We learned in The Keys to Understanding Web Customer Engagement that the notions of web presence and customer engagement aren’t new -- but are gaining in interest as web presence expands beyond the corporate website and as companies must know more about effective means of connecting to customers. Many questions swirl around understanding what engagement is, what defining characteristics should be measured and why, how to align metrics to goals and which metrics matter the most. This article explores a sampling of goals and metrics for measuring and understanding engagement on the Web.

Different Strokes for Different Folks: the Many Faces of Engagement Metrics

I’m going to run through a number of metric matrices proposed by several sources to illustrate different approaches and ways of organizing engagement measurement.

Web Properties Owned by Organizations

In the Forrester report Marketing’s New Key Metric: Engagement, 2007, four main components are identified as attributes for customer engagement:

  • Involvement -- Measurable aspects of an individual connection to an organization or brand
  • Interaction -- Depth/breadth of an individual connection
  • Intimacy -- Sentiment of an individual towards organization/brand
  • Influence -- Indicators that an individual will encourage someone else to visit, consider or buy

Forrester Components of Engagementsmall.png

Forrester: Marketing’s New Key Metric: Engagement, 2007

Goals & Metrics According to Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson, of Web Analytics Demystified and well-known in this field, published a multi-part blog series in 2006 on engagement (I recommend reading the entire series). Here are a couple of his notions regarding the selection of metrics:

Engagement goals:
(Example) - Based on my knowledge of my site visitors and their long-term usage patterns, my engagement goals are as follows:

  • I would like that visitors would view and interact with certain content on my site
  • I would like visitors to subscribe to this weblog to stay connected
  • I would like visitors to maintain a low recency with my content, regardless of whether they’re reading blog posts or viewing pages on my site
  • When visitors are on my web site, I would like them to spend a reasonable amount of time interacting with my content
  • When visitors return to my site, I prefer they remember my domain name and return to my site directly, either via a bookmark or by directly entering my URL into their browser

Key areas for metrics:
…we had been talking about how to measure engagement on their web site. We’d gone round-and-round on ideas about what constitutes an “engaged” visitor and narrowed it down to a few key areas:

  • The visitor views “critical” content on the web site
  • The visitor has returned to the web site recently
  • The visitor returns directly to the web site some of the time
  • Some high percentage of the visitor’s sessions are “long” sessions
  • If available, the visitor is subscribed to at least one available site feed

Chris Meares' Perspective of Engagement

More recently, Chris Meares, senior data analyst at philly.com, home of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, applied his understanding of Eric Peterson’s work in engagement by adapting a white paper called “Measuring the Unmeasurable: Visitor Engagement” by Peterson and Joseph Carrabis. Meares collaborated with Ryan Davis, the president of Philly.com, and Wendy Warren, the vice president for content, on their formula for measuring visitor engagement. The result so far is:

Meares Engagement formula.png

  • Ci -- Click Index: Visits must have at least six pageviews, not counting photo galleries
  • Di -- Duration Index: Visits must have spend a minimum of five minutes on the site
  • Ri -- Recency Index: Visits that return daily
  • Li -- Loyalty Index: Visits that either are registered at the site or visit it at least three times a week
  • Bi -- Brand Index: Visits that come directly to the site by either bookmark or directly typing www.philly.com or come through search engines with keywords such as “philly.com” or “inquirer”
  • Ii -- Interaction Index: Visits that interact with the site via commenting, forums, etc.
  • Pi -- Participation Index: Visits that participate on the site via sharing, uploading pics, stories, videos, etc.

Tracking site visits with this level of specificity is time-consuming -- Meares says he devotes about a third of his full-time job to analysis of the engagement equation, but it has produced some interesting information. For instance:

We’re definitely seeing the impact of social media and how it provides engaged visitors.”

While Google and Yahoo provide a lot of traffic, the visits that they send to Philly.com don’t tend to be engaged. Only 20.34 percent of visits that come through Google are engaged visits. In comparison, 33.64 percent of visits that come via Facebook are engaged.

Customer Engagement on Other Sites

Over in that other world of web presence and engagement, social media sites, many domain experts and proponents have been working through definitions and metrics for customer/visitor engagement as well. The discussion of attributes and metrics for engagement on social sites has relevance to those monitoring engagement on corporate websites, because many companies have set up their own social sites for forums, communities, blogging and so on. And of course, these companies pursue monitoring the many sites that do not belong to them.

Jeremiah Owyang has written numerous posts in his blog on the topic of what constitutes engagement and what metrics are useful for participants in social media sites. Here’s one version from 2007:

My working definition:
Engagement indicates the level of authentic involvement, intensity, contribution, and ownership

It’s possible for me to shorten it to:
Apparent Interest” (and later whittled down to “Interest”)

Engagement Formula:
Attention + Interaction + Velocity + Authority + Relevant Attributes (variable)”


Owyang Elements of Social Data.png


Social / Customer Engagement -- another view



Types of social engagement.png