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Using Google Analytics to Track User Engagement

April 21, 2016

Tracking how your website’s visitors use your site is crucial to understanding what works on your site to convert users, and what doesn’t. But the tools you use to track such user engagement is just as important as the act itself. And Google Analytics fits the bill.

Google Analytics is the perfect tool to use to understand how engaged your website’s users are. The data generated can show you if there are any issues, and what they are so you can make the necessary adjustments to enhance user engagement. In order to make the most of this platform, you’ll need to understand the engagement metrics behind this tool.

Bounce Rate

Your site’s bounce rate represents the percentage of users that leave – or “bounce back” – from the first page they visit without going any further. There could be a myriad of reasons why people back out after only landing on one page.

Whatever the reason is, a high bounce rate is a sign that there’s something wrong with your site. Your search engine rankings depend on something called “dwell time,” which is essentially your site’s bounce rate and ‘time on site’. A high bounce rate and low time on your website lowers your SERP. If you find that your bounce rate is high, it’s time to tweak your site.

To track your bounce rate using Google Analytics, go to Google Analytics –> Audience –> Overview. To see what the bounce rate is per traffic channel, go to Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels. You can then do something identify why your bounce rate is so high.

You can also find out what your bounce rate is by the landing page, so you can see which pages are causing the high bounce rate. To do this, go to Behaviour – > Behaviour Flow -> Site Content -> Landing pages.

Bounce rate overview

Image Source – Google Analytics

Time on Site

Fifty-five percent of people only spend a maximum of 15 seconds on your site, which means they’re not spending enough time on your site for you to make a sale. Google Analytics uses an engagement metric to measure this.

To track the amount of time people spend on your site with Google Analytics, go to Audience -> Overview. To track the time spent on your site by channel, go to Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels.

You can even check the time people spend on your site for every traffic source, which can be done by going to Acquisition -> All traffic -> Source/medium.

Time on Site overview

Image Source – Google Analytics

Average Pages Per Visit

The average pages per visit is a critical engagement metric to track for media websites. More pages that are visited translate into more ad impressions, and therefore higher revenue. If people are only visiting a page or two on your site, there’s a problem. To track pages per visit, go to Audience -> Overview. You’ll see Pages/Session in the dashboard.

Look at the pages per session for every channel to see how they impact your engagement, which can be done by going to Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels. You can analyze this in more detail by looking at the pages per session for all of the sources of your traffic by going to Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Source/medium.

Pages per session Overview

Image Source – Google Analytics

Percentage of Returning Visitors

The best visitors are those who return to your site repeatedly. As such, they’re more engaged with your company and website. Therefore, this is a critical user engagement metric that you should track using Google Analytics.

To check this, go to Audience – > Behaviour -> New vs. Returning visitors. You can also use this to compare other stats between new and returning visitors, including bounce rate, pages/session, conversion rate, and revenue.

Returning visitors

Image Source – Google Analytics

Frequency of Visits

This metric represents your user engagement somewhat like new vs. returning visitors, except you’ll be given many more details. With this metric, you’ll be able to identify the number of sessions that were generated for a specific percentage of your site’s visitors.

To track the frequency of visits, go to Audience -> Behaviour -> Frequency & Recency. The count of sessions represents the frequency of visits for your users.

Frequency of visits

Image Source – Google Analytics

Days Since Last Session

This metric allows you to understand how often visitors come to your website. To track the number of days that passed since the last session, go to Audience -> Behaviour -> Frequency & Recency, then click on Days Since Last Session. You’ll then see the number of days that passed since most users’ last session.

Audience Engagement Rate

This metric allows you to not only see the average time spent on your site, but also how long a specific percentage of your users stayed on your website from 0 to 10 seconds, to up to 1800 seconds. To track audience engagement rate, go to Audience -> Behaviour -> Engagement. Looking at Session Duration will allow you to see the amount of time that most of your users stayed on your site.

Tracking your user engagement with Google Analytics will give you a better understanding of your audience, and how to interact with them in a way that will boost conversion rates.

Audience engagement session duration

Image Source – Google Analytics

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