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How to Increase Website User Engagement

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User engagement

What is website user engagement? It is the ability of a website to involve, attract and keep a visitor on the site as long as possible.

Why does user engagement matter? It matters because the longer a user stays on the site, the more the user interacts with the site in a way that benefits the website.

For example, a user who visits one page via a search engine and quickly clicks on the back button of the browser to go back to the search engine offers little value. That user hasn’t clicked on an ad, filled a form, subscribed to something (i.e., newsletters or social media accounts) or completed an ecommerce transaction.

Most likely, the user who merely clicks on just one page may leave with a poor perception of the website as a brand. Low brand appeal often results in few or even no return visits.

So website publishers should measure and value website user engagement as a strategic goal. This goal has a series of objective, actionable and measurable tactics that will help them reach and improve on that goal.

How to Measure User Engagement

Website analytics offer a variety of measurements for user engagement. Some of them are more important than others. They cover the three major business functions of a website, which are product, advertising and marketing. Analytic measurements include:

  1. Product: pages per visit
  2. Product: bounce rate
  3. Product: time on site / page
  4. Advertising: click rates
  5. Advertising: ecommerce transactions
  6. Marketing: email newsletter signups
  7. Marketing: social media follows (if the site has follow buttons)

The seven examples above depend on the type of site and the priorities of the business. For example, a site may have ads but not ecommerce and vice versa. I also would argue that bounce rate is less important than pages per visit, although the two are closely related.

Notice that two major metrics aren’t on the list. They are visits and unique visitors. (In Google Analytics, they are sessions and users.) They aren’t on the list because they don’t measure how much or how long a visitor interacts with the site. Instead, they simply measure the total size of the audience.

How to Increase Engagement

Ongoing experimentation is the best approach to increasing user engagement. Test, compare and test again until the numbers start to go up.

Prominence is a key concept in website product improvement because people don’t like to scroll. The more prominent the object — such as an ad, form, link, etc. — the more likely visitors will interact with it.

Out of all the possible engagement metrics, I believe pages per visit is the most important one for the site as a whole. A site with higher pages per visit is more likely to see more ad clicks, ecommerce transactions and form submissions.

Pages per visit increases with more links in articles, better navigation and a heavy emphasis on the display of popular content.

For individual pages, bounce rate is important. Pages with a high number of visitors and low bounce rates have the greatest potential for increasing user engagement.

Tactics that often increase bounce rates for individual pages include:

  • Compelling articles with short sentences and paragraphs. (Readers like white space.)
  • Fast-loading images that break up blocks of text.
  • Videos, polls and other interactive features.
  • Links to related information.

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