When reading up on successful websites, you hear the word “traffic” quite a bit. Many of us consider the best sites to be the ones with the most web traffic, or those that boosted their web traffic by ____ percent over just ____ months. Amazing!
Yes, of course web traffic is important — if no one is seeing your site, that’s not great — but it’s not the whole story. What if you’re bringing in high volumes of traffic but failing to capture interest or convert? In that case, the outcome is the same as having no visitors at all.
To run a successful website, you must engage visitors with your content. Everything on your website should be designed to hold visitors on your domain and guide them to a conversion. This then prompts the question: How do you know if your site is doing its job?
The answer is website engagement metrics. In this guide, we’ll introduce this key concept, then discuss ten metrics to watch for while building your online presence.
What are website engagement metrics?
Website engagement metrics measure how much your website visitors are interacting with your website and online brand. These metrics can tell you where your visitors tend to go on your website, for how long, how often, and how they arrived on your website.
Ultimately, the goal of your site is to turn visitors into leads and leads into customers, but the journey there can be difficult to understand without hard data. Fortunately, website engagement metrics are here to clear things up. With the help of an analytics tool like HubSpot or Google Analytics, you can leverage engagement metrics to see where your site is capturing attention, and where you can make some tweaks to increase engagement.
You might find that a page is formatted poorly, or that some of your content doesn’t match user intent, or that your CTA’s ate underperforming. On the flip side, your engagement metrics may reveal that your marketing and content strategies are crushing it on every level. Either way, you won’t know until you lift the hood and see the data — let’s do that now.
Website Engagement Metrics to Watch
Average Time on Page
Average Session Duration
Pages per Session
Repeat and New Visitors
Exit Rate and Top Exit Pages
With so many website-relevant metrics available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, especially if you’re just beginning. So, here are just 10 simple but important engagement metrics to inform your web strategy. For each one, we’ve included tips for improving your results.
1. Page Views
Page views measure the number of times a page on your website is seen by a visitor. Any time a page on your website is loaded in a browser, this counts as one page view. So, if a visitor loads a page, then reloads the same page, this would count as two page views.
A steady upward trend of page views generally indicates successful SEO, marketing, and brand awareness efforts. Still, while page views can tell you generally how popular your site’s pages are and how much traffic your site is receiving as a whole, they’re not useful without other metrics to give more context.
High page views could result from a thriving ad campaign or SEO initiative, but it could indicate something negative. For example, users might be frequently reloading your pages — a sign of performance issues — or wandering around your site without a clear goal — a sign of potentially poor navigation and/or structure.
Conversely, a lower page view count isn’t necessarily bad. If you want users to follow a specific path, fewer page views could mean they’re converting efficiently without loading many pages.
Context is key when looking at raw page views. That’s why, while a good place to start, page views shouldn’t be the only metric you take into account.
2. Average Time on Page
Average time on page measures long visitors tend to spend on a web page. Time on page can be an excellent indicator of how engaging and effective your content is — the longer you hold visitors on a page, the better. Longer time on page also suggests that you’re attracting quality visitors who value your information, while shorter times generally indicate less interest.
Like page views, average time on page is also contextual. For example, you ideally want visitors spending more time on your product pages and blog posts. To increase time spent on these pages, you can add more relevant content to them, make your content easy to read and understand, and work to capture your intended audience through organic search and other channels.
On landing pages, however, higher time on page could hint that there are barriers to conversion. For instance, content and CTAs could be confusing. See our guide to landing page design for pointers on improving this part of your site.
3. Average Session Duration
A session is a group of interactions with your site within a set time period, typically one to two hours. A session can be roughly equated to one person’s visit to your website, whether that’s viewing a single page or exploring more of your site.
Similar to average time on page, average session duration measures how long users typically spend time on your entire website. It’s calculated by dividing the number of sessions over a set time period by the total amount of time all users have spent on your site in that period. Since those who spend more time on your website are more likely to convert, you want to focus on increasing this metric.
Session durations can provide a clearer picture of your audience engagement, since a session describes one’s complete experience on your website, instead of a page-by-page analysis. This metric can be increased by improving your navigation, content, and visual design in general to promote longer sessions.
4. Pages per Session
Another telling metric related to your user sessions is the number of pages visited per session. While your average session duration might be high, how are visitors using this time? Do they stick to one or two pages, or do they explore further? Pages per Session can answer these questions.
More pages loaded per session is usually a good thing, since this shows that visitors are interested in exploring your content, and which ones are most likely to convert. You can further dig into this metric to follow visitors’ conversion paths — where they land on your site, and what pages lead them to the exit page (more on that later).
If your Pages per Session count is low, incorporate prompts to explore your website — offers, related posts recommendations, and inline links to product pages are a few items you can place on your highly trafficked pages to boost this metric.
However, lower Pages per Session isn’t always a bad sign. For instance, blogs with lengthy articles should expect fewer pages loaded per session, so session duration and time on page might be more useful to consider in this case.
5. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who load one page on your website, then leave without interacting with the page or visiting any other pages — they “bounce” off of your website and go elsewhere.
A high bounce rate means your website is performing poorly, and there could be several reasons for this: Your navigation may be confusing, your content doesn’t match the visitors’ intent, the CTAs are not obvious (or way too obvious), or your site simply doesn’t offer enough content-wise or design-wise to hold attention.
If your site is experiencing a high bounce rate, hone in on the individual pages with the highest bounce rates, and compare them to those with lower bounce rates. This is a good way to see what’s working with your visitors, and what can be improved or removed.
6. Traffic Sources
Where are your visitors coming from? It’s a question that all website owners should have top-of-mind. While the amount and names of traffic sources vary by analytics tool, some common ones are:
Organic search: These visitors arrived at your website through non-paid results on the search engine results page (SERP). Most likely, they found your site through Google Search.
Paid search: These visitors arrived by clicking ads on the SERP.
Referrals: Referral traffic comes to your website via links on an external website. Many analytics tools exclude search engines from this source (as those would be considered organic search traffic), and some tools also segment referral sources further into categories like social media.
Email: This traffic comes from links included in your emails.
Direct: These users arrive at your website via a browser bookmark or by entering the URL directly into the browser bar.
There’s no one perfect distribution of traffic sources, as every business has a different strategy to draw visitors. It’s useful to see how your sources change over time, but pay most attention to organic search traffic — this is likely your largest traffic source, and improving it can also boost your other sources like email and referral.
7. Unique Visitors
Unique visitors measures the total number of unique individuals who initiate at least one session on your site during a specific period of time. If a user initiates multiple sessions, they’re still counted as the same visitor.
Like page views, look for a consistent upward trend in your unique visitors and how this number changes after design changes, SEO updates, and marketing plays. A stagnant or decreasing number of visitors is a sign that you might need to reassess your marketing and content strategy.
8. Repeat and New Visitors
A new visitor is someone who is visiting your website for the first time, while a repeat (or returning) visitor has initiated a session previously. Comparing your new and repeat visitors gives you a sense of how “sticky” your website is — in other words, do first-time visitors find enough value that they want to come back again?
It can be tricky to maintain an ideal ratio of repeat to new visitors. You want to balance a flow of net new visitors at the top of the funnel with a steady audience of returning users. Aim for a repeat visitor rate of 10% (meaning one in 10 visitors is a repeat visitor) to 30%. Anything lower than 10% probably means your site lacks enough value to retain new visitors, and anything higher than 30% likely means you’re not bringing in enough fresh traffic to grow your base.
To adjust your ratio of repeat and new visitors, you can focus on organic search optimization and campaigns for new visitors. To increase repeat users, turn your attention to email and the overall quality of your site — this gives a more positive first impression and encourages return visits.
9. Conversion Rate
At last, the goal of your marketing efforts — conversion rate (CVR) is the percentage of visitors who complete a desired action on your website. This action could be filling out a form, downloading a content offer, signing up for a trial or a demo, or purchasing a product. The higher the CVR, the better.
Since you’ll probably have multiple points of conversion, you can compare CVRs across different CTAs and landing pages. For underperforming CTAs, you may need to tailor the offer or placement to better align with the surrounding content. The conversion may also be too difficult or confusing, in which case you should remove friction for the visitor. There are many possibilities for a low CVR — learn how to address them in our guide to conversion rate optimization.
You can also break down conversion rate into different subtypes, including visitor-to-lead CVR, lead-to-customer CVR, and visitor-to-customer CVR — this detailed information provides more insight into where your funnel excels or needs improvement.
10. Exit Rate and Top Exit Pages
You can try to prolong your visitors’ sessions as much as possible, but everyone has to leave your site eventually. Exit pages are the last pages that visitors see before exiting your site.
While every page is an exit page to an extent, you’ll want to pay attention to those with the highest exit rates. For a given page, exit rate is the percentage of page views that were the last of the session.
The goal is to make your top exit pages the ones you expect, such as thank you pages and download pages. A high exit rate is a problem on pages where you’re trying to hold interest or convert. Compare your top exit pages to your low exit pages for discrepancies — perhaps you’ll find a confusing, slow, or broken page, or maybe a page is a dead-end due to a lack of a CTA or link elsewhere. Whatever the reason, the goal is to keep sessions as long as possible, as this ups the chance of a conversion.
Are your visitors engaged?
We get it, it’s a challenge getting people to your website at all … heck, the job of building a proper website in the first place is enough to turn away many aspiring business owners. After completing all of that work, you’ll want to see something come out of it, namely conversions and sales
Website engagement metrics will tell you how well you’re accomplishing this next step. These analytics are simple and actionable, pointing you to where engagement issues might be so, you can address them.
Simply put, a web strategy isn’t much without engagement metrics. So, if you haven’t started crunching the numbers, now’s the time.
Originally published May 4, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated May 04 2021