Do you know if people find your website to be helpful and interesting, or a dud? Here’s my quick tour of the best ways to see if your content is engaging your visitors.
Your Website’s Reason to Exist
If people are visiting your website, chances are that they have a problem and they think you might be able to solve it.
But when visitors visit, are they hanging around for a while and getting the information they need, or immediately leaving due to not finding the information they need, or even just plain boredom?
Knowing the statistics related to this question gives you an idea about how engaging your website content is, if it’s answering their questions, and how useful it is to your visitors.
The more useful Google sees your website, the more it will refer visitors to your website by ranking your web pages higher.
Higher rankings = More visitors.
How to Measure Engagement
There are a dizzying variety of website statistics.
Standard website analytics like Google Analytics give you so much information that it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
It’s easier to conceptualize the data you are interested in, and zero in on it.
So let’s look at the three most important website engagement metrics:
- Bounce Rate
- Dwell Time
- Time on Page.
Your website’s bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who visit only a single page on your website, click nothing else, and hit the “Back” button to return to their Google search results.
Google and Bing consider a bounce as a visit that did not engage or help the visitor.
Your web page did not answer the visitor’s question.
So what is a “good” bounce rate? It depends on your content, but typical measurements fall into these ranges:
- Great: 25% or less
- Good: 26% – 40%
- Average: 41% – 55%
- Fair: 56% – 70%
- Bad: Anything over 70%
When your bounce rate exceeds 85%, it’s a sign that your content or the website itself has a big problem: visitors leave immediately.
High bounce rates can sometimes be caused by websites that load very slowly, poor content, nasty pop-ups, lack of accessibility, or even an unsightly web design.
In the early days of analytics, the actual time a user spent on the page they’d clicked on was not measured. If you had a page of highly readable and interesting content, your page was not given credit when, after 5-10 minutes spent consuming your content, the user clicked the Back button.
Now, GA is happy to measure the time someone spends on your web page.
But The Machine likes clicks better.
So recently, webmasters figured out an annoying way to produce clicks: the “read more” links you may see on certain websites when you’re reading articles.
With properly installed analytics, we measure these clicks. And though you remain on the same page, The Machine considers these clicks engagement.
Which it is. Anyone clicking “Read more” is, well, reading more, and engaged with your content and may be getting an answer to their question.
These valueless “read more” links are a case of “Content Created for The Machine” vs. “Content Created for People”, and will hopefully one day be consigned to the dustbin of web history.
As you might imagine, Dwell Time is the time a visitor spends on a web page that they found in a search.
A short amount of Dwell Time may suggest that the content is not engaging the visitor: a fair guesstimate.
While Bing has publicized Dwell Time as a ranking factor, Google has not, specifically.
Given the obvious implication of a long time spent on a particular page, it’s reasonable to assume that Google is interested in this metric.
Search Engine aficionados Moz did a study several years ago that correlated good Google rankings with Dwell Time.
Of course it’s very likely better when a visitor spends a bunch of time on your web page.
What are the odds they selected your page to be the last page they looked at before going to bed?
On the other hand, your web page shouldn’t be penalized for giving someone exactly the answer they needed, and quickly! What if they just wanted to know about the weather in a particular city?
Average Time on Page
This metric has seemingly been redefined, or at least renamed, since inception.
Throughout the web, there are references to “Time on Page”, “Time Spent on Page” and this one, “Average Time on Page”.
Whatever you call it, it’s no big mystery. Time on Page is the average time that all users spent on a given (non-exit) page, without regard to bounces.
The worldwide average time spent on a web page is 62 seconds according to a 2020 survey by Contentsquare.
62 seconds is actually a good amount of time to consume most content (maybe not this windy article, however!)
If your Analytics show that people are spending less time than average on your content, it’s time to get to work.
Ways to be Less Boring
Let’s say you’ve determined that your content is sending your visitors scrambling for the exits.
It’s time to raise your blogging and content game. But how can you do that?
Create Better Content
Let’s quickly summarize how to create better content.
Write with the audience in mind. Stop thinking “we” and “us” and switch to thinking about “you”. Meaning your visitor.
People like to tune in on WII-FM: What’s In It For Me?
Your headline is an enormous factor. If your headline fails to engage from the search engine results page, no one is ever going to make it to your website.
An attractive subheading, or excerpt, can help as well. Given your catchy headline, does the excerpt clearly communicate what the reader can expect to learn or take away from your content?
Naturally, the main body of your article is where the rubber will meet the road. There are a few best-practices:
- Keep your paragraphs to 1-2 sentences, max. As a reader of books, I find this annoying, but stats show that it works to keep people reading.
- Avoid grammatical errors. This is a leading indicator of overall awareness and intelligence. People like to think they are reading something written by a happening cat.
- Give actionable information. People are busy and need solutions. Opinions are like…well, uh, not so valuable. Give your reader something they can implement.
- Use bulleted lists and bold text to emphasize points and break up long sentences.
Adding a YouTube video that summarizes the major points of your article is one of the easiest and most useful ways to increase dwell time on your page.
Don’t make it complicated. Take the major bullet points from your article and just talk about them briefly.
As people watch your video, your engagement stats will rise. Your dwell time will increase. And Google will notice.
Looking at real-world Google Analytics data is a good way to judge if your content is engaging and resonating with your visitors.
If it isn’t, it’s time to raise your blogging and content game.