Reader Engagement: 4 Tactics That Give You More

August 31, 2014

Let’s face it: measuring what your readers are doing is not an exact science . . . yet. In the world of online publishing, we are still in the early stages of understanding what works and what doesn’t. We’re in the midst of this powerful, shifting landscape where we once thought that reading and sharing was enough. But we’ve learned that time on site and page views don’t always provide enough information or the right kind of information.

We’ve learned that liking and sharing aren’t always indicators of content actually getting read. As time goes on, we realize that there is more to engagement than all of that, and we’ve got to come up with the metrics that help us measure it.

Why is measuring engagement so important?

You probably know why:

  • It tells us what content is getting the most attention.
  • It tells us where we're getting the greatest ROI.
  • It tells us what our readers want and are looking for.
  • It can give us a clearer picture of our audience and opens the door to deeper relationships.

As we mentioned earlier, time on site, page views, likes and shares get a lot of attention as measures of engagement, and to be sure, they do provide some insight into audience behavior, but there is no question that publishers are constantly looking for better measurement.

Take Upworthy’s “attention minutes” for instance. The publisher realized that measuring clicks wasn’t giving them enough information or accurate numbers, so they developed a new metric to help. But there are several other metrics that can add depth and relevancy—and if you have a SaaS CMS, it’s likely that you have the ability to employ and measure these features. 

  1. Comments: Yes, commenting can be a double-edged sword and its success really depends on your audience and the ease of use, as well as the standard you set. But, commenting can be a straightforward indicator of engagement as well as a way to build community among your readers.
  2. Polls: Want to answer a specific question and reach your readers directly? Polls are a great way to measure engagement with certain topics and also gain a better understanding of what readers glean from your content. Polls are inherently measurable, so setting up metrics shouldn’t be rocket science—it should just be fun for you and your readers.
  3. Reader Reviews:for eCommerce sites product reviews are critical, because more than 60% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. There is a clear correlation between user reviews and increased conversions.
  4. Reader Content Ratings: Think about Pandora. For every song that plays for you, you have the option of giving it a thumb’s up or thumb’s down. This helps Pandora to give you more of what you want and less of what you don’t want. It also means that you have to listen to the song to decide. It is that simple for articles, blogs, video and other content, as well. Giving a reader the option to rate the content serves a triple purpose:  it allows you to better serve them, it tells you what is actually getting read and thought about and it shows other readers what’s hot and what’s not from the perspective of their peers.

These are just four ways to get a better measure of engagement—and they have a key quality in common: they each require the reader to take a specific action, based on true interaction with the content. Keep them in mind as you continually consider how to improve your measure of engagement and remember that a thumb’s up is good, but a thumb’s down makes you better.