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Visitor click rates don’t tell the whole story.solarseven/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Marketers love counting clicks to measure user engagement, and understandably so. It's a metric that, in theory, tells us whether target audiences are reading our emails, interested in our headlines, and open to engaging with our sales teams. Clicks reaffirm our confidence in our marketing strategies.

The problem with clicks, however, is that they often send us the wrong signals. For one, people click on things accidentally all the time. And clicks are superficial. As much as we'd like to equate clicks with engagement, the reality is that we don't know what users are actually thinking.

If we want to quantify visitor engagement, we need to look beyond clicks. Here are five metrics that every marketer should measure instead.

Return Visits

No matter your business model, return visits are important. When people come back to your website or app, it's a sign that they're eager to learn more about your company, make a repeat purchase, or share some of your content. You'll want to calculate — and optimize — this metric at the user level. Experiment with personalized, targeted offers to see what brings people back to your site.

The ideal 'return visit' rate will depend on your specific business model and marketing goals. An ideal visitor engagement threshold will correspond with your revenue goals.

Interaction Depth

While first clicks may not tell you much, second and third clicks provide a wealth of information. When people click on multiple articles or pages within your site, it's a sign that they're interested in learning more.

In addition to looking at the depth of pages viewed, pay attention to what types of content that you're using. If you notice someone lingering on your case study pages for instance, you may want to share a promotion or personalized call-to-action.


In addition to visiting your site often, engaged visitors need to come to your site at the right time. If you're running an e-commerce store, for instance, you'll want prospects and customers to browse your website around major holidays. If you're running a B2B operation, you'll want to make sure that you're generating visibility during key times in the year and quarter.

Timing is a variable that you'll want to measure among both repeat customers and prospects, at the user level. If you're running a SaaS company, for instance, you'll want to check whether people have used your product recently. Engagement depends on a number of variables, and timing is one of the most important. With this information, you'll be better positioned to launch more tailored marketing campaigns.

Interaction Per Unique View

Unlike the metrics referenced above, this one should be calculated at the page level. This perspective will help you identify your most engaging pieces of content, which will give you knowledge that can help guide future marketing campaigns. In a nutshell, here's how you calculate interaction per unique view:

  • Take the sum of your likes, comments and shares per page
  • Divide that sum by the number of unique visits

This metric will give you a straightforward view of the concurrent engagement levels that are happening with your content. No one dimension (i.e. likes, comments or shares) are enough to quantify engagement at a macro level. At any given time, there are a variety of user personas on your site. Some are lurkers who don't like to share or comment but will readily 'like' your content. Others will ready to participate.

Some engagement items will be worth more to your marketing team than others. In that case, you can assign weightings to each variable in your numerator. For instance, you can weigh shares as twice as valuable as comments.


Marketers can measure engagement levels by monitoring values that are dissociated from specific actions. These metrics can take the form of volumes, scores or amounts. For a SaaS business, for instance, you may want to examine how many documents are being used or how many collaborators a person has.

Knowing these numbers and their rates of change at the user level can help you benchmark how engaged a customer actually is.

Time Spent on Site

Time spent is one of the most crucial indicators of customer base interest. The more time a person spends looking at a product, the more interested they tend to be in that product, brand or category of product. People don't waste their own time. Likewise, the more time a person spends on a blog or article, the more interested they are in that subject, keywords and opportunities, services and products related to that content. Not to mention that 'time spent' is a clear and straightforward way to segment your most engaged visitors, leads, prospects and customers.

Basic measures of time spent are not sufficient. After all, you don't want to mistake a person's leaving the screen to get a glass of water as interest in your article or product. Make sure to measure time in a sophisticated way that only counts truly engaged interaction time.

Take these metrics and make them your own — or choose a different set altogether. Your analysis should capture the intersection between your customers' values and your business's bottom line. Challenge your analysis, look for gaps and most importantly, venture beyond clicks. A nuanced and thoughtful view will help you see what's lurking beneath the surface of your brand.

A sophisticated personalization platform can double as your listening device. Track visitor behavior, conversion-oriented actions, and time spent on site. With this information, you can more effectively present relevant content, products and offers to delight and engage your visitors.

A version of this post originally appeared on the Evergage Blog.

Ritika Puri is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Storyhackers, a company that helps business create impactful, inspiring and data-driven content programs. She enjoys writing about data, teaching others things that she's learning and helping other entrepreneurs succeed.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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