More/better/higher content engagement. It’s one of our favorite success metrics when it comes to content marketing.
However, engagement is a broad term. Without defining it, finding specific ways to measure and improve engagement can be maddening.
It turns out that there are LOTS of forms of engagement and they’re not all created equal. In this post, we’re going to look at content engagement and social media engagement, and six methods for measuring success.
What is content engagement?
Content engagement is an action a user takes on a given piece of content or web page. It sends a signal (either to Google, a website or social platform) that the content was relevant to your audience in some way.
Measuring web content engagement
While social media usually hogs the conversation around engagement, your website is where most, if not all, of your digital content lives. Here are some web content engagement numbers that will give you a good idea of how well your content is resonating with your audience.
Pages per session
How to track it: Google Analytics –> Audience –> Overview
Pages per session tells you how many pages the average visitor sees during one session on your website. This number can tell you:
- How well you’ve answered your users’ questions
- How compelled those users are to continue browsing your site and learn more
The quality of your content and the strength of your calls to action, or CTAs, are the biggest levers of this valuable content engagement metric. Ensure your content is answering the question(s) that brought the user to your website and make sure every single page includes a clear, compelling CTA, encouraging your reader to learn more.
How to track: Google Analytics –> Conversions –> Goals –> Overview
Form completions are an effective way to gauge how interested your audience is in your content. A form completion is when a user provides their personal information (email address, phone number, etc.) to receive something from your brand, such as:
- A subscription to a newsletter
- A personal follow-up, by way of a “Contact Us” form
- A gated resource like an eBook
Again, the number of form completions you have is closely related to the value you’re giving your users and the strength of your CTAs. Make sure your users don’t have to guess what action you’d like them to take. If you want them to download a resource, make it easy for them to access. If you want them to sign up for your blog newsletter, put a CTA at the end of every blog, or consider a popup form.
How to track it: Using Google Tag Manager or directly in your CMS.
Comments are usually a social play. But if comments are enabled on your blog pages it can be a terrific way to measure content engagement. Not only do comments indicate that a user has consumed your content (unless it’s one of those pesky spam bots), they also allow you to shape the conversation right on your own site.
It might take some additional development resources to activate a comments section on your site, but it can be invaluable to learn how your users are engaging with your on-site content.
What is social media engagement?
Social media is a natural place to think about engagement. Several social media platforms boast massive audiences and possess sophisticated targeting capabilities so you can reach the people most relevant to your brand.
Each social platform has unique ways to interact with content (a “like” on Facebook, re-tweeting a post on Twitter, saving or pinning content on Pinterest, for example). A share is an especially powerful engagement action because your content will then appear in the social feeds/timelines of those who share it. These actions can be tracked to help your team assess the type of content that best resonates with your audience.
Sprout put together a great list of Facebook-specific metrics to track (that actually work across most platforms), but I’m going to talk about just a few kinds of engagement that can help you track the performance of your social content.
Likes, comments and shares
How to track it: Either with the platform’s native analytics or through a third-party social media management platform.
Regardless of the platform, these three things are usually what people are talking about when they use the term “social media engagement.” These elements are important because they:
- Indicate how relevant and engaging your content is
- Are the most important signals that help social platforms decide what content to show other users
Social media content has a particularly short shelf life. It’s like a balloon. As soon as you publish it, it starts to drift away. Social platforms look at likes, comments and shares as weights, things that signal relevancy, and use that to determine what content to keep in users’ news feeds and what content floats away, never to be seen again.
[RELATED: Why Social Media Needs Its Own Strategy]
To ensure high engagement here, make sure you understand how your audience uses a particular platform and create content that fits into that experience. That means including compelling visuals and intriguing headlines.
Pro-tip: A/B test different headlines, images and text to hone in on what your audience likes to interact with the most.
How to track it: Google Analytics –> Acquisition –> Social –> Overview (Or track clicks on the social platform’s native analytics. Just know those numbers might not always match.)
Even if someone is clicking social content to get to your website, it’s still a manner of social media engagement. Social media can be a great method of driving website traffic for a couple of reasons:
- Social allows you to present a different, more dynamic side of your brand
- If you’re paying to promote on social, you get access to powerful targeting capabilities
Likes, comments and shares are all well and good. But Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute, takes some issue with social media as THE solution to content engagement:
“Social media is rented land and outside companies control the algorithms. By all means leverage social, but make sure you know you have no control over the connections you build in any way.”
This is why a lot of marketers consider clicks and referral traffic to be a more meaningful indicator of web content engagement than likes, comments and shares.
How to track it: Depends on the platform, but this number should be included in the general analytics overview for each.
Reach is the total number of users who saw a piece of content, whereas impressions track the total amount of times that piece of content was seen, regardless of the user.
For example, if one user saw a piece of content four times, the reach for that piece of content would be one and the impressions would be four.
While reach and impressions don’t necessarily signify direct engagement, they can give you a sense of how your content is moving throughout a given platform. They can also help you calculate the ratio between who saw your content and who engaged with it.
Both can be meaningful numbers. Just make sure you’re tracking whichever one lines up with your goals.
How to maximize content engagement
Know the platform
No matter where you’re hoping to spark engagement, it’s important to understand how your audience uses that platform. For example, Sally might use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends, and even follow her favorite clothing brand or food products. But on Twitter, she enjoys participating in conversations about the industry she works in. A clothing brand will have better luck reaching Sally on Facebook, whereas a B2B company will have better luck reaching her on Twitter.
You’ll also want to learn the nuances of each platform and research trends. What gets attention? Are hashtags used? What kinds of visuals are more popular?
A few years ago, for example, we wanted to see how we could increase social engagement among Brandpoint employees. Knowing the content needed to reflect what was important to them, we created a piece just for social, featuring a few of our employees and their favorite examples of content. After a few shares from those employees, it quickly garnered 4 times the average reach and about 5 times the average number of actions, all organically.
Know how to move it
It’s no surprise that, over the last couple of years, platforms like Facebook have been making reach and action a little more difficult to achieve organically. If you don’t have content specifically geared toward social, you might have some trouble. There’s good news, though! Boosting a Facebook post or promoting a tweet is simple, relatively inexpensive and will significantly increase your content’s reach. This means more people will see your content and you may even attract a new audience.
When it comes to your website (and your CTAs, in particular), use Google Analytics to determine particular pages that have high bounce rates or low form completion rates. Consider using a plug-in like Scroll Depth to pinpoint how far users are scrolling on any given piece of web content. If your main CTAs are below that, consider moving them earlier in the piece or adjusting the content to compel readers to get all the way to the bottom.
Know your audience
It’s a no-brainer. If your audience doesn’t find the content useful or relevant, they will not engage with your content. Make sure you understand who your audience is and the kinds of content that brings value into their lives. If it doesn’t serve them and their unique needs, it won’t get very far.
Content that drives engagement starts with a strong content marketing strategy. Let Brandpoint help you turn your most important marketing goals into engaging content assets.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November of 2016 and has been updated for relevancy and comprehensiveness.