One of the hardest parts of search engine optimization (SEO) is remembering that there are real human readers behind all of your metrics. Too often, brands get caught up in writing for the algorithm and focus too much on Google bots and keyword optimization rather than actual user intent. However, Google and other search engines continue to adjust their algorithms to focus on the user experience, which means they rank posts based on their quality and engagement.
Are your blog articles, website pages, and other forms of content actually providing value? You can use your metrics to evaluate the quality of the content and how users engage with it. Here are eight critical indicators within Google Analytics 4 that can show you what you are doing right while providing insights on improving.
1. Engaged Sessions
The first metric to look at is the engaged sessions in GA4. This will give you an idea of the total number of users who actually click around your website and find value in what you create. An engaged session needs to meet one of these three criteria:
- It lasts more than 10 seconds.
- It results in one or more conversion events.
- There are two or more page or screen views.
For example, if a user spends more than 10 seconds reading a blog post, they are engaged. Another user can spend less than 10 seconds on your website because they click to call your showroom. They are still considered engaged because they completed a conversion event on your website.
At this point in website management, the total number of sessions on your website is a vanity metric. It is usually one of the biggest numbers reported and shows the total number of people who land on your pages. However, try to focus on the number of engaged sessions instead. This showcases the number of quality visits to your website — sessions that are more likely to turn into conversions.
2. Engagement Rate
If you want to see if a particular page or piece of content provides value to users, check its engagement rate. This is the number of engaged sessions divided by the total number of sessions for the page.
Engagement rates will vary depending on the page, industry, and even your specific brand. However, if you are looking for a benchmark, 56% is considered a good engagement rate if you are looking for an example. This means that of all the sessions your website logs, a little more than half of users stick around to learn about your business or follow through with your calls to action. B2C brands have a slightly higher engagement rate on average (58%), while automotive brands boast a nearly 62% engagement rate.
Focusing on engagement rather than the total number of sessions can give you a realistic picture of the number of leads entering your sales funnel. Just because you bring 1,000 users to your website doesn’t mean they all engaged with the content and thought it was valuable.
3. Bounce Rate
Users who are not engaged on your website will contribute to your bounce rate. This is the percentage of unaged visitors. They do not spend a lot of time on your website, do not look at multiple pages, and do not convert.
Bouncing is a normal part of any website. However, you want to keep an eye on this metric as you create content to ensure there aren’t any outliers with particularly high bounce levels. This could indicate that you are ranking for terms that aren’t relevant to the content on your site or that you are bidding on irrelevant keywords on your paid search campaigns.
For example, if you are bidding on the search term “steps to change a flat tire,” and the landing page directs users to call your service department, you might have a high bounce rate. This is because the user’s search intent was to receive detailed steps to make this minor car repair. If they wanted to call someone for help, they would have used terms like “local tire repair.”
At best, a high bounce rate can frustrate users who move on to more relevant content. At worst, failing to provide value can damage your brand. Users could actively avoid your pages in the future because you have a reputation for not helping them when needed.
4. Average Engagement Time
If you are used to looking at Time on Site in previous Google Analytics iterations, turn to the average engagement time in GA4. This highlights how long people spend on your pages on average, which can be a key indicator of how much value they provide.
A high engagement time reflects the value of your content because people spend longer reading blog posts and watching informative or useful videos. Think about the last time you clicked on a link and found the content lacking. You likely scanned the subheads as you scrolled to the bottom of the post and then bounced.
Not every page will have high engagement times, and that’s okay. Your Contact Us page will likely only have an engagement time of a few seconds because users are trying to find your phone number, email, or physical address.
Start by looking at these times at a high level and then review them through individual posts or page-level reporting. If you notice that a few pages have an exceptionally high average engagement time, try to figure out what went right. For example, does a particular blog post have an accompanying video that users watch? Does the content provide clear, step-by-step instructions to do something? By discovering what you are doing well, you can recreate that success in your future content.
5. Content Drilldown
You can use the content drill-down section to look at specific categories on pages on your website to see if they still provide value to your readers. This is particularly important if you frequently publish new blog content but forget to follow through with tracking its performance. Some articles take a few months to build traction, but once they do, they can become serious traffic drivers to your pages. Here are a few things to look for in this section:
- Top-performing pieces from the past six months. What pages are driving traffic to your website?
- Sudden spikes in traffic to a page. Another website might have linked to your post, or an influencer could have shared it with their followers.
- Patterns in high-performing content. See if there are any trends related to what the content covers and the information it provides.
- Low-performing content. Look for pages and posts that should be ranking well or driving traffic but aren’t.
The content drill-down section really highlights the nuances of SEO and digital marketing. You can track a page that you are paying to drive traffic to on social media and evaluate whether it actually has a high engagement rate. You can also find high-potential pages that could rank higher or receive more traffic if you update the content or make it more in-depth.
Not only can you see whether or not your pages provide value, but you can gain actionable insights to do more with your existing posts.
6. Returning Users
Digital marketers often fall in love with new users and constantly try to bring fresh visitors to their pages. As long as new people discover their content, there is a steady stream of leads into the sales funnel. However, you don’t need many new users on your pages. Furthermore, too many new users as a percentage of total users could highlight a problem with your pages and conversion strategy.
Track the percentage of returning users who visit your pages. See how their behavior differs from new visitors. If your website provides value, you might have a high rate of returning users who are eager to read your posts, watch your videos, and gain insights from your brand. Returning users are also more likely to convert because they trust your brand.
New users are valuable to introduce your audience to your sales funnel. However, returning users are often in the middle of the funnel or already converted and want to engage with your brand again.
7. Traffic Acquisition
Content creation and promotion are viewed as an expense for most digital marketing teams; however, successful posts should become less expensive over time as they provide value to customers who then convert.
Look at some of your most successful pieces and see where different users come from. Most brands notice an immediate spike after publishing the content from your paid search efforts and social media promotions. However, valuable content will continue to drive traffic from various sources over time.
Traffic to your pages that come from organic search (Google and Bing), referral clicks (links on other websites), and social media all highlight that your information is valuable to users. This is particularly true if people continue to share your content long after publication. These organic engagements require minimal effort on your part and basically zero spending.
The more valuable your content is, the farther you can stretch your marketing budget. Otherwise, you are simply paying for new pages and website updates that no one reads.
8. Sessions Per User
This is a new metric in GA4 that can provide insight into how useful your website really is. This metric highlights the average number of user visits to your page throughout the buyer journey. For example, a user might check your pre-owned car page every few days to learn about their options and see if you have any new models. They might not be ready to buy yet, but they enjoy engaging with your brand.
A high sessions-per-user rate proves that you are providing value to your visitors. Once you win someone over, they keep returning because they trust your brand and know they can find the information they need.
Make Strategy Decisions With Our Content Experts
Content creation can get overwhelming if you aren’t careful. It’s easy to get caught up in publishing deadlines and SEO goals without stopping to ensure you provide value to your site visitors. By providing value, you can form meaningful relationships that convert new customers and bring existing buyers back.
If you need a partner to execute your content management plans, contact our team at J&L Marketing. We are happy to help you out-smart, not out-spend your competition. Contact us today to review your content metrics and identify whether you provide users real value. If not, we can improve your strategy so you get back more for every content dollar you