No reliable metric captures content engagement. Most publishers rely on ‘time on site’ or ‘page views’ to measure performance. The problem with relying on a metric like ‘time on site’ or ‘page views’ is that they make it harder for you to figure out what is working. For instance, a visitor lands on your website and visits ten pages on your website. Would you classify the action as good engagement? Maybe, the user was trying to find something which led him to visit ten pages on your site.

For instance, a visitor lands on your website and visits ten pages on your website. Would you classify this action as good engagement? Maybe, the user was trying to find something on your site which led him to visit ten pages. Without the right metrics, you end up with wrong conclusions. Also metrics like ‘time on site’ and ‘page views’ don’t reveal any insights on how the user behaved on the site.

Also the metrics like ‘time on site’ and ‘page views’ don’t reveal any insights on how the user behaved on the site. For instance, a user would open a page in the browser tab, read for a short time, then minimize the browser and go on to do something else while keeping the browser open.

Measuring Content Engagement Using Engaged Time

To measure engagement we have to understand a user’s journey on the website. The team at Chartbeat uses the four-step audience development process to understand engagement.

  • A user visits your website.
  • They engage with the content they find interesting.
  • If they find value in the content they read, they revisit your website later.
  • If you are lucky, they also share what they found with others.

Now each step in the process is critical. If a visitor drops off at any stage of the process, then it will affect the growth of your audience over time. Traditionally we have been better off at measuring steps one & four. Quantifying content engagement has always been difficult to do. With a metric like ‘engaged time’ publishers can fill the missing gaps.

Every analytics platform has its approach of measuring of engaged time. For the benefit of viewers, we are listing down the criteria adopted by both Chartbeat & Parse.ly to calculate ‘engaged time.’

Chartbeat (Engaged Time)

Chartbeat measures the amount of time a user spends reading a page, when the page in an active browser tab — a foregrounded tab where the user has recently scrolled, typed or moved their mouse — and then average that number across users. This approach will present

Note that this number will always differ from the traditional time on page, which only measures how long a user stays on a page rather than how long they engage with the page.

Parse.ly (Engaged Time)

Parse.ly measures the amount of time user engages with a page when the browser tab is open. To measure engagement, the pixel code (heartbeat) looks at cursor movement, scrolling, video playing, clicking, etc.)

After 10 seconds of inactivity, the tool no longer considers the user engaged, and the time stops tracking. It can pick up again later if that user re-engages with the article.

How total engaged time helps the brand?

In a recent study conducted by parse.ly found that there is no correlation between page views and engaged time.

To arrive at this conclusion, they studied the average engaged time of over 300 domains.

Parse.ly Study

The most significant challenge that publishers face is to decide which articles should they promote, how to measure engagement by content and author. Engaged time helps you to make smarter decisions as a publisher.

  • You keep track of the engagement numbers for each story.
  • If a story exhibits unusual behavior, you can do a follow-up story or make changes to improve engagement further.
  • For stories with low Engaged Time, you might want to give them a boost by:
    • Adding images, videos, pull quotes or call outs.
    • Add related links and drive an already engaged audience to more and more engaging content.
    • If you’re trying to decide between two stories to promote through social channels or on your homepage the most engaging story should win.

Content engagement is about what happens between the clicks. Readers who don’t engage with your content are missed opportunities. With actionable insights at your fingertips, you have the power to put the right content in front of the right audience.

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