3 Metrics in Google Analytics to Measure User Engagement

If you own a website or blog, user engagement is a term you are probably already familiar with. A user is a visitor to your site and engagement refers to the interaction of users with your site. You want a user to spend time on your website. You want them to read your content, watch videos, participate in polls or best of all, make a purchase.

Whether you are thinking about creating a website or blog, or you already have an existing one, you need to take a moment and think about the purpose of your site and what type of user engagement would be a good indicator of the success of your site ( I am using the term site to cover both websites and blogs).

While there are many ways to track user engagement with Google Analytics, there are 3 basic metrics that you can view once you have Analytics installed, that will give you an indication of your user engagement without any further effort on your part.

Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is the first metric you will want to look at. Google Analytics Bounce Rate is shown as a percentage and is provided in many of the different menus in Analytics. The view below is from the Audience Overview menu.

Bounce Rate

Google Analytics Bounce Rate

The Bounce rate is the percentage of users who visited your site and then left your site without visiting any other page besides the one they entered your site on. It should be noted that a visitor who refreshes the page he entered on will not be considered a bounce. For example, a visitor enters your site on your home page, takes a look and then leaves. This visitor is considered a bounce so for that visitor you will have a 100% bounce rate. If that visitor had gone from your home page to the about us page and then left your site, you would have a bounce rate of 0%. You would also show a 0% bounce rate if that visitor stayed on the home page and refreshed the page to reload it.

So keeping that in mind, if you look at a specific date range in which you had 100 visitors to your site and 21 left your site without visiting any other page besides the one they entered on, you would have a 79% bounce rate (100 visitors minus the 21 who left divided by 100 total visitors = 79%)

You can view the bounce rate for your site overall, or for individual pages, or from different traffic sources. Bounce rate is the most common metric site owners use to gauge user engagement. The lower your bounce rate the more engaged users are with your site.

Pages / Session

The average pages visited per session is another metric that measures user engagement. If 100 users visit a total of 250 pages, you will have a Pages / Session of 2.5.  This metric can also be found in the Audience Overview menu.

Analytics Pages/Session

Pages per Session

Remember when viewing this metric that if you do not have a lot of traffic that 1 visitor who visits many pages can inflate your overall average. This is why it is important to filter out the owners and managers of websites from your traffic. See the article on Analytics filters to learn how to do this.

Avg. Session Duration

Average Visit Duration

Avg. Session Duration

This last metric can also be inflated by 1 visitor to your site if you do not receive a lot of traffic. This is the average time a user spends on your site from the time he enters until the time he exits your site. You want to be careful when using this metric. It can be very misleading at times. Bounces on your site are all calculated as a 0:00duration. This means that a user, who visits your site, enters on the home page, spends 60 minutes on your home page and then exits without visiting another page, may show a duration of 0:00.

When I worked on the AdWords Support Team at Google I brought the question of duration on Bounces up to Google and their response was that duration is measured by the time between visits of pages so that if there is only one page visited there is no duration for that visit. It is a sensible answer, but in my opinion, it is a flaw in their Analytics tracking. Regardless, it is something you need to be aware of when viewing this metric to help measure your user engagement.

So there you have it, 3 metrics in Google Analytics you can use to measure user engagement. None of the 3 tells the whole story but if you look at all 3 together they will give you a pretty accurate picture of how engaged visitors to your site are. Event tracking and goals are 2 other features that should be used when measuring the success of your site. One more thought to keep in mind when using these Google Analytics metrics. If users are coming to your site to find a specific product or specific information, and they find it on the very first page they enter on, all the above metric might look bad but could actually be an indication of a very successful website structure.