Like pizza? Like content analytics data?
Our newsletter delivers both.
Join us!

Views, visitors, engaged time, shares, and search: The metrics that matter for content

In Parse.ly’s content dashboard we provide support for a bevy of metrics beyond the world’s most popular analytics metric, the venerable page view.

The metrics in the Parse.ly dashboard

These metrics update both in real-time through minute-by-minute, live-updating screens and over time, as a historical record, rolled up and summarized by day. We’ll run through each one in this post, with suggestions on when to use each.

Content metrics definitions

Page Views, Views by Device
Visitors, New and Returning Visitors
Engaged Minutes: Total Engaged Minutes, Average Engaged Minutes, Average Engaged for New and Returning Visitors
Social Media Metrics: Social Referrals, Social Interactions, Refs/Interaction
Search Metrics: Search Referrals
Posts

Page Views, Views by Device

Measured by our Javascript pixel firing on your site, this metric shows the volume of pages viewed by visitors. It’s the the analytics metric that’s been around the longest; see a short history of the page view. You’re likely already familiar with it.

Unfortunately, people have learned to distort or “game” this metric, from clickbait and galleries to bots. Savvy content providers have also realized that page views, gamed or not, don’t tell the whole story about a piece. We show page views as a measure of volume, but they’re always shown alongside the context of other metrics.

Three built-in segments also use page views: views by mobile, tablet, or desktop. If you’d like to see the percentage of your audience viewing content on mobile or desktop devices.

Mobile views in the Parse.ly dashboard.

Uses:

  • Best for campaigns, content, or roles where broad awareness and total reach is a main goal
  • Evaluating the marketing or distribution of a page or link. Large number of page views indicate that the link reached a huge amount of people and that it got them to click, the first step in getting awareness.
  • Understanding differences between your mobile and desktop audiences

Pitfalls:

  • Can be “gamed” with paid boosts, bot traffic, or on-site use cases like slideshows.
  • Doesn’t show much nuance on its own, best when used in combination with other metrics

Visitors, New and Returning Visitors

Moving beyond page views, measuring by visitors looks at unique individuals that come to your site. The easiest way to think about the difference between these two metrics: a single visitor could visit three pages, meaning you would have one visitor, but three page views. The ratio from visitors to page views indicates how many pages people typically look at.

Visitors can also be broken down into two groups: New visitors and returning visitors. We separate these groups by checking to see if the visitor has been to your site in the previous 30 days. If they have, they qualify as “returning,” if not, they are “new.”

Uses:

  • Similar to page views, total visitors still focuses on volume and reach. However, it can normalize comparing a post or section that may intentionally drive up page views, for example, comparing a slideshow post to a single page text-based post.
  • If you are trying to reach a new audience, launching a new initiative, or trying to grow your audience, measuring by New Visitors will give a good indication of your success.
  • If you want to build audience habits, increase loyalty of an audience or customers, making Returning Visitors your KPI can help ensure you’re focusing on what’s working for that segment.

Pitfalls:

  • If you are only looking at anonymous visitors (which most sites will be), we rely on first-party cookies using the user’s browser and some estimations to provide this value in real-time. Certain things affect the accuracy of this metric, including: if you do not use cookies on your site, if visitors do not accept cookies through their browser, and if someone reads your content on multiple devices or browsers.
  • You cannot export visitor information and aggregate it outside of the Parse.ly dashboard. Unlike page views and engaged minutes, visitors cannot be rolled up and summed on your own accurately — you must rely upon Parse.ly’s fast engine to do this work for you.

Engaged Minutes: Total Engaged Minutes, Average Engaged Minutes, Average Engaged for New and Returning Visitors

Alright, so, Parse.ly knows about your visitors and your views. How about the time they spend with your content?

The Engaged Minutes metrics answer this question. Unlike page views, which come from a single JavaScript event, this metric is measured via a “JavaScript Heartbeat.” How does that work?

