Views Suck! How to Measure Engagement the Easy Way

No, you didn’t read that wrong. Views actually do suck. It comes down to why we write. Some of us write to generate business. Some of us write to connect with others. Some of us write just because we need to.

It’s all the same thing.

Writing without reader engagement is like talking to yourself. There is no sharing of thoughts. There is no difference of opinion. There is no opportunity for persuasion in either direction.

There’s little point to it.

There is a general opinion that the more views the better. I beg to differ. In fact, I’ve noticed that the more views go up, the more the engagement rate drops.

Engagement is why we write. It’s why content marketing works. Big view counts are a measure of how widely a post was promoted. They don’t say much about how effective that content was.

My Easy Way to Measure Engagement

Some people may disagree with me. I hate seeing a ton of views if there are few actions taken by readers. To me, that means the post did not resonate with them.

This may be a “bad” word, but to me, the post failed.

Some people use spreadsheets to analyze interactions on posts. Others spring for pricey analytics packages, then spend hours pouring over reports.

I’m too lazy for spreadsheets and too cheap for analytics. Besides, I write a ton of posts. I needed a down-and-dirty way to measure their effectiveness.

It had to be quick. It had to be easy. It had to be free. Did I mention I’m cheap?

Enter Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo’s free Chrome extension is a lifesaver here. A little icon sits on your browser. Click it while a post is in your browser window and it shows you the number of “shares” that post has.

I use quotes because I’m not actually sure what the word “shares” means. I doubt it means the same thing as we think of when we say “share.” I don’t really care, though.

I think of it as the number of engagements. (down-and-dirty, remember)

Buzzsumo will show Facebook activity, LinkedIn activity, Pinterest activity, and Google+ activity. It will try to figure out Twitter activity but often fails.

That’s a Twitter thing, not a Buzzsumo thing. No matter.

It’s quick. It’s easy. But, there are caveats.

Buzzsumo attempts to measure Twitter activity through indexing. Sometimes it’s nearly instantaneous. Other times it says that Buzzsumo has not indexed the URL yet and to come back later.

As so often happens in life, later never comes.

We just deal with it by using an acceptable range in the engagements to views ratio

The other caveat is the URL you use. The trouble lies in the way websites pass information to web servers. The two most common methods are POSTs and GETs.

LinkedIn uses GETs.

Often, you see a link with a question mark in it. Everything after the question mark is a list of variables and their values. Those are GETs.

GETs can be tame with only one variable. They can also be beasts with many variable=value pairs separated with ampersands (&).

For example, take https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-i-do-gordian-knots-customer-engagement-swords-paul-croubalian?trk=pulse_spock-articles.

To a browser that means open the URL https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-i-do-gordian-knots-customer-engagement-swords-paul-croubalian. The browser passes the value “pulse_spock-articles” in the variable “trk.”

LinkedIn’s backend server knows what to do with the trk variable. Buzzsumo’s doesn’t. It just thinks that the whole thing is the URL it needs to measure. That’s not a good thing.

Use the full URL, including the GET variable(s) and often, you will get a value of zero engagement. Sometimes you will get very understated results.

Two workarounds to the URL issue

The first way is to just select everything from the question mark to the end and delete it. Don’t forget to hit <Enter> before clicking Buzzsumo to refresh the browser.

The second way is to go to the post and click the “Share to Twitter” button. The proper link is the one that is in the pop-up window. Copy and paste that one in your browser.

Back to measuring engagement

I took a look at my last few posts and my most viewed post. Then I peeked at an Influencer post.

“How to Tell if Your Customer is an Idiot” is my most viewed post. It has 3157 views. Buzzsumo tells me there are 1147 engagements.

That’s a ratio of 36.33% engagement. Another way to look at it is that it takes 2.75 views to get a single engagement.

Not bad, but not great either.

My “What I Do” post, “On Gordian Knots, Customer Engagement, and Swords”, only has 174 views. It’s more focused and much more self-promotional. It has 114 engagements. That’s one for every 1.5 views.

Topics can affect views.

A post like “You Need to Stop Millennial Marketing Right Now” generates more buzz. So far it has 471 views and 419 engagements. That’s an engagement every 1.12 views.

