Engagement must be the next new thing in digital marketing. I see the term used everywhere in print and at conferences, but it is usually referring to what marketing should have always been doing anyway -- involving potential customers so they increase communication, build trust and form commitment. The problem is that the old analytical tools just aren’t up to the job. 

If we are going to increase our customers’ engagement over the web, we can’t use the same web analytics we’ve been using for over 15 years. We need metrics that measure our marketing effectiveness and how well we engage our visitors. We need engagement analytics.

The web analytics of the past uses technical measures like number of visitors, page views, bounce rates and conversions. These measure how attractive your marketing and website are, but not how effective they are in engaging the people you want as customers.

Measure Web Engagement as You Would Face-to-Face Engagement

Why not measure engagement the same way you do when you engage with people as you build friendships, professional relations and even date and marry? There’s a simple model of how people gradually build involvement and engagement with each other. It goes through four well-defined steps.

1. Attraction

We are attracted to someone else because of similar interests, physical attraction, interesting ideas and so forth. This is the level the old web analytics works at. It measures how well marketing and web content attract, but not how well they engage.

2. Communication

Communication requires a two-way exchange of information. Reading web pages or downloading free content without revealing personal information is not a two-way exchange. Information must be exchanged on both sides.

3. Trust

Trust must be built gradually. In a web exchange the simplest level of trust is a valid exchange of email address for in-depth content information. A higher level of trust over the web might involve a visitor revealing their budget limits and technical requirements in exchange for the vendor’s detailed product specifications and prices.

4. Commitment

Commitment usually requires building a foundation of communication and trust until the two parties have commitment to each other. In business, as in personal relations, this is the willingness to continue trusting each other and working together.

Think about how you have met and built relationships with business associates, sports partners, friends and your spouse. A committed relationship almost always follows the steps in this path.This is the same path we want to use to identify and measure with Engagement Analytics.

How Do You Measure Engagement on the Web?

To measure engagement you need to look for transaction points on your website where visitors show their communication, trust and commitment. This is true whether your website is for B2B, B2C or non-profit.

On our website, for example, we have hundreds of these transaction points. Each of these transaction points has one of three levels of engagement, with each level having a different “engagement value.” The actual numbers are not important. The ratio between the numbers, however, shows the relative weight between the levels of engagement. For example, real engagement values we use on the Sitecore website are:

Transaction Point Engagement Value Description
Viewing a Web Page or Free Asset 0 There is no two-way communication, no need for trust and no commitment.
Registration 25 Registering for a white paper, webinar or information requires minimal trust with the exchange of email and name and minimal transfer of information.
Request for Quote 50 Requesting a quote requires greater trust on both sides as more information is revealed about needs and abilities.
Request for Online Demo 100 Asking for a human-to-human demonstration of our web content management system requires the most trust and the greatest amount of two-way communication.

This is very different from measuring conversions. When someone registers for a white paper, that’s not just a one-point conversion as it would be in most web analytics, it is recorded as 25 points. When the visitor later requests a quote, an additional 50 points is added to the “engagement value” they have accumulated.

Four Powerful Engagement Metrics

Once you are accumulating the engagement value and number of visitors, you can do amazing things with those two numbers. It’s very straightforward to see which campaigns, keywords or referral sources produce the greatest engagement value. But there’s much more you can do.

With engagement value and the number of visitors, you can calculate two of internet marketing’s most powerful metrics, “Relevance,” a measure of marketing effectiveness, and “Potential,” a measure of a marketing asset’s effectiveness compared to its peers. For example, “Relevance” for a marketing campaign can be found by totaling all engagement value attributed to that campaign and dividing it by the number of visitors from the campaign.

       Relevance = Engagement Value / Visits

By comparing the Relevance of campaigns, you can easily see which campaigns have the greatest marketing effectiveness per visitor. Because this measure is the same for any channel driving visitors to your website, you can compare marketing effectiveness between email, search engine, social media and even real world events.

The second powerful metric is “Potential.” Potential is a measure of the marketing effectiveness among peers. For example, how well a campaign, landing page or asset does compared to its peers. To calculate “Potential,” calculate the Relevance for all peer items and then compare the item of interest against the average. For example, if you want to see if a new web page about a new product is effective, you would calculate the average relevance for all new product web pages. Then calculate the relevance for just the web page in question. If its relevance isn’t better than average, then you need to improve the new page.

Using Engagement Analytics to Find the Truth in Web Analytics

This chart shows how looking at only the number of visits can be misleading. In this example from a real campaign, the grey line shows visitors decreasing in Q2 and then slightly increasing in Q3. What you can’t see in older web analytics is that there is a large increase in high-quality visitors and marketing effectiveness in Q3, as shown by the gold line. The Relevance or marketing effectiveness is shown by the green bar and reflects the big jump in marketing effectiveness.

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Measuring Marketing Effectiveness with Engagement Analytics

Engagement analytics is clearly the way to:

  • Simplify analytics. Using just four metrics, visits, value, relevance and potential, any marketer can identify which channels, campaigns and assets have the greatest marketing effectiveness.
  • Increase marketing effectiveness across channels. The old web analytics measures are just a proxy for what we really want to measure, how well we engage our visitors and how effective our marketing is. With engagement analytics we can also breakdown the silos between marketing channels and spend our marketing dollar more effectively.
  • Multiply marketing when combined with web analytics. You don’t need to throw out Google Analytics, Omniture and Coremetrics or any of your web analytics tools. They can still help you build traffic. Add engagement analytics and you get the best of both worlds: increased high-quality traffic.

Traditional web analytics can tell you when your website is attracting more visitors, and it can tell you which pages are attractive. But in today’s competitive marketplace you need more. You need to use engagement analytics to learn what your visitors find valuable, when your marketing efforts are effective, and when your visitor traffic is engaged.

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