Google Analytics: Metrics to Measure Engagement

July 11th, 2014 Tech Tips No Comments

As a site owner, mind you work hard to ensure the content you publish is of high quality and that your visitors enjoy it. After putting so much effort into your content, it’s just as important to put an equal amount of effort into assessing if you’re visitors are engaged with that content.

Having the insight on what content brings your site more engagement can help inform future content decisions and help you determine what your visitors find the most interesting.

If you have Google Analytics tracking in place on your site, there are some key metrics that you can use to determine visitor engagement. There are also other metrics that may seem helpful but can be misleading. Additionally, assessing visitor engagement is a holistic evaluation – meaning it’s important to take into account 2-3 metrics, not just one at a time.

Here’s a guide on what we recommend you analyze to determine your visitor engagement.


The ‘Pages/Session’ metric in Google Analytics is pretty simple – it tells you the average number of pages any given group of visitors views per visit.

This metric is a number, for example: 3.89 pages/session, meaning visitors on average viewed nearly 4 pages (URLs) per visit.

  • GA overviewTypically a higher number of pages viewed per visit indicates more highly engaged visitors because they’re navigating through more of your site within one visitor session.
  • However, it is important to keep in mind that if you’re seeing a high number of pages viewed per visit but the other engagement metrics are poor, this could indicate that visitors cannot find what they’re looking for (and need to navigate through many pages to find it) or don’t find one page interesting enough to stay very long.

So, let’s look at other important engagement metrics you’ll need to make a full assessment.


The ‘Bounce Rate’ metric in Google Analytics defines what portion of visitors reached a page on your site and then left the site without interacting with any other pages on the site, also known as a single-page sessions.

This metric is a percentage, for example: 75.89% bounce rate, meaning 76% of visitors to the site only viewed the page they landed on and then left. 

  • bounce rateTypically a higher bounce rate indicates poor engagement and a lower bounce rate indicates higher engagement.
  • Once exception to this rule is if you maintain a single-page site (or maintain very few pages on your site).
    • In the case where the majority of information visitors are looking for can be found on one, or a few pages, a high bounce rate will occur because most visitors will land on a page, find what they need and then leave.


The ‘Visitor Frequency and Recency’ metrics within analytics are outside of the ‘main metrics’ most analytics users dig into but we highly recommend taking a look at this data. This area of analytics shows you how frequently visitors return to your site and how many days it’s been since their last visit.

Both of these metrics are displayed in bar-graph form at certain intervals. 


  • vistor frequency in GAFor visitor Frequency analytics displays how many visitors came to your site once, twice, or three times and so on, all the way up to visitors that have been to your site 200 times or more!
  • The higher number of visitors you have returning to your site more frequently indicates that they’re coming back to your site for more and likely highly engaged.


  • reguency GAFor visitor Recency; analytics displays how many days it’s been since visitors have last been to your site. This metric can imply different meanings depending on the content on your site.
  • Do you publish content daily or weekly? Then a higher number of visitors that come to your site every few days would show high engagement. Or, do you do email blasts every month and only expect visitors to return every 30 days? The recency of 30 day intervals might be a more appropriate engagement goal.



session duraction in GAThis is going to be short and sweet; avoid using this metric (keep reading if you’re curious as to why or just trust me and move to the next metric).

Google Analytics uses many factors to calculate a visitor’s time on site but despite their complex formula, there are many other factors involved that can cause this metric to be inaccurate.

  • For example, of the several factors included in measuring time on site, the amount of interactions a visitor has with a page is a determining factor of their total time.
  • A visitor that could be on a page and reading content but not triggering what analytics calls ‘event hits’ (such as clicking a social plugin, completing an ecommerce transaction, etc.) could then in Google’s eyes yield a time on site of 0:00; even though they may have been reading an article for 4 minutes or more, for example.

Additionally, Google Analytics uses the time between pages to measure session duration – so:

  • If a visitor views a page, then leaves their computer for lunch and then browses to another page on your site when they return (without ever having closed out of that window), then this entire time is computed into their session duration.
  • So, sadly what may look like the visitor was on your site for an hour, was really only 3 minutes.

But have no fear! The other engagement metrics above and below not only paint the picture of your visitor’s engagement in place of this metric, but they do so more accurately.


new vs returning in GA

This metric is similar to the frequency metric in giving you an idea of how your site performs in terms of bringing visitors back for repeat visits. The only difference from Frequency is this metric does not tell you how frequently visitors return but on a much more simple level – if your visitors are returning at all.

The New vs. Returning interface in Google Analytics is in both visitor count and percentage format. It displays what percentage of visits to your site are new and what percentage of visits to your site are returning.

  • A higher percentage of return visits indicates higher engagement as they’re likely coming back for more!

With all these great metrics at your fingertips you can now fully understand if you’re visitors are engaged and if so, what content they’re engaged with and how you can build on improving their engagement.

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