In our last article, How to Use Google Analytics to Grow Your Audience, we talked about the first step of our AARRR funnel: Acquisition. After you get people to your site, you need to make sure that your content and your site are set up to increase engagement. This is the next step in our funnel: Activation.
As we begin to move down the AARRR funnel, you should start to see how each level is interconnected with the others. You should also begin to appreciate how optimizing each level makes it easier for visitors to progress down to the next level of your funnel.
For example, you’ll have a much easier time getting people to come back to your site (audience retention) if you can figure out the best ways to get your audience engaged and active on your site first.
That’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this post. We’ll start out with a few simple, big picture metrics that measure engagement and then move on to higher levels of engagement with some tips to optimize along the way.
In Google Analytics, we are going to be looking at:
- Audience > Overview
- Audience > Behavior > Engagement
- Behavior > Behavior Flow
- Conversion > Goals > Overview
- Conversions > Goals > URLs
- In-Page Analytics
Okay, let’s do it.
Using Behavior to Gauge Engagement
The easiest way to gauge user engagement on your site is to compare sessions to pageviews. Remember, a session is when someone visits your site and it can include multiple pages. A pageview, on the other hand, is when someone visits an individual page.
Pages / Session
Google Analytics displays the number of pageviews per session (Pages / Session) in the Audience > Overview section of the dashboard when you first log in.
You want your pageviews to be higher than your sessions, indicating people are visiting multiple pages on your site. This is the most basic measure of engagement for a content site. The more pages a user visits, the more they learn about your brand, your personality, your writing style, your products, etc.. We obviously want this.
Looking at session duration—the amount of time someone spends on your site in a given session— we start to see a little more detail and depth about our audience’s behavior. This metric can be a crucial part of determining engaged users, simply by virtue of the fact that the more time people spend on a page, the more interest they are displaying. You will often see a bell curve from 11- 1801+ seconds.
Your goal is to move this bell curve downward. The sweet spot we’ll want to focus on is the lower middle of the of the bell curve, the people who spend 11 – 60 seconds on your site. These users are the “low hanging fruit,” they have showed some interest in your site by staying on the page but have not yet reached the peak of their duration capability. This audience can generally be engaged by button relocation, design simplification, clearer calls to action (CTAs) and other changes we will touch on later.
Google Analytics Behavior Flow to Track and Increase Engagement
Behavior Flow is a simple way to see how users are interacting with your site. Google Analytics automatically segments the flow by Landing Page (see the dropdown box in upper right-hand corner of the image above).
When your data is segmented by Landing Page, you will see which page the user started on and where they went from that page. In the example above, you will see that most users landed on the /home page, then when to a (not set) page. The red line off of the (not set) page indicates the number of users that dropped off, while the light grey indicated the number of users that when to the next page.
This information can tell you which pages generally go hand in hand (ie. shopping cart and checkout will generally be close together). Also, Behavior Flow can tell you at which points users are dropping off. This information can help you determine whether or not certain pages need to be updated or need the call to action clarified or simplified.
Lastly, you can change the Landing Page dimension to another dimension like, Campaigns or Channels, to see which of those bring the most engagement as well.
So, for instance, you could see how traffic from social interacts with your site compared to how people from your email list interact with your site. Social media traffic tends to be a fairly fickle source of traffic, so don’t be surprised if you see relatively poor engagement numbers there.
Email, on the other hand, tends to be more highly engaged traffic, relatively speaking.
This doesn’t mean we should ignore Facebook traffic in favor of email traffic. It just means you need to keep this difference in mind when you’re creating campaigns. If your social traffic is fairly fickle—that is, it has poor engagement metrics like a high Bounce Rate/high dropoff rate, low Pages / Session, low email registrations, etc.—it’s probably not a good idea to share a lot of posts about your product/service or anything that comes off as too salesy with your Facebook following.
People are on social media to be social, not be sold to. Genuinely engage with them and offer them something of high value without a hard sales pitch.
For many, your email list is a usually a much better platform for converting your audience. Again, though, this is a generalization. Your data might tell you something different. Lucky for you, you have all the data you need (and this guide!) to cater to your audience across different places and times.
Tracking Goal Completions to Increase Engagement
Increasing engagement with more pages viewed, email opt-ins, downloads, form fills, etc. is critical for anyone using content to build an audience. If you’re not nailing this part of your funnel, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle with the rest of your funnel. Most of these behaviors can be tracked using Google Analytics goals.
We showed you how to set up goals in Google Analytics in a previous post. When we are looking to see whether or not we have engaged users, the overall number of Goal Completions (destination pages visited, session duration reached, pages per session reached or events completed) is an easy way to tell whether or not users are engaging with your site.
For example, when breaking down the goal completions by the mediums they came from, we are able to see which of our marketing channels is being the most effective. In the above example, we can see that paid search advertising (CPC, or “cost per click”) referrals led to 107 goal completions, while organic searches led to 1192 goal completions. By knowing this information, we will know where to focus our efforts moving forward.
