Websites exist to provide answers to an audience that has questions. Visitors may arrive from a search engine looking for a low-calorie noodle recipe, from a social media ad to buy a handbag, or to read the latest advice on when to buy a home. What you, as a content provider, need to know is how to tell when someone is engaging with your website content, and when they’re leaving without answers. Once you know how your visitors are engaging, you can start the task of increasing that engagement.
Why bounce rate isn’t a great engagement standard
For too long, websites have looked to shifts in their bounce rate to determine engagement. If a site’s bounce rate goes down, it would seem more visitors are finding what they’re looking for. If bounce rate goes up, more visitors must be wandering in mistakenly and leaving in confusion. This an ineffective way to measure engagement because it doesn’t consider the multitude of actions someone could take on your website that wouldn’t have any effect on bounce rate.
Ideally you should consider the ways a visitor would engage with your website, and implement tracking to measure which traffic sources are driving the most engaged users. Below you’ll find four ways to successfully measure engagement, implement and measure success through Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.
Tip 1: Track the clicks that matter most
Whether your website answers one question or one hundred, when someone finds what they’re looking for, you want to know about it. The problem is that individual clicks aren’t typically measurable in the same way that pageviews are. Google Analytics shows you traffic related to the pages a visitor lands on, but not the buttons they click.
The way to fix this is to identify which links or buttons are the best indicators of intent and create custom tracking that allows you to see which ones are getting the most activity. Then you can filter reporting to see which traffic sources, devices, geographical areas, and times of day have higher engagement. You can even build an audience segment based on these engagement metrics to see which pages are most viewed by users who engage with your content.
This data can be used to optimize campaigns you’re running, to organize your website and give more prominence to engaging content, or to guide you in creating new engaging campaigns and content using this data as a guide.
Tip 2: Track the path to e-commerce purchases
Accurately tracking transactions is important for every e-commerce website, but there’s more to see than just how many products were purchased. The path to purchase and the various steps in the buying cycle can vary greatly, and if you’re not paying full attention it’s likely you won’t be able to use your data to increase sales. If you want to gain maximum insight into your online store’s performance, you’ll need to enable Google’s Enhanced E-Commerce product. This is done by making some tweaks in your existing Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager settings, and by pushing additional product-related data from your site to Google Analytics.
Once you’re using Enhanced E-Commerce, you can get insight into which product variations are performing better, and the performance of products based on where they fall in a list.
Enhanced E-Commerce tracking can be difficult to work with without some knowledge of coding, so engaging your development team for support is wise. In addition to the Google Tag Manager code placed directly on the back-end of the website, you’ll need to add an additional dataLayer push to send that product data into your analytics. Note that each variable related to the individual products needs to be accounted for and tagged. You can find Google’s recommended approach here.
Once the correct code has been added, some important metrics in Enhanced E-Commerce reporting can be found under the Checkout Behavior report, which tells you the percentage of visits where key funnel drop-offs occurred. Google Analytics allows you to create Audience Segments based on these funnel abandonments with a single click. You can then compare the behaviors of your abandonment audience against the audience that is completing purchases and look for trends you can capitalize on when optimizing campaigns and content.
Tip 3: Track visitors before and after they leave your site
While it would be nice to see everything your visitors are doing before and after they come to your website, you’re only allowed to glimpse the activity happening on your site. However, if you know where to look, you can pull out nuggets of insight based on the entry and exit points of your users.
When a user arrives on your website, Google Analytics assigns them a session (visit) with one of their standard traffic groupings. Google labels them: Organic, Direct, Referral, Paid, Social, Email and Other. You can also see beyond those broad definitions to see which search engine, social network, referring website, or email campaign was sending traffic to your site. Keep drilling down on the data and you’ll get more and more insight into the visitor’s intent, making it easier to tell what they were doing before they arrived on your site. For referral traffic, you can look at the full URL that referred traffic to your site to see what specific content someone was looking at before they arrived. For paid and organic search you can look at keywords and search queries that triggered your site to show on a search engine results page.
When a visitor leaves your website, Google Analytics doesn’t automatically tell you how they left. Whether they simply close their browser window or click to visit an important third-party affiliate, all you see is the last page of their journey. However, if you set your analytics to track outbound links as events, you’ll see the different ways you’re getting engagement that you may have been missing. The easiest way to do this is to set up a tag in Google Tag Manager which fires an event on any link clicked that doesn’t include your domain. You can then filter your events to see what the most popular outbound links are, and then look at the types of pages being visited before a visitor hits those important outgoing exit points.
Tip 4: Press play on tracking your video content
Video content creation has skyrocketed over the last several years, with users spending one-third of their time consuming video, especially on mobile devices. Content creators have realized that there are great opportunities to showcase videos on their websites, with users more likely to watch, thanks to faster internet speeds. But how can you tell whether a visitor is actually watching your videos? If you’re uploading videos to a free service like YouTube and embedding videos on your site, you can use the third-party reporting to see the number of Views. However, you can’t use the third-party reporting platform to measure how different traffic sources differ in video consumption, or what other activities someone is taking on the site when they watch video.
Similar to the event tracking described above for links and buttons, there is a way to trigger events in Google Analytics to see which videos are getting watched the most, and by whom. The good people at LunaMetrics have created a custom Google Tag Manager container which you can import to your existing Google Tag Manager and customize to show a variety of video-based actions. You can track clicks to the Play and Pause buttons, as well as the amount of time someone spent watching up to 100%. This removes any of the mystery as to whether your audience is watching the video content you’re creating.
Compare the results of your best performing videos with those not receiving as many views. Where are visitors coming from? What else are they doing on your site? Which products are they engaging with after watching a video? Armed with this knowledge, you should then create more video content where topics tend to drive higher engagement.
Making sense of it all
These four ways to get insight into your visitors’ engagement each have varying levels of effort required to implement and track. If your current analytics approach doesn’t have any level of engagement tracking, you should consider choosing one or more of these tactics to gain better insight into how your website goes about answering the questions your audience has.
ZAG can assist with an analytics strategy for your website, implementation of these tactics, the measurement of the results, and even the optimization of content and campaigns based on what we find. Give us a shout out. We just may track your engagement!