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By: Colleen Ryan, Account Manager

Let’s face it: we can no longer judge our content based on the number of page views alone. While page traffic plays a role in our understanding of which topics are getting attention, it tells us nothing about the impact of content or its quality.


This is where engaged time comes in. It tells you if people are actually engaging with your content and not simply clicking on well written headlines only to leave the page after a few seconds. Basically, a low engaged time means that visitors don’t find your content interesting or relevant and will be less likely to return for more which, in the end, doesn’t provide you any value.


Engaged Time or Time on Page?


Unlike the time spent on a page, which measures how long users keep pages open, engaged time is more revealing. It measures how much time people are actively paying attention to your content.


Measuring engaged time will help you determine whether your visitors are viewing the page in an active window, scrolling through the content, clicking on links or are simply leaving pages open in the background of a browser tab. Basically, it highlights the content your audience connects with best, which is essential in retaining your content strategy so that visitors keep coming back for more.



The Benefits of Measuring Engaged Time


One study has shown that visitors who read an article for at least three minutes returned to the website twice as often as those who read for one minute. Further studies revealed that higher engaged time resulted in better brand recall. So, if you improve engaged time metrics, you’ll have a better chance at boosting your brand recall, recognition and loyalty.



How to Measure Engaged Time


There are many ways to measure engaged time with Google Analytics. Scroll Depth, for example, allows you to set events to trigger when a user scrolls past a certain point on the page. Though you may have to install a simple plugin, any business with web pages to analyze can access this data. Adobe Analytics has a similar plugin.


Some businesses insert thumbs up or thumbs down buttons at the end of content. When they’re clicked, it triggers an event in the Google Analytics dashboard. It’s basic, but it can help you understand how users view your content. There are numerous players in the space including web analytics company Chartbeat, which focuses on engagement time down to second-by-second site visitor activity.


Marrying engagement time with heat-mapping, using a tool like  CrazyEgg (Google offers In-Page Analytics for example), provide additional insights into highly trafficked areas on your pages and dead zones.


What to do with the Data


To make the most of engaged time data, you need to remember that every piece of content is different. For news articles, 60 seconds might be a decent engagement time. For longer-form content, you might want to aim for a few minutes. With landing pages, 15 seconds might be good enough, especially if you succeed in making visitors take further action.


Also, never assume anything without diving into the data and reviewing in light of the visible content itself. In other words, you need to determine if dead zones are truly ‘dead’ or if there is simply nothing there for the user to interact with. And as with everything, test before making assumptions that are not data driven themselves.



If an article’s average engaged time seems low, ask yourself the following:


  • Is the content in step with the promise of the title?
  • Can the format of the article be improved?
  • Does the tone of the article resonate with your target audience?
  • Is your content simply not reaching the right audience?
  • Can you improve on the detail of the content?
  • Will images, videos or statistics make the article more accessible and interesting?


On the other hand, if the engaged time is high and is contributing to KPI growth, you could consider driving incremental traffic to that particular web page


Ensuring your Content Helps You Reach Your Marketing Goals


You can look at engaged time as a measure of audience appreciation for your content and it can help you identify the types of content you should be creating and promoting. According to Eloqua, only around 37 percent of marketers track how much time users spend on their content ‘beyond the click’.


Clearly, there is a huge opportunity for publishers to take charge of their content strategy and deliver content that is more in line with what their audiences want to spend time reading.