It’s important that you drill down into your individual goals like this as well. I suggest you set up at least two goals to measure engagement: 1) ”engaged users” that view 3 or more pages (or 5 or more, if you feel ambitious) and 2) email registrations/opt-ins. If you offer digital downloads or some other form of content that users interact with by taking action, add those as well. (Again, you can see how to set up these types of goal in our previous post on the subject.)
Let’s look at an example. We can see which sources of traffic (default channel grouping) have the best conversion rate for all registering to email list. You might see that social media sucks for eCommerce for you, but that’s probably because you’re expecting to skip the all critical Activation step. Social media is better used as an acquisition channel for content platforms that starts people down the road to activation.
Most people are more comfortable signing up for a newsletter (or getting a free download or something similar) from a social account if you give them incentive to do so. One idea, then, might be to come up with ways to promote your email list on social media and then track it with Google Analytics (using custom campaign UTM links).
So, if you spend a lot of your time trying to get more Facebook followers and then immediately try to convert them to paying customers, but these people are super fickle when it comes to engagement (email signups, downloads, etc), you need to reevaluate where you spend your time and resources, or how you spend your time and resources. Again, you could encourage more people to sign up to your email list from your social accounts with a carrot and a stick of some sort, even one for just that platform.
At the page level: If you get good traffic to one page—say a piece of content with a catchy title and nice picture—but it’s got a higher than average bounce rate AND lower than average opt-in rate, you need to optimize your page/content for conversions, not more traffic. For example, provide higher quality/high-value lead magnates—PDFs, downloads, free courses, books, etc.
You can see which paths are leading to the most the most email signups (or any other goal) in Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path.
If you have your email registrations set up as a goal like I have suggested, the Goal Completion Location will be the same for all of your registrations like you see in the image here. That is, it will be whatever you use for your “registration success” page.
But if you have a signup form on each of your blog posts and/or other pieces of content, the “Goal Previous Step – 1” should be the page on which the user opted-in.
It may differ slightly depending on your setup, but this report will allow you to see up to the 3 pages the visitor viewed before registering for your email list.
How to Increase Engagement by Time of Day
Now look at Goal URLs, or the URL in which the user completed the goal. Go to Conversions > Goal URLs .
Under the graph you will see a button that says “Secondary Dimension,” click this button and select time and hour. You will now be able to see which hours generated the most goal completions. The graphic below shows that most conversions were made between 9 am and 3 pm. This information can be extremely useful for planning releases, ads, social media posts, and other types of marketing.
Further, you can see which pages are getting the most goal completions. Look at these pages a little more closely and see what they have in common. Is there a specific topic that does well for you? Are the pages that convert goals getting traffic from the same source—search, social, email, referrals, etc.? Do you have strong calls to action on these pages and weak ones on your pages that don’t convert well? Is there anything else that could differentiate the path to goal completion?
At this point, a lot of people fret over things like button colors and placement. While these things can make a difference, you need to make sure your value proposition is one that compels people to convert first. If your value proposition—say the free PDF download you offer in exchange for an email address—isn’t that compelling, then there is no button color in the world that will significantly improve your conversion rate for any goal.
Look for the simpler explanation first. If you have created solid content that people want to engage with and you’ve created a strong value proposition, then you can start to optimize things like button/form position and style.
Using In-Page Analytics to Track Engagement
Google Analytics offers an “In-Page” option. The newest update of Google Analytics has taken in-page out of the main left-hand menu in Google Analytics, but it can still be accessed through Google Chrome Extensions (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/page-analytics-by-google/fnbdnhhicmebfgdgglcdacdapkcihcoh).
Upon opening up your website and turning on the extension, you will see your site with graphs and small, colored boxes showing the percentage of clicks for each link. This is obviously very rich information to have.
For instance, if a specific blog post that’s linked on a page has the majority of clicks, try working a link to that post with similar anchor text into other places on your site. Or, let’s say you have two calls to action buttons on a page and one button has far more clicks than the other. Note the differences between the two and optimize your new pages according. You may need to change the position, the text or even the color of your call to action button.
In-page analytics is also a great way to see if your site is user-friendly. For instance, if you have an ideal plan of engagement for your users, you can check in-page analytics to see if users are navigating the site the way you want them to. You may find that people are taking a different path than you intended for them to and if that is the case you need to find out why—or optimize that path instead. If there is a simpler path or a path that makes more sense for the user, then you need to replicate that path of engagement throughout the site to drive up your engagement.
Putting it all together
If you are looking to create a one-stop, go-to place to analyze and track your growth, Google Analytics allows you to create your own customizable dashboards. We have created an Activation & Engagement dashboard for you to have all of the metrics previously explained in one place.
To set up your dashboard:
- Click the button above; you will be taken to your Google Analytics account (sign in if you are prompted to do so).
- Select the view of your Google Analytics account that you would like your dashboard to be in. You can see more about setting up Three Essential Google Analytics Views if you haven’t done so already.
- The dashboard is named “02. Activation & Engagement” — you can change it if you like or keep it.
- Click “Create” — and you’re done.
Now you have a go-to dashboard to go along with this guide so you can make data-driven decisions that increase engagement with your audience.