3 Attention Metrics That Put Online Engagement In The Spotlight

How should you measure attention? Columnist Brian Rigney offers three reliable ways for marketers to measure how people interact with digital experiences.

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We talk a lot about user “experience” in marketing, but what does it really mean? And how do you measure it?

In an earlier piece titled “CMOs: Are You Paying Attention to Attention?,” I argued that marketers should use attention metrics to hold themselves accountable. This focus will help ensure they are delivering the types of experiences that capture people’s interest.

These metrics look beyond just the quantity of visits or clicks to the quality of those engagements and the depth to which content is consumed.

For brands and retailers, there are only tiny windows of opportunity to grab attention, and just as in advertising, well-crafted creative is the way to hold it long enough to take consumers through to the transaction.

Attention metrics help gauge the quality of this creative — websites, lookbooks, landing pages, product campaigns, etc. — by measuring the ways which people interact with it.

According to Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile, 55 percent of visitors give websites fewer than 15 seconds of attention, Given that, it’s clear that owning attention is one of the most critical factors to achieving a high marketing ROI.

But how should marketers measure attention?

There is no perfect answer to this question, and it does depend on taking a hard look at your goals. Twitter co-founder Ev Williams summed up this dilemma perfectly on Medium when he observed:

[blockquote][W]e literally say one company or service is “bigger” based on a single number — specifically, number of people who have “used” it in the last 30 days. Even without getting into how “use” is defined, this is dumb.[/blockquote]

There are, however, three solid ways to measure attention for digital experiences that most marketers should embrace:

1. Time Spent

How long does a consumer spend with your digital experience?  This metric should quantify not just if consumers are visiting but how long they are staying.

Attention during the first 10 seconds is critical; how does the number of users drop away after 20 seconds, 30 seconds and the next 30 seconds?

Standard analytics packages will tell you this. They won’t, however, tell you how to improve performance. That is where marketers truly earn their keep.

2. Actions

How are consumers engaging with your experiences? Are they staying in just one spot, or are they moving around your site?

This requires measuring what Upworthy refers to as “signs of life” — the clicks, scrolls, mouse movements and so on that people perform on or around an experience in a specified period.

Marketers need to determine which signs of life matter to your experience and then implement the tools and tracking mechanisms necessary to measure those signals.

Closely related to signs of life is the behavior that consumers display right in the moment that they land at your website — the bounce rate. A bounce occurs when a website visitor leaves a site without visiting any other pages.

Bounce rates are a great metric for measuring attention and can be used to help determine the effectiveness of an entry page at generating the interest of visitors.

3. Reactions

What did consumers think about the experience? Did it reflect positively or negatively on your brand? Are they brand advocates or new public critics?

Just one negative review from a key influencer can inflict serious damage on a brand’s revenues. Here, marketers need to use social listening tools to determine if their efforts are generating positive or negative attention for their brand.

Taken together, these three metrics provide a straightforward way to measure attention and the critical focus points for improvement. The longer consumers spend on your site, being softened, wowed and rewarded by great creative, the more likely they are to fill their cart and head to the checkout.

Having the right quality of insights along every step of this path to purchase enables marketers to rapidly fill any gaps. And it works.

US-based handbag and accessories retailer Brahmin (Disclosure: client) has seen the rapid creation and publishing of digital content translate into improved consumer attention. The company increased its time spent and lowered bounce rates and cart abandonment numbers.


Previously, Brahmin relied on a third party that used a template-based approach for its website. With long lead times from ideation to publishing (typically six weeks), this limited the creative freedom of the Brahmin team — and ultimately, the customer experience.

During the 2014 holiday season, Brahmin updated its site two to three times a month with rich, engaging experiences. This led to a 16-percent increase in customer sessions overall, a 50-percent increase in page views during the critical first 10 seconds, and a 20:1 ROI driven by an 111-percent increase in the conversion rate.

If marketers want to create great customer experiences, they need to make sure they measure metrics that truly analyze quality, not quantity. Impressions and page views are simply not enough. Even gathering and analyzing the attention metrics we have recommended above is not enough.

Marketers must be able to take action on all these insights, making changes rapidly to win precious attention in the moments that matter.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Brian Rigney
As Zmags’ CEO, Brian Rigney has over twenty years’ experience leading high performing, entrepreneurial teams in launching new businesses and bringing innovative new products to market. Prior to Zmags, Brian was VP sales & biz dev for SaaS-based digital gift card company CashStar, where he led the effort to secure top tier clients and channel partners including Home Depot, GAP, Williams Sonoma, CVS/pharmacy, Starbucks, Best Buy, TJX Companies, Groupon, Dell, The Container Store, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One and more than 250 other leading brands.

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