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April 21, 2016

Why Google AdSense Publishers Should Really Care about Engagement Metrics

Image courtesy of ( David Castillo Dominici) /

Not that kind of engagement. We could talk about love and lust and happy couplings, but it would lead to frustrations about why the Bachelor didn’t pick Jojo. Coming from ad optimization geeks, what we are talking about are your website or blog engagement metrics.

By the way, as of now, there hasn’t been a reality TV show created for those… Although, by today’s TV standards, we can’t really bet it against it happening.

So the short answer is that, yes, you must be concerned with engagement metrics.

But you have to use them strategically.

As with any toolbox, you don’t use everything all at once without knowing what you’re doing. You select a specific set of tools that is appropriate for the task. Your available engagement metrics are your toolbox.

Some of them are going to be used more often than others. If you end up using them in the wrong way, you may get undesirable results. You certainly won’t get optimal results.

OK, so we joked about The Bachelor at first. But maybe we should make sure we’re on the same page about what visitor engagement means. Let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing here.

What is visitor engagement again?

Visitor engagement is when your users do something on your site. Profound insight, right? We’ll check the mailbox for our honorary pHDs in philosophy.

Step 1 for visitor engagement is obviously arriving at your site somehow. But engagement officially starts to happen when the next thing they do is something other than just bouncing – by cruelly clicking the Back button in their Web browser.

So engagement is having the user interact with your website. As they start interacting more, taking increasingly more actions, the process of onboarding is underway. As a content publisher you may see few actions take place as most of your visitors are passive readers.

However, you can decide that a certain minimum time on page counts as content engagement, even without any other action performed.

That means you’ve captured their attention. And you’ve given them an indication that there is something for them to stick around for. That is an engaged user. And you want to expand the time frame that you’ll able to keep them around and active.

Visitor engagement can be an action or a designated minimum for time on page.

What visitor engagement metrics should I look at?

Since engagement and user experience are really hot right now, publishers are being told they’re measuring engagement all wrong and being bombarded with various new metrics for measuring engagement that are so much more important than what you’ve currently been measuring.

As an online publisher most of these metrics are either not relevant or they’re just derivatives of the old tried and true metrics like pages per session and bounce rates.

We believe in running a lean analytics operation so we’re not going to give you 28 engagement metrics to track. Instead we’re going to quickly discuss what they all mean.

The bounce metrics – Time to render, time to display, page speed, load time, etc. You’ll have many gurus tell you to look at all these metrics to optimize your website. These metrics all mean one thing: if they’re low your users have found something they like, initially. If they’re high, your users have not found anything they like or are interested in within their attention span. You can focus simply on bounce rate and optimize for that.

• The page metrics – Pages per session, unique pages per session, pages per visitor, etc. As an online publisher, your pages per session is a critical metric to examine because it can testify to the potential of your ad revenue. Why? Because the higher these metrics, the more ads your visitors may see, and the more likely they are to find one that catches their eye and clickthrough.

• The time metrics – Time per session, time on page, time on site. In our opinion, average time on page should be good enough to cover your basic needs and understand if your content is engaging overall.

• The conversion metrics – Form signups, clickthroughs, etc. In this case, measure all of them. Your conversion metrics are your money making actions. These are the actions that transform your random visitors into something more, and that can mean serious revenue for you. Measure all of these, you can’t afford not to.

We can keep going and drop a whole list of metric types on you but remember that we’re looking at this from the perspective of an AdSense publisher. And more focused, we’re looking on how engagement metrics can directly contribute to your AdSense earnings.

In that case, the preferred metric we want you to start thinking about is revenue per session (RPS).

With RPS, we’re thinking about the relationship between a user’s entire experience (aka session) on your website, and the revenue earned. Then we can test different factors that lead to optimizing the revenue you are generating from your users.

Let’s use a basic formula to quantify it: Revenue Per Session = RPM x Pages Per Session

So we use the standard revenue per thousand visitors and multiple it by the average number of pages visited by your users.

The math is simple. If you get better at:

(a) monetizing how much ad revenue you make for every thousand views, and;

(b) getting users to spend more time and clicks on your site; then the result is going to be an increase in your overall revenue. Are you starting to see the patterns in the chaos?

Why should you be paying attention to this?

When we give you a simple looking formula with just a couple of variables, we might have a tendency to mistake this stuff as being easy.

Those variables give us more of an indication of the final objective… compared with the steps to actually achieve it.

As you’ll read in this case study (when you check it out), our bandit testing method will do all the complex figuring-things-out for you.

After all, you just need to know that the end result is statistically proven to result in increases in revenue.

Resist the Urge to Focus on One Factor

Many AdSense publishers start optimizing factors individually. If their CTR is too low, they want to make it higher. If their revenue is too low, they try to solve it by jamming more ads on the page.

But that strategy fails to take advantage of the RPS concept.

If you jam the site up with ads, you may actually increase the CTR for a particular page. The problem is you may also increase the bounce rate, or decrease the amount of pages a user visits per session.

The ideal scenario for AdSense publishers does not consist of gaining in one performance indicator only to lose in another. You may end up with a net gain but we want you to end up with a maximized net gain.

You don’t want to trick yourself into thinking the CTR is the only factor. At least we don’t think you want to do so. The wrong way to achieve it could mean your overall revenue per session actually decreases.

The word optimization is key. You’re selecting a combination of factors that leads to the highest revenue per session. It’s that combination that is so hard to discover.


Content creator, expert on everything you can Google.