How to Measure User Engagement & Why It Matters

No matter how beautiful it is or how much money it costs you, your website doesn’t serve you unless users show up, look around, and take action.

In the web development world, we call this user engagement. You might think that user engagement metrics matter more with platforms like social media, where attention itself seems to be for sale. But if you’re not measuring engagement on your website, you’re missing out on some valuable information, including where and how users spend time on your site, which pages receive the most views, and how many people return to your website.

In short, not measuring engagement means you have no way to know if your content matchers users’ expectations. And those mismatches can really hurt your bottom line, manifesting as missed conversions and upside-down marketing budgets. E-commerce businesses calculate engagement with funnels and sales, but organizations whose websites nurture followings or build movements need additional ways to decipher visitors’ site satisfaction. As web developers, here are three key metrics we recommend using to test engagement. 

3 Ways to Measure Site Engagement 

What’s your bounce rate? 

Your bounce rate measures how many people are landing on your site and immediately leaving. Having a high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing. It simply means users visited your site and left quickly. Sometimes this happens when they find exactly what they’re looking for. Industry data shows that the majority of bounce rates fall in a wide range, from 26-70%. A bounce rate over 70% is considered high. Knowing your bounce rate is a baseline for first impressions on your site and a useful tool for measuring the effectiveness of changes to your pages.

Takeaway: Understand how your bounce rate fits into your overall goals. If you’re paying for traffic and your bounce rate is high, this stat matters greatly as it could indicate that visitors aren’t getting what they expected based on the ad or content that drew them there. The same goes for any page where sales or conversions take place, like homepages, landing pages, or ecommerce product pages.  

How many pages per session do visitors view? 

Pages per session refers  to how many pages someone visits once they’re on your site. In a recent survey, researchers found that the average page views per session is 2.8, with 4.4 putting you in the top 20% on the web and 5.7 making you best in class. 

Common sense might tell you to simply add more pages to your site—but that’s not how it works. Focusing on the user’s experience and the psychology behind how people read on the web is more important to increase page views. Unlike cover to cover book readers, website visitors have short attention spans and need pages built with their experience in mind. 

Takeaway: Website visitors want to be led through a story with clear headings, relevant imagery, and key calls to action. Capitalize on online reader habits by setting up pages that lead to other pages, rather than piling all the information onto one page.

How often do visitors return to your site?

Companies often look at overall traffic as a key metric for measuring the effectiveness of marketing activity, however, we would recommend looking beyond just that to also look at sessions per user.  We believe that this metric is just as important as looking at your overall traffic. 

Sessions per user metrics go beyond search engine rankings to reveal what web developers often refer to as the ‘stickiness’ of your site. For instance, if users encounter a helpful article on your website, they make a positive connection with your brand. This association can create a halo effect, where return users navigate directly back to your site for reliable information or products. It may also influence user behavior by providing your brand with valuable name recognition, when users prefer your content from a long list of search results. In both cases, you’ve got real data that can either confirm your marketing targets or help you discover new ones. Web analysts calculate that the average sessions per user is between 1.2 and 1.6. 

Takeaway: Most sites have more new visitors than returning visitors. But you want to cultivate more sessions per user because these visitors tend to show better engagement with higher conversions and sales. 

Increase User Engagement with Better Storytelling 

Whether your organization sells products or fosters dreams, understanding how to measure user engagement gives you powerful insight that lets you tweak, pivot, or even rebuild your pages. Measuring engagement metrics is one thing, but taking steps to achieve that outcome is its own endeavor. 

In our next article, we’ll walk you through how to use a narrative approach to web design so that visitors do more than show up. Watch your engagement metrics soar when you invite them into a story and build each page with purpose.