Posted on May 1, 2008

As the depth of the user experience continues to evolve with Web 2.0 changes and innovations, measuring users' online actions and behaviors has become infinitely more complicated. In the past, tracking basic metrics like hits and visits was enough. But with emerging forms of social media content ranging from videos to widgets, social networks to podcasts, RSS readers and beyond, these outdated surface level metrics may no longer provide the data and insight required to optimize cross-channel campaign performance.

With Web 2.0 analytics, user actions are no longer confined to a single online locale. Marketers must now dig deeper, tracking users' interests and activities across a much broader spectrum. Unlike Web 1.0 analytics, which were focused upon on-site measurement of metrics like entries, exits, and visits, Web 2.0 analytics takes one more step forward by measuring User Engagement.

Eric Peterson, author of Web Analytics Demystified, notes that while many marketers are still trying to master first-generation web analytics, they need to be aware of what's on the horizon. He notes that "Now, [marketers] are doing things that aren't easily measured." With Web 2.0, the focus of analytics has experienced a fundamental paradigm shift, as measurement of user interaction is now the illusive target. But how can you measure that?

Recently, metrics like time spent on site, pages viewed per user session, and new versus returning visitors have become more valuable. These are, at an essential level, a measure of user engagement. While this may seem somewhat abstract, the focus on engagement has given rise to new metrics designed for a Web 2.0 environment, including interaction rate, conversion rate, click through rate, and even cost per interaction (to name a few).

But while this new emphasis on metrics of engagement is providing marketers with additional insight, it is scaring many others away. Why? Simply because the industry has yet to define an effective measurement of ROI. Among marketers analyzing and promoting the cause of engagement, the general consensus seems to be that the value is really in the conversation.

Engagement allows for a unique type of communication with your audience and your customers. This experience promotes branding and loyalty, while providing further insight into users' motivations while they're on a particular site. In addition to revealing what content is the most popular, measuring engagement can help companies better understand particular user segments, and thus tailor their experience of the site to fit a specific profile or desired set of actions, whether that includes viewing certain pieces of content, converting through a form, or registering to view educational white papers. The analysis of engagement is a valuable tool for user segmentation.

Remember that not all traffic is created equal. Measuring engagement proves this. Case in point, would you rather have ten thousand casual visitors to your site every month, or 200 engaged visitors who return often, subscribe to feeds, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and spend time interacting with your content and your brand? For results-driven marketers, the answer is simple.

For more information, contact Fusionbox.