Your Content Marketing Metrics Are Bad (Here's How To Fix It)

Your Content Marketing Metrics Are Bad (Here’s How To Fix It)

by Zack Henson

4 minute read

As most marketers know, “vanity” metrics like pageviews and uniques visitors are being cast aside in the hunt for better quality content marketing metrics. In the second wave of Internet Measuredom, bounce rate and average time on page have taken hold as the newest and hottest performance indicators. But the truth is that even these metrics are usually broken. It’s time for the third wave: measuring engagement.

On its face, average time on page is an intuitive way to measure quality. The amount of time that a visitor spends viewing content is an indispensable metric for determining the value of that content, since engagement can have an astronomical effect on positive brand response.

But the problem with average time on page, as calculated by most analytics scripts and the almighty Google Analytics, is that the clock keeps running even if your visitor opens another tab.

Bounce rates, which calculate the percentage of users that leave a site after visiting only one page, are similarly flawed. In theory, a bounce rate can measure the value of your content by by telling you whether or not users wanted to stay on your site after visiting a given page. In reality, it’s an antiquated metric that means little in an online ecosystem where clicking on a link, reading an article, and closing the browser tab when finished is the new norm for consuming information.

Imagine two scenarios viewed just through the lens of your bounce rate. In one, a visitor comes to your page and reads an entire article top to bottom before closing it. Another visitor comes to your page, is immediately bored, and clicks on a more appealing bit of content listed on your side bar. If you looked just at your bounce rates, you might think the content you provided in the second scenario is better.

While bounce rates are useful for online retailers – and clickbait factories peddling low-value ad space to male enhancement products – they can’t tell serious marketers whether and when users are actually engaging with their content.

Just as time on page should only be measured when a visitor is actually looking at your page, bounce rates shouldn’t discount visitors who stuck around to read or watch everything you had to say. Marketers need a more robust metric that can truly measure performance, quality and impact.

They need to be able to measure content engagement.

So let’s call the amount of time a visitor spends on a page actually engaging with content “engaged time,” and let’s measure it.

We know that “engagement” is a nebulous buzzword that has weaseled its way into many a content marketing discussion through the sheer power of ambiguity, but at NewsCred, we try to define engagement as strictly as possible, separating it from business metrics and focusing on how visitors are consuming your content on the page as it exists.

content marketing metrics

So How Does NewsCred’s Engagement Rate Metric Work?

Our engagement rate algorithm checks for visitor actions every five seconds to see if they’re still interacting with your content. A user is considered to be interacting if they are moving their mouse, scrolling on the page, or using their keyboard while a browser tab is open with your content. If the tab is open and idle for some period of time without activity, but then an action is detected, the algorithm assumes the user was reading during the intervening time period and thus the entire period is considered to be active time. However, if the browser window or tab is not visible to the user, or the computer goes idle, then that time is not counted as engaged time because the visitor is clearly not interacting with the content.

Engagement time is calculated as the amount of time visitors were active while the page was in view, and engagement rate is calculated as the percentage of visitors who were engaged with content for more than some pre-established time period benchmark. If you don’t use our software, Moz has a great post about how to obtain a similar metric.

Using this more comprehensive and more realistic content marketing metric, marketers tracking data can get a clearer picture of how many users are actually engaging with their content. It is is by no means perfect, but it’s definitely more in line with how content is marketed, found, and consumed in 2015.

Zack Henson is a Software Engineer at NewsCred. This article was originally published on “Credible Code” NewsCred’s software tech blog.