The engagement KPI represents how much a user is engaging with the content on a site. In many domains, it’s an extremely relevant number to look at and track over time. If a user is engaging a lot with the content, he/she is probably more likely to convert compared to an average user.

What conversion really is depends on your domain. For example, if you are running an e-commerce store a conversion could be to actually buy something, i.e. complete the checkout flow.

But the engagement KPI does not only indicate how likely it is for a user to convert, it’s also a good way of measuring the quality of your content. It’s likely to think that a product with crisp images and a great product description will engage a user more than a product with a crappy image and description. The engagement KPI also says a lot about the UI and the over-all user experience. If the user cannot find the information, then it’s of course impossible to consume it. It encourages users to spend more time on the site, look at more products and in the end being a more satisfied customer.

If you aren’t already tracking user engagement, it’s about time!

How to track and measure it

The engagement KPI has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to actually measuring it. And no wonder why, the definition of the KPI is pretty fuzzy. But it doesn’t have to be that hard! Google Analytics comes with a great set of tools to help.

The basic idea is simple. We use event tracking in Google Analytics to keep track of what the user has done on the site. We then assume that the more actions a user has completed, the higher is the level of engagement.

First off, we need to come up with actions that indicates that a user has engaged with the content. We then score each action with a number of points, where a higher number means that the action is more valuable. An example of actions and scoring for an e-commerce store could be something like this:

Action Score
Visits a product 1 point
Clicking on a product image 1 point
Have looked at all the images in the slideshow 2 points
Clicking on a link in the product description 1 point
Put the product in the shopping cart 3 points

If a user has done all of these actions, he/she definitely seems interested in buying the product. And that’s exactly what we want to measure!

To get this up and running in Google Analytics:

  • Track an event for the action
  • Set up a goal for that action
  • Set the goal value to the number of points for the action

Goal values in Google Analytics is typically measured in USD (or any other configured currency). But that doesn’t matter, you can simply think of 1 USD = 1 point.

Getting the reports

Now comes the hard part: Waiting. Goals in Google Analytics are not applied retroactively, so we have to wait for new data. While waiting, we can setup some reports to get a better understanding of how the site is being used.

Let’s first define three new segments: Low-, medium- and high-engagement users. We segment the users based on goal value, which is the total score of the user. You can think of low-, medium- and high as buckets for our users, where a user can only be placed in one bucket at a time. The only thing we need to do is to come up with limits for these buckets, this could for example be:

  • Low, 0-2 points
  • Medium, 3-4 points
  • High, 5+ points

Sidenote: Make sure to segment based on user goal value and not session goal value, otherwise the user will not keep the score between visits. User-based goal values are by default kept for 7 days. Meaning a returning visitor will add points to its previous score, which is exactly what we want.

We can now get all our usual reports segmented by engagement. How cool is that? For example, you could evaluate things like:

  • Where do high engagement users come from? Direct traffic? Google? Facebook?
  • Which part of the country attracts most high engagement users?
  • How did the last marketing campaign go? Which one generated the most medium- and high-engagement users?

And the most important of them all: We can now track how the proportions of these segments change over time. Are our users moving from low-to-medium and from medium-to-high? If that is the case, then we’re building the right things.

Summary

The engagement KPI is a great way of getting to know our users. It can help us prioritize what to build and how to build it, and since it integrates well with Google Analytics it easily can combined with A/B-testing. To get it set up doesn’t take long. As soon as the events are reported to Google Analytics, it’s just a matter of configuration.