The Parse.ly tracker determines which of your users are currently engaged with your content, and for every individual visitor who is, we produce a “heartbeat” telling Parse.ly’s systems that the user is still engaged. This not only makes it possible to track precise time spent, but properly attributes time spent for richer forms of content, such as video, long form, and interactive. (See how this differs from Google Analytics “Time on Site” metric.)

“When we chose total engaged minutes, we had made a decision as a company that we wanted a driving metric that would help emphasize the loyal audience.” Julia Turner, former EIC, Slate

Uses:

  • As a measure of “satisfaction” with content, especially for pieces that are meant to hold reader attention, like long-form writing or in-depth guides.
  • Total engaged time can be used as an equalizer across different types of content. Short pieces meant to reach more people can be compared more fairly with longer pieces meant for smaller audiences.
  • Used in context with visitor count, pages with high engaged time but low visitors can be good candidates for additional distribution and promotion
  • Can be a very effective measurement for certain content tagging strategies, including word count or content type.

Pitfalls:

  • For certain pages, a long engaged time could indicate some sort of user confusion.
  • Understanding what a “good” average engaged time for a piece can take time and effort from your team to determine and then to socialize.

Social Media Metrics: Social Referrals, Social Interactions, Refs/Interaction

For anyone focused on social media engagement, these social media metrics will be your go-to within the Parse.ly dashboard.

First, social referrals (aka “social refs”) shows how much traffic, measured in page views, came to your site from social media platforms, which we define as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networks. If at least part of your goal for social media is to direct people back to your site and content, get acquainted with this metric. You can also look at each referral on its own, for example, you can view which individual tweets drove clicks from Twitter.

Next up: social interactions. This captures all off-site engagement on the social networks for a select group of social networks that Parse.ly officially supports through API integrations with that platform. As of 2020, these are Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

You can see interactions in total, or broken down by platform (for Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest). Facebook interactions include: shares, comments, and likes. Twitter interactions include tweets, retweets, replies, and likes. Pinterest interactions include saves (pins) and comments.

Since these metrics are derived from API connections to these platforms, they are a powerful signal of organic off-site sharing of your content. Monitor posts (or sections, or tags) for their interactions throughout the day, and even if those interactions are not driving much traffic yet, they will be a strong signal that your content resonated with a socially-active audience.

Social metrics in the Parse.ly dashboard.

Finally, “refs/interaction” is a ratio metric that allows you to contextualize how these two metrics (social refs and social interactions) relate to one another. For example, in the image, we see posts by Facebook interactions. These posts had 64 interactions (that is: 64 shares, comments, or likes) which drove 226 page views back to our site (226 social refs), with a ratio of about 3.5 referral views per interaction (that is: 3.5 refs/interaction).

A post with this ratio of 3.5 refs per interaction could be viewed as being quite “Facebook optimized”, as it means that for every organic share it gets on Facebook, it gets over 3 clicks back to your site. If over one-third of those who see this post from Facebook share it, this post would likely grow in traffic on Facebook rapidly.

This information can help with choosing which content a team might promote in limited Facebook page posting slots, or whether to cross-promote the post in other platforms that behave similarly to Facebook (e.g. Twitter or Reddit).

Search Metrics: Search Referrals

Need to know which of your writers brings the most search traffic? Maybe they can teach the rest of your team a trick or two. Sorting by search referrals should be key to any content driven SEO strategy.

Uses:

  • Want to make the most of existing content? Find pages that are already driving some Google traffic and make updates to them. Make sure each of them points to updated links and has relevant call to actions or related content.
  • Already have a strong SEO program? Keeping an eye on search referrals can indicate if any posts are dropping, indicating you need to update keywords or information in that post.
  • Share stats and information with teams that run paid programs to increase ROI and click-through-rates on search ads.

Posts

Last, a quick note about a metric that rarely shows up in other platforms: Posts. Want to know which author has written the most in the past week, month, or year? Or how many articles have been read in a certain section of your site? What about the number that have a specific tag you need to evaluate?

Post Count in the Parse.ly dashboard

You can see the total post count for every “post” read in the selected timeframe and filter. We’