Three questions to ask to understand engagement better

We’ve long established the engagement means different things to different people in different sectors. Broadly though it deals with either the relationship between reader and content in the stages of pre-production or with what happens once that content is published.

Here at Content Insights, we’re particularly interested in the post-publication definition. Even then, and even now there’s still some confusion and a lot of it manifests in metrics which don’t serve the content as well as it might.

Nels Gilbertson-Urtel from Brandpoint says this: ‘content is an action a user takes on a given piece of content or web page’.

He’s right…. to a point.

From a marketing point of view, conversions are the very pinnacle of engagement. Ultimately, that’s the end goal, right? The problem is that in focusing on rates of conversions – on CTA ratios and rates, as well as form completion – there’s a danger that you’re bypassing some pretty illustrative data that would really, really help in the long term.

Similarly, those who define engagement by the quality and volume of comments, on social actions and interactions are also dipping out.

You see, all these things measure the effects of content. They fail to answer a more fundamental question: are those readers reading it?

Why does this distinction matter? Well, it’s a good question and one that the content marketing world serves well to illustrate. Conversions may be the endgame, but to truly understand the motivation behind those completed forms or calls to actions, you need to go back to the content itself.

All that other stuff are  really the symptoms of engagement, they aren’t the primary indicator of it. More importantly, they don’t give us any insights we might be able to learn from and maybe replicate later.

With time and budgets frequently stretched, working towards efficient output is critical. Knowing as much as possible about reader consumption patterns of content is a no-brainer.

Well, it’s a no-brainer if the interface which allows you those kind of insights doesn’t require days and days of your time invested in it. You’ve got other things to do, right?

Anyway, what do we say about engagement? Well, we define it like this for starters:

So for starters, here are three simple things to ask of your content.

  1. How much of it are people actually reading?

It’s not sufficient to rely on clicks, bounce rates or even session time. Read depth is a much simpler thing to look at and a much more effective indicator of how good people think your content actually is. Want to know more? Have a read here.

  1. Where are the high-performing engagement articles sitting? Which sections and topics are represented? Which aren’t?

Not every section is going to be best suited for high engagement levels, but searching through topics and sections is an illuminating way to find out which things tend to resonate with your readers – and which authors inspire that kind of devotion. For newsrooms this ensures balance and consistency. For marketers this helps you understand the effectiveness of your campaigns: what’s hitting the mark consistently? What has a more patchy success rate?

  1.  What percentage of your articles score highly in engagement and, how does this compare to how they score for exposure or loyalty?

Why should this comparison matter? Well, it’s not just idle curiosity. If you’re writing for purpose, you need to be aware of your end goals. If your content is blowing up on exposure but barely making waves in engagement, but you’re trying to cultivate deeper reading, then there’s a problem. Comparisons are good.

Asking multiple questions of your content is likely to leave you better informed and better prepared. These three are by no means exhaustive, but they’re a good start. You shouldn’t need an advanced degree in data science to get these insights. That’s what the right tool is for. Have you found yours yet?


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