|Content engagement is today's holy grail, with pundits and experts telling journalists to go and find or improve it. It offers the potential of becoming the currency that wins media buys and the defines paywall strategies. However, in order to achieve user engagement there needs to be measurement.
Here are a few ways to measure the ambiguous quality of content.
1. Subscriptions generated
The single best metric for determining a piece of content's user engagement is to see how well it gets users to establish a relationship with your brand. In an ideal world, brands would measure which articles generate the most fans, followers, subscriptions, etc. As a start, it's easy enough to set up your Web analytics to track which pages lead to a newsletter or magazine subscription. Here's a sample report that tracks content performance against several registration events here on eMedia Vitals:
2. Time spent
One of the key lessons learned over the past few years is that page views can be very deceiving. You can write a great title tag and pull in a lot of visitors via Google or Twitter, but you can also see a lot of them leave in under 10 seconds if the content doesn't live up to their expectations. Average time spent on page is a good way of helping gain insight as to whether or not the user read the article. As such, it's a fairly good indicator of the writing on the page.
3. Bounce rate
Use this metric in conjunction with time spent to help identify the content that attracts sticky users. Bounce rate measures the number of entrances vs. the number of exits offsite. As users have begun to use RSS and Twitter instead of a site's homepage to find our new content, we need our articles to push them to other areas of the site that may also be of interest. Measuring bounce rate helps us understand how well we cross link to our content and how well our navigation works.
4. Social media mentions and comments
You'll notice that we track social media mentions on our homepage and on each story's page as well. Engaging content drives conversation. In years before, you'd hear, "Did you see that story in The New York Times on Sunday on such and such?" Now, folks tweet about it. You can use a service like Radian6 to track individual stories by their URL.
5. Social media reach
Influential and loyal visitors are a site's lifeblood (just ask Digg). This metric aggregates the followers of the people that mention your content in the socialsphere. You already know how many followers you have, but how many followers do the people that mention a specific article have? If you aren't already tracking this, check out TweetReach.