There is also a seeming disconnect for some posts. “How to be Big and Small at the Same Time” had only 287 views, but Buzzsumo reports 382 interactions. That’s an engagement for every 0.75 views.

That makes no sense. There are more interactions than views.

At least, it makes no sense until we realize that views reported are LinkedIn views, not total views. Does it matter? No, we just want a simple way to measure impact.

How I use the numbers

I like to see the engagements reported by Buzzsumo to be at least 75% of the views reported by LinkedIn.

“What I Do: On Gordian Knots, Customer Engagement, and Swords” is a failure according to this metric. That’s okay. It’s an expected failure. The post is promotional, not instructive. Its purpose is to replace the ugly Summary section of my LinkedIn profile and make it shareable.

Although “How to Tell if Your Customer is an Idiot” is my most popular post, it is also the worst post for engagement. True, more people engaged in total, but two-thirds of readers didn’t bother. That’s worrisome.

It too is a failure, but a mitigated one. There were a lot of comments, replies to comments, and discussions. Some discussions got a little heated.

Fun stuff!

The post, “You Need to Stop Millennial Marketing Right Now,” is more successful than “How to Tell if Your Customer is an Idiot.” It had only 9% of the views, but 33% of the engagement.

Looking at it another way, 2010 readers were not moved to action by “How to Tell if Your Customer is an Idiot.”

“You Need to Stop Millennial Marketing Right Now” resonated with “all” readers.

These days, people who come in, read something, and don’t engage are quite possibly gone for good.

When you are trying to gauge the success of your content marketing, views suck huge!

Say you publicize a post that is aimed at getting people to provide their email for future contact or subsequent downloads. Do you want tons of views or tons of emails?

The two do not follow. At least not directly.

It gets worse with PPC (Pay per Click). Here, you pay for views. That’s when you really want to get a high engagement rate. The sad truth is that most PPC initiatives have conversion rates in the low single-digits.

Look back on the difference between my two posts, “How to Tell if Your Customer is an Idiot.” and “You Need to Stop Millennial Marketing Right Now.”

In PPC terms, “How to Tell if Your Customer is an Idiot.” would have cost eleven times more than “You Need to Stop Millennial Marketing Right Now.” Even though it would have cost eleven times more, it only produced three times the response.

Casual, untargeted readers raise view counts. Viewers are not invested. They are not your targets.They do not engage.

They do not care.

You may gain name recognition. Name recognition is a two-edged sword if there is no context connected to it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, views are an important measure of how well you promote your posts. They mean jack about how well those posts connect with your targets. Views suck and engagement rocks.

Views suck and engagement rocks. That’s also where the Influencer system falls down.

I applied Buzzsumo to the first Influencer post I saw while writing this. I won’t mention the post. It had 15,622 views. Busssumo reports 1601 interactions. That’s one interaction for every 9.75 views. Ouch.

Curious, I checked a few more. My random selection was a strong post. Other Influencer posts averaged an engagement for every 18 posts.

LinkedIn is not doing Influencers any favors the way they are going about it.

Then I checked five posts from other authors on LinkedIn. This is pretty much a random selection. They are presented here in alphabetical order.

Trent’s post had the most views just edging out Phil’s by 3 views. Chaz’ post had the least views, but the best engagement rate.

Sure, we would all like to have gazillions of people read every post. We would also like to have everyone comment, like, convert, or otherwise engage.

That ain’t gonna happen.

All in all, I have a preference for high engagements rates.

If I’m paying for the freaking clicks I’d insist on it!

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About the Author: Paul Croubalian is a problem-solving artist who uses both Words and Technology as his mediums. Paul often wonders if he is a tech-savvy writer or a writing-savvy technologist. Maybe he’s both.

Paul hates to talk about himself in the third person as much as he hates the “Walter T. Freed Manual of Style.” You may know it better by its initials, “WTF!”

Help me stamp out WTF writing!

If you engage in content marketing and aren’t convinced it’s working as well as it should. Give me a shout. I’ll give you my honest, no-holds-barred opinion.

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