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The five ways to measure online customer engagement

15th Jan 2010
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With the introduction of more sophisticated conversion goals for measuring engagement, Google Analytics can be readily configured to report engagement. Dave Chaffey explores what you should consider for practical measurement of online customer engagement in comparison with other brands.

Finding the best ways to engage customers online has, for me, been one of the main challenges of the last 10 years. With each year, the challenge seems to have increased with the growth in popularity of blogs, user generated content and social media. Look at the analytics for most websites and you will see that often, the majority of visitors don’t linger for more than 10 seconds or multiple page views.


Web users no longer want to simply browse static site content or enewsletters. Instead, they want to participate and interact. This trend was highlighted with the recent publication of the 4th Annual Customer Engagement Survey sponsored by cScape. As I highlight in my review of this engagement research it is clear that brands benefit most when they can encourage active participation through recommendations and rating, community involvement and feedback.


One of the difficulties with managing engagement is that the concept can seem nebulous. So, to succeed, in my view, you have to be specific as to precisely what engagement means for your audience throughout the customer lifecycle. Then you can review current levels of engagement; compare them to competitors; set goals to improve engagement and put in place strategies such as developing engagement devices and campaigns to achieve this engagement.


There has been much discussion of the best way to measure online audience engagement. But often, these suggestions don’t relate well to what you can practically measure on your website through web analytics systems such as Google Analytics. With the introduction in October of more sophisticated conversion goals for measuring engagement, Google analytics can be readily configured to report engagement.


So, what should you consider for practical measurement of online customer engagement in comparison with other brands. Here is my suggestion of five categories of measures:

  1. Reach. You can compare aggregate audience interactions on your own site against competitors using Google Trends or the Google Ad Planner. You can also review how many you reach offsite through blogs or social presence such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter communities.
  2. Engagement with site. This is where the new Google Analytics capabilities help. You can set hurdle rates for % of visits > 10 seconds, 5 pages or simply use the bounce rate as a basic measure.
  3. Activate to business goals. Activation is where you generate real business value such as a lead or a sale. Ultralase is a good example a site designed to maximise engagement to lead. All of the options on the left-hand side of the page such as call-me-backs and use of the forum can be setup as conversion goals in Google Analytics.

    Through setting up filters for social network presences you can see how customers originating from SNs generate sales and how engaged these audiences are.

  4. Participating to add value for your brand. Conversion goals can also be set up to show how many visitors bookmark, rate or share content.
  5. Loyalty. As my colleague Richard Sedley has emphasised, true engagement is about long-term loyalty, not a brief encounter with a web site on a first visit. Sedley defines engagement as “Repeated interactions that strengthen the emotional, psychological or physical investment a customer has in a brand”. 

    These repeated interactions are more difficult to measure in Google Analytics with other web analytics solutions such as Coremetrics offering more tools for analysis of Recency-Frequency and Monetary value through time for different customer segments.


Surveys to assess the emotional and psychological engagement with a brand can also be important here – you should review the growing number of software tools for gaining feedback online


You should also use your email marketing systems to assess long-term engagement with the brand. If you look at the percentage of list which has engaged with a newsletter over a period of six months the 'emotionally unsubcribed' who haven’t opened or clicked on the email within a six month period are scarily, often in the majority.


Once you have agreed the measures most relevant for you to assess engagement through the lifecycle and configured the analytics system and reporting to show you this, the most difficult part is often behind you. Then, your success depends on the creative marketing to develop engagement devices and campaigns to highlight what you can offer today’s audience.




Digital marketing specialist Dave Chaffey of "Smart Insights" has helped companies develop digital strategies since 1997. He is author of several bestselling books on digital marketing which have been translated into more than 10 languages.

Replies (4)

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By bo.anargas
07th Sep 2010 08:35

Does Google Analytics have a visitor counter I can use on my website?

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By lauren_dill
16th Sep 2010 21:47

Companies lose business for two reasons, in my opinion.  Reason 1: they do not listen.  This could mean their customers or their employees.  Reason 2: they refuse to change.  So many businesses keep asking the question 'WHY do we need Social Media' when they should be asking 'HOW CAN WE UTLIZE Social Media?'. 

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By Anonymous
13th Oct 2010 15:30


I have to fully agree on all the points that have been raised, and would like to take the time to thank you for sharing this information.

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By Russell101
29th Nov 2010 10:42


I’m very grateful for your article. 

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