Beyond Vanity: Are You Measuring The Wrong User Engagement Metrics?

User engagement metrics are tricky, and might do more harm than good to your content strategy if you don’t dig deep.

Raise your hand if this hasn’t happened to you.

You pay a lot for native advertising, and your target audience actually clicks through. But before you can do a happy dance, you notice that the bounce rate is terrible. You look at your analytics and see they spent 2 minutes on your site, but they haven’t clicked on anything but the “back” button.

A few were nice enough to share your article with their 237 followers on Twitter. But other than that, you don’t see any return on your investment.

Could you be measuring the wrong user engagement metrics?

Introducing One of the Key, Under-Measured User Engagement Metrics: Attention Minutes

Conventional analytics, like Google Analytics, measure how much time visitors spend on each page they log into. But they have no way of measuring whether the visitors are engaging with the content.

For example, you see an interesting headline on Twitter and click through. You then realize you don’t have time to read the article, so you leave the tab open to read it later.  24 hours later, you still haven’t found the time to read the article – but the tab is still open.

The site owners might be thrilled that someone is spending so much time on their website. But when they drill down to user engagement metrics, they’ll understand you might as well not have clicked through at all.

That’s where attention minutes come in. These are user engagement metrics that measure how long a site visitor has been active on a website.

When businesses measure attention minutes, they know whether or not visitors looked at the open tab with their website on it. They know where and how often visitors’ mouse moved. They get insights into how long a video or podcast has been playing, and how many videos or podcast episodes have been watched during the visit.

Attention Minutes Don’t Always Correlate with Other User Engagement Metrics

How many people click through native ads to your site might not a reliable enough metric. How much time they spend on the site might not mean much either.

Upworthy compared total pageviews and total attention minutes for three of their articles.

As you can see, the first article got around a million pageviews and somewhat more than a million attention minutes, so there’s almost a correlation.

But the second article got more attention minutes – maybe 200,000 or 300,000 more – with about half the pageviews.

That means that even though the second article wasn’t as popular as the first, it performed a lot better in terms of engagement. People weren’t just clicking in and out of it, or leaving the tab open for a “later” that never came. They paid attention to the content there, they read the short paragraph at the top of the page, they watched the 9 minute video, and they scrolled to see what else is available down the page.

They cared.

That’s customer engagement metrics right here.

Not enough?

Check this out:

The third article had only slightly more pageviews than the million pageviews of the first article. But the attention minutes on the third article reached almost 4 million.

Of course, you could say that, while click-through rates and pageviews are not the most reliable indicators that visitors actually liked and cared about what they saw, social shares are a metric that clearly indicates whether visitors thought your content is valuable.

We all know people share what they think will make them look good to their social media connections. But we also know that, with the pressures of the medium and the unending stream of content on our every social feed and in our inbox, everyone shares content they haven’t fully read, at least sometimes.

That was made clear when Netflix advertised two pieces of content. According to Nudge, the article that got significantly more social shares got significantly less attention minutes, even though both content pieces earned a similar amount of impressions:

Perhaps readers who took the time to read didn’t like the article, or didn’t think it would get them noticed on social media. But the fact that they invested an average of about 268% more attention minutes in the article means they care about the topic.

That’s the kind of topic Netflix might want to test more on the website where the content piece was placed. It’s possible that, while it won’t drive as many social shares, it will drive more significant action for Netflix – the kind that will yield a greater return on its investment.

Should Native Advertisers Prioritize Attention Minutes Over Other User Engagement Metrics?

Attention minutes is more than a vanity metric. It’s a customer engagement metric that helps you discover where your target audience is willing to invest one of their most valuable resources: their time. It lets you discover their inner passion, and know what will drive them to take deeper actions, whether or not they’ll tell the world about it.

But here’s something else you need to know about the Netflix example. Each of the two articles mentioned above was meant for a different website, with a different type of target audience. One was a native ad on the New York Times, and the other on Wired.

Not only that, but the articles had very different objectives.

Specifically, according to Nudge, the Wired article (which got more social shares yet scored lower in-article user engagement metrics) was meant as a thought leadership piece. The more shares it got, the more people got the message. And the more Netflix got to establish itself as an industry leader.

These are the main points when it comes to picking user engagement metrics – you’ve got to know your target audience, and you’ve got to figure out your content strategy and objectives.

Want your target audience to click through? Learn how to master headlines. Want them to stay on your site for as long as possible, so you can sell more ad space? Make them go through slideshows. Want them to share your content on social media? Make it easy for them to quickly skim through the article and include visuals, but don’t forget to provide value.

Want to go deep with user engagement metrics and build a real, passionate fan base for your business? Analyze attention minutes, then test and optimize to improve.

What are your favorite user engagement metrics? What do you consider when choosing them? Share it with us in the comments!

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Written by Ayelet Weisz

Ayelet Weisz is a copywriter who starts every day by dancing, before going on to help companies from four continents increase ROI and make a difference with content.