What is engagement rate?
Engagement rate refers to a set of metrics that reflect an audience’s engagement with web content. It’s the amount of activity on a website where users are considered “engaged” compared to their total amount of activity.
In Google Analytics 4, engagement rate is the ratio of “engaged sessions” over total “sessions.”
Engagement rate is a common way to measure how well your content resonates with your audience. It’s a good foundation for measuring true engagement, but you need to consider other metrics to get the full picture.
Many analytics users look to metrics like bounce rate, exit rate, and time-on-page for this context, but these metrics can be misleading. Engaged time, a metric that Parse.ly helped popularize and Google Analytics later adopted, is the most accurate measure of true engagement.
What is a good engagement rate?
Average engagement rate varies across industries and depends on the analytics tools and metrics you use. Measuring engagement in traditional analytics tools, B2B SaaS businesses will typically see about a 61% website engagement rate.
How to measure engagement accurately
Good content isn’t enough to keep your readers around. There are a lot of other factors Engagement rate is a decent start for measuring engagement, but it is based on a definition for engagement that is too broad. GA defines an “engaged session” as a session where a user stays on a page for 10 seconds or longer, views more than one page, or triggers a conversion event.
This loose definition of engagement allows the engagement rate metric to easily become inflated. For example, long periods of inactivity on open browser tabs will rack up an engagement rate, but means nothing in terms of true engagement and true content value.
Marketers often use bounce rate, exit rate, and time-on-page to determine true engagement, but these metrics can be problematic as well.
Bounce rate is misleading because some pieces of content are intended for single-page visits—so high bounce rates aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Exit rate doesn’t accurately determine if your audience is engaged because it measures how many people left a web page but not how interested they were in the content. And time-on-page doesn’t account for pageviews that include a bounce or exit, which can comprise 30-70% of website sessions. Plus, a user is typically considered active for a full 30 minutes regardless if they go to another tab or leave their browser idle.
To accurately measure true engagement, you need engaged time.
Engaged time is Parse.ly’s (part of the WordPress VIP platform) metric that measures the total time visitors spend actively engaged with a given web page. A user is considered “actively engaged” if they’re moving their cursor, clicking, scrolling, hovering, or playing audio or video in an active browser tab.
Engaged time is measured through a “heartbeat pixel” that checks several times per second if a website visitor is still engaged. After five seconds of idle time, the user is no longer considered engaged, but the pixel will start tracking again if the user interacts with the page again.
Because it measures activity with this strict definition of engagement, engaged time is a more realistic representation of audience interest and the value of content than other engagement metrics.
Analytics providers understand this and are slowly improving the ways they measure engagement. Google relied on engagement rate, bounce rate, exit rate, and time-on-page until recently when they introduced engagement time as a metric in Google Analytics 4. It works similarly to Parse.ly’s engaged time metric, so it also offers a meaningful view into audience attention.
How to increase audience engagement
Keeping a high engagement rate is all about building a positive experience for your audience. To create this environment on screen and keep target readers interested, make sure your content and site design are cohesive.
Match title and page content
Clickbait doesn’t serve anyone. The content of your page should match your title and meta description. If the reader doesn’t get what they came for, they will leave—and lose trust in your website.
Fix: Match your title to your page content and vice versa so people get what they expect when they come to your website.
Target the right people
If you target the wrong people with your content, they’ll realize it’s not for them and leave.
Fix: When distributing content, target the right people. For example, if you use email marketing to promote your latest blog posts, segment your audience so you’re sending to the people who are likely to care about your content.
Design a clean website
Bad site design can lead to a lack of trust. If a site looks outdated or visual components clash, a user might not trust the written content on the site and leave.
A bad UX might annoy your audience. We’ve all seen those websites with ads that take up half the viewing space, an awful experience. Ads and CTAs may bring in revenue and subscribers, but overdo it and your audience might leave.
Fix: Make ads non-intrusive and place CTAs tastefully so readers don’t feel bombarded by other actions you want them to take. Keep good UX principles in mind when designing your website, or use a template that takes care of the design for you.
Provide valuable content
There are plenty of websites churning out content designed to rank for SEO keywords but doesn’t give readers valuable information.
Fix: Take the time to understand the search intent of the keywords you’re trying to rank for and create content that is actually helpful for readers.
Make content skimmable
Maybe reading long editorial pieces is your thing. But for most readers, a wall of text is going to seem daunting and lead them to lose interest or backtrack to find a different resource in search engine results.
Fix: Use descriptive headers so readers can skim your content to find what’s relevant to them. Use bullets to increase the ability to skim, and sprinkle graphics and images throughout to break up walls of text.
Get a clear picture of audience engagement
If you can’t measure audience engagement, you can’t determine what’s working well and what to do next. The right content analytics platform will give you the website engagement metrics and insight you need to inform your strategy.
Parse.ly was the first analytics platform to offer engaged time as a metric, alongside 30 more attention metrics that help you accurately determine the success of your content.
Sort and filter content by attributes like type, author, source, and tag. Track other metrics that are critical to your digital marketing strategy like conversion rate, referrals, and activity on social media platforms (e.g., shares and retweets.) And segment your audience to understand what makes them tick.
Learn more about the actionable insights you can surface with Parse.ly content analytics.