Measuring Visitor Engagement and Behavior

By Manoj Jasra – October 26, 2006

When visitors arrive on your website, what are they doing? Is it what you want or expect them to do; or are they aimlessly wandering around and not finding what they came in looking? Are your potential customers abandoning your site just seconds after their arrival? If you are puzzled because you don’t know what visitors are doing, or why, then how can you ever create a decent strategy to offer your visitors a better experience on your website?

The means of engaging users is unique to each website. The Sports Illustrated website does it by displaying only the latest sports headlines and providing the actual content a click thru away; content like writer’s opinions, the NBA Draft and, of course, their own swimsuit issue – giving the user navigation control and also increasing valuable inventory through page views.

A site like Yarn Market , on the other hand, offers crisp, high resolution images of every single product which makes it simple for their visitors to view the colors, quality and intricate patterns of the various types of yarn. Again, giving the user control and increasing conversions.

It’s important that as a site owner you find your competitive advantage and unique selling proposition so that you can offer your visitors a tailored experience that will keep them coming back; however, your constructed experience has to be built to your specific audience’s needs and wants. You cannot push and audience that needs to be pulled, or pull an audience that needs and expects to be pushed.

If you really want to gain success, your website should be built from the audience back; and although I do not advocate giving your audience complete control over the navigation and reigns of your website – through tailored construction you can definitely create a perceived control that should always increase sales/conversions/page views.

In the rest of this article, I will talk about why it’s important to track user behavior and metrics that are helpful in deciphering how well your website is doing in keep your visitors engaged.

Why it’s Important

No one understands the metrics that matter better than the site owners themselves. The key is not getting lost in a mountain of numbers, but really zooming in on the few key metrics that really affect the bottom line, rather than all the other hundreds of metrics that contribute to measuring online success. The concept is simple; keeping users engaged will help to retain visitors, increase conversion rates, and consistently help deliver more revenue.

There are a multitude of reasons that owners should track visitor behavior, here are a few:

  • Pinpoint areas on the website that need to be improved.
    • Analysis of visitor paths vs. dead content (content that gets visited infrequently) shows sites owners that either the content should be presented in a different fashion, be moved from the current area or possibly even deleted from the website entirely.
  • Further promote popular reviews/articles/products.
    • By recognizing areas of a website that are frequently viewed and requested, site owners can simplify the paths to these popular sections by making them more accessible.
  • Test new products/ads/conversion triggers.
    • Using A/B testing and analyzing visitor’s reactions to new features can help a website offer the most optimal combinations in terms of ad/conversion trigger placements.

Observing your visitors’ behavior will help you address the actual pains they are having with your website. If they are bored, entice them with rich content and media. If they don’t know where to go, simplify their path by removing roadblocks and bottlenecks. If they can’t find what they are looking for, analyze internal search terms and modify your site’s search functionality. And, if they are too quick to abandon, give them a reason to stay online by offering a free product/download or competitive pricing on your latest product(s).

Metrics to help measure Engagement (or lack thereof)

  • Percent of Visitors under 60 seconds
    • Using this metric along with conversion rate will let you know if users are easily finding what they are looking for or not. A high percentage of visitors in this area with a low conversion rate indicate you should consider updating your material.
  • Customer Retention Rate
    • Retaining customers is always a good sign that they are finding your website useful
  • Internal Search Terms
    • This will give you a sense of visitors’ intentions on your website (are you offering the right content?). Avinash Kaushik had a great Blog post on this topic.
  • Average Number of Visits per visitors
    • Monitor this metric to help determine how attracted your visitors are to your content. Remember, a return customer always costs less than a new one.
  • Top Pages and Content Requested
    • Knowing what visitors are looking for can be helpful for site owners to tailor their content, making it more prominent and informative to the audiences’ needs.

source for the metrics: Web Analytics Demystified.“Insight” is a word commonly use in the Web Analytics World because it’s a major reason people use web analytics: for a better “insight” into their audience (with an online relationship you cannot have your sales staff read non-vocal cues or easily engage a prospect in a conversation). Having an online strategy that is supported by the intelligence and insight you’ve received is more effective than a strategy developed by any other means (unless of course you have unlimited amounts of money to burn or the Coney Island fortune telling machine from the movie “Big”).

Providing a user experience that engages visitors will prove to be a big step in helping you and your organization reach your online goals.

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