Engagement is a major goal in many content strategies. Engagement can be a bit slippery to track, so finding good metrics isn’t always straightforward.
Before you write one word or create a single infographic, you need to set your goals. Quantify how you will reach those goals and be specific.
Once you start measuring, you’ll most likely glean a bit of information, make slight changes to your content, and test. As you keep measuring, tweaking and testing, you’ll refine your content until you notice that you’re consistently hitting that “sweet spot” of engagement, with the people you want as your raving fans.
Many of the following metrics will come from Google Analytics. If you are not familiar with Google Analytics or need help setting up, take a look at this blog post.
I also highly recommend setting up a spreadsheet dedicated to tracking metrics. You’ll be glad you did this once you have begun your content marketing.
Engagement and Evangelism
To measure whether you are converting casual users of your product or service into stark raving super-engaged fans who evangelize on your behalf, you do need to start with learning more about your audience.
Once you have done this work, you’ll have a good sense of where and how they will engage. Depending on what you have discovered, you can look at these metrics:
- Audience and Behaviour Metrics — In Google Analytics, there is an entire section dedicated to your audience, and the several ways to measure how engaged they are. Once you are in your account, on the left-hand side, scroll down to the “Audience” section and then “Behavior”. From there, you can access metrics such as:
- Frequency and Recency — This will tell you how often and how recently a visitor has accessed your site.
- New versus Returning — Lots of new visitors can mean that a launch was successful. Returning visitors can mean that your efforts are gaining traction, and you are converting visitors to loyal readers or fans.
- Engagement — This lets you know time spent on your site. Now, you’ll have to look a bit more carefully at this one. First, make sure you have filtered your own visits out :) Second, look for signs of spam traffic. This can skew results and give you an incomplete picture.
A second Google Analytics section to look at is “Behavior”. The one metric to really focus on, under “site content”, is “all pages”. Once you have accessed this data, use the secondary dimension “acquisition” and then “source/medium” to get a sense of which pages are most popular, and how people are accessing them.
You can also track social referral traffic. On the left-hand side, scroll to “Acquisition” then “Social”. You’ll get lots of solid information here, including the possibility of new social sites that your audience loves but you were unaware of.
- Social Metrics — When your content gets shared, liked or commented on, that’s engagement. Decide which social platforms you want to keep track of, and use a spreadsheet to track these shares over time. You’ll get a solid sense of which blog posts work, and will begin to see patterns on what drives engagement.
The metrics you’ll want to look at are specifically these three (h/t to Avinash Kaushik):
- Conversation — Number of comments per post. Now, as Avinash writes so perfectly, you need to really use your head when tackling this. Specifically: “We do not measure to manipulate the metrics, we measure to know if we are adding business value.” With practice and diligent listening to your audience, you can create a wonderful space of community. Or you can share cat videos...
- Applause — Number of “likes” per post. This is simple to see on most social media platforms, harder on many blogs. But the metric is an apt one to show that not only are you engaging with your ideal audience, but they quite literally like what you have to say. If your blog implements a “thumbs up” feature or similar, use that.
- Amplification — Specifically, shares per post. At a minimum, look at how many times the post has been shared via social sharing buttons. Going deeper, track how many times your post was shared or retweeted when it was posted to the various social networks you use. This metric shows that not only you’ve reached your ideal audience but that they are increasing your reach and becoming brand ambassadors on a small scale. You’re doing something right!
I’d like to recommend that you read the entire article over on Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik if you want to dive in further to social metrics. His advice is brilliant.
- Other Metrics — This might be a good place to mention that, especially with engagement, you need to sometimes read between the lines. Notice off-line engagement, emails, offers to speak or guest post. Document these as they occur and track them over time, noticing if certain content seems to spark a reaction in your audience.
Don’t Forget the Human Side of Tracking Your Engagement Metrics!
One of the most important things that can come from tracking and paying attention to these metrics is that you’ll actually end up engaging with your audience. What does that mean? It means that you’ll end up with fans who connect with your brand and what you offer, leading to possibilities for real world collaboration in ways you couldn’t possibly have planned for.
About the Author:
Wendy Kelly is a content strategist living and skiing in a small mountain town in British Columbia who enjoys storytelling and strategy. Imagine that. You can follow her at @WendyKKelly.