Due to the Chinese National Day holiday I am little late on this one, but Avinash Kaushik just earned another feather in his guru cap with his post on engagement as a web analytics metric. His main points are:
- Engagement is not a metric that anyone understands and even when used it rarely drives the action / improvement on the website.
Because it is not really a metric, it is an excuse. An excuse for an unwillingness to sit down and identify why a site exists. An excuse for a unwillingness to identify real metrics that measure if your web presence is productive.
It is nearly impossible to define engagement in a standard way that can be applied across the board. Definitions that exist are either too broad (to cover every nuance) or too narrow (hence very unique)
- At the heart of it engagement tries to measure something deeply qualitative.
Yet most efforts to measure it in our world tend to be hard core quantitative
Its great to see someone spelling it out so clearly, so please go ahead and read the whole post.
My own experience trying to implement Avinash suggestions for our own clients suggests a deeper meaning between the lines of this post. An answer to the question "Why do Web Analytics practitioners still use Engagement as a metric, when most of us should share Avinash's skepticism?"
Its because in most companies Web Analytics is in a silo, where it is not involved in strategic planning and decision making. Following Avinash's methodology we end up asking strategic questions over an over again, but in many companies web analysts are not expected and / or not allowed to ask questions like:
- What is the objective of your site?
- What is the objective of this campaign?
- Can that objective be measured by analyzing clickstream data?
- What action do you want the user to take on the landing page?
These questions are owned by other silos, so we end up defining metrics that are under our control. We look at the data from our web analytics tools and hope to gain additional insights from "Engagement" however we define it. This may not solve the problem, but it is within our circle of influence.
So Avinash, what I hear your really saying is this: "Web Analysts of the world unite, and increase your circle of influence. Make Web Analytics a strategic function". Oh, and one more thing: Don’t call your approach Web Analytics 2.0. Call it by its real name. Don’t hide behind a pretty moniker. Call it Strategic Web Analytics ;)