I spend ridiculous amount of time on this site, but that girl is just too awesome to resist. Which reminded me of something that I read a while ago about a way more boring topic than fashion, which is what site metric is good for. Apparently, not for stuff that we are accustomed to. Almost all brands today ask for some kind of measurement, and since that's neatly wrapped in the idea of "engagement", the most natural thing was to regard metrics in term of quantity: more page views = bigger engagement; longer time spent on the site = bigger engagement; greater number of clicks = bigger engagement. For your site metrics, it seems, Bigger is Better.
Not necessarily. Just because you can measure something, doesn't mean that you want to measure it.
What if people spend more time because they are confused by site's navigation? What if they view more pages because they can't find what they are looking for? What if they click more because web designers made doing something on the site insanely complicated? Would ideal situation be that people immediately find what they are looking for, complete whatever task they want to complete in 3 clicks (or less), spend 10 happy seconds on the site and then get the hell out of there?
All of this may sound like any web agency's nightmare, but in fact, it probably does wonders for online brands. If you make things easy for people, they will come back and love you a little bit more. But how to prove it?
Well, how about a different set of metrics? For example, ones that actually reveal something about people's behavior and motivation (like, why do they come to the site on the first place and what can you learn from the way they behave once they are there). That is, metrics that reflect people's real-life goals, practical reasons, and specific behavioral patterns. This is then opposed to brands' goals to grab people and make them spend as much time on the site as possible, even if they are only clicking in frustration.
This is really hard.
Mostly because we need to have insights on which people's needs and behavior the particular product or service satisfies and fits in. Then create content, tools, and navigation to support that. Then decide which kind of things you want to pay attention to (newsletter sign-ups? number of comments? number of articles? number of products in the shopping cart? number of recommended products that people actually click on? number of times someone share something with someone?). When this is done, you can monitor these metrics to if you are reaching your business/brand/user goals.
This is sort of boring. But it doesn't have to be if you think of these measures as insights into people's behavior. The more info you have, it would be easier to optimize the site further. It would be also easier to offer content and tools that you know (and do not assume) that people will like. Iterations do not sound as catchy as "engagement", but they do work.
The more reasons a brand gives people to visit a site, the more they will come back. The more they will talk about your brand, the more they would like it, and more often they will recommend it. "More" is new "Bigger".
(And, I have to add that this is yet another case to let go of metaphors like engagement for a bit, and do something real for a change. Next time, instead of saying "engagement", display a list of things to show what you really mean. The same goes for other marketing metaphors ...)