Digital marketing has a big problem.
Across the board, we’ve become obsessed with capital-T Traffic.
Think of the metrics we all know by heart: Impressions, Clicks, CTR, Page Sessions, New Users. These are all important data points, but none of them give us any insight into what happens after a person lands on a web page.
Even when we look at metrics related to on-site behavior — Pageviews and Bounce Rates, mostly — we’re deprived of any deep insight into what our audiences actually think of our content. (“Engagement” metrics often get thrown into the mix, too; but stats like Conversion Rate and Cost-Per-Lead tend to tell us more about the value of the offer on an opt-in form than about the page content itself.)
So much time, money and concern is devoted to driving relevant traffic … yet so little is given to the second half of the equation:
Do your best audiences care about the content you’re offering them?
“The primary thing we look for with [content] is impact, not traffic,” says Jonah Peretti, founder of BuzzFeed. Creating content that visitors love is fundamental to BuzzFeed’s success. And, if your organization’s sales and marketing process depends on nurturing prospective customers over a long sales funnel/journey, content engagement is fundamental to your success, too.
So, how can you ensure that your content is worth reading — let alone worth “liking” and “sharing”?
The short answer: You can determine how an audience thinks and feels about certain content by measuring their behaviors during engagement.
The rationale is this: Behavior is preceded, and triggered, by thoughts and feelings. If one could measure the behaviors that result from an audience’s thoughts and feelings when digesting a certain piece of content, one could map those metrics backward and report on these mental processes ex post facto.
Here are five measures you can use to start scoring the “engagement value” of your own content:
1. Comfortable Reading Time (CRT).
Total Time Reading (or Total Time On-Page) has become an increasingly popular metric, but it’s limited in what it can tell us. If a visitor stays on your page for one minute, is that good or bad? How do you know? And, if a visitor stays on for eight hours, was she so mesmerized by the content that she couldn’t turn away — or did she click the link, look for a moment, then move on with her day forgetting about the new tab she left open?
Comfortable Reading Time, by contrast, is the average amount of time it takes a wide variety of readers to consume your web content. It’s a far better benchmark. If Landing Page “A” has a CRT of 1:30, and a visitor spent just one minute on it, he probably didn’t read the whole thing. If he spent two minutes on it, he was probably much more intrigued — and maybe even went back to reread a line or two. If his CRT is 6 hours, you’re likely looking at a forgotten open page; but by identifying it, you can correct and account for in your reporting.
Scroll Depth is a small Google Analytics plugin that lets you measure how much visitors are scrolling on a web page (if at all). It monitors, and reports on, scrolling degrees of 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%. This is a great tool to use in conjunction with CRT metrics. For e.g., if a visitor spends 2:05 on a landing page with a CRT of 1:00, that could indicate high engagement; but, if that visitor didn’t scroll at all, she clearly didn’t read all the content — which means a good portion of the 2:05 spent on-page was not spent being engaged. To get a clear view into the visitor’s mindset, you need to look at both behaviors in conjunction.
3. Embedded Link Response.
If a reader is highly engaged with your content, and you reference an external piece of content that’s highly relevant to the subject at-hand, there’s a decent chance the reader may click it. As such, you should be measuring these clicks; they’re strong indicators of engagement, and therefore shouldn’t go ignored.
4. Social Sharing.
Same idea here: If a visitor “likes” of “shares” your content on social media after consuming it, that’s a strong indicator of high engagement. Make sure this factors into your calculus, as well.
5. Lead Generation.
So, earlier in this piece, we said that “Conversion Rate … tend(s) to tell us more about the value of the offer on an opt-in form than about the page content itself.” That’s true. At the same time, this metric still implies something about the value of said page content. The text, infographic, video, etc., that flanks an opt-in/offer form can help support and enhance conversion — since the more persuasive the page content is, the more likely the reader is to complete the form. So, while Conversion Rate shouldn’t be a direct measure of page continent engagement, it should factor into your analysis (to a relatively small degree).
A study conducted by Microsoft found that audiences have an “Eight-Second Decision Filter.” That means that a brand has only eight seconds to grab a prospect’s attention with an ad/post, get her to click, and then convince her to stay and read what’s on your landing page. Even if you accomplish steps #1 and #2 (inbound traffic), you still have to deliver on #3 (content) — and by the time the prospect reaches that point, she’s already burned five of her eight seconds.
Is your content good enough to pass the Eight-Second Decision Filter? If it’s going to help you drive quality leads and new sales, it better be.
2018 is coming. There’s still time to rethink your content engagement strategy for next year. If you churn out content people don’t like or want, they’ll turn their noses up and click away. No matter how microtargeted your campaigns are, no matter how click-baity your ad headlines, your inbound traffic will go to waste if you don’t give your audience something they find valuable — and fast.
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