity metrics that may not have as big of an impact on your engagement as you thought. The following are a few easy wins that can help to improve engagement throughout your website:
Customized 404 Pages
There’s nothing more frustrating for a visitor than trying to follow a link or go to an address to a page that doesn’t exist (or no longer exists). This can happen for a number of reasons. Maybe the page was removed so the link no longer works, maybe the visitor typed the URL in wrong, or maybe they bookmarked a page that doesn’t exist anymore. When this happens, they’ll be taken to a 404 error page, which informs them that the page was “not found.”
A generic 404 error page will confuse your visitors. They may not know where to go from there or may just become annoyed to the point where they’ll go to a different website. It’s why you should create custom 404 pages. A custom 404 page should inform the visitor that the page couldn’t be found, but it should also direct the visitor to a different page by displaying a link to a related page or back to your homepage. You can reflect your brand’s personality on this page and even apologize to the visitor, thereby softening the blow. One of the reasons a custom 404 page is so important is that it informs the visitor that it’s just the page they tried to visit that doesn’t exist, not your entire website.
User-Friendly Site Maps
One of the keys to user engagement is making your website easy to navigate. Adding a site map is a great way to do this. A site map will display links to all of the different sections of your website on one page, allowing users to view what’s available on your site. This not only makes it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for, but also to figure out where on your site they are (and making it easy to backtrack to a previous page they were on during their session).
Fully Responsive Pages
More people browse the web on their mobile devices than they do on their desktops. To address this, you need to make sure that your website is fully responsive. A site that’s not mobile-friendly is going to be a nightmare to use for mobile users. Besides being improperly displayed on a smaller screen, loading speeds can be affected and navigation can become a serious challenge. This will cause mobile users to leave your site in droves. Use a responsive design to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Each of These Mistakes Individually Won't Kill You
There are certain engagement metrics that may seem more useful than they are. It’s important to understand what the metrics you’re using actually mean and what their drawbacks are to avoid making potential mistakes. While some of these mistakes may seem minor, they can have a big effect on your ability to judge your website’s performance if they start adding up over time. Additionally, to avoid making analytics mistakes in general, be sure to track your engagement metrics together for a clearer overall context. Depending on any one engagement metric in isolation won’t tell you the whole story.
Unsure how to adjust your metrics? Our advisors are happy to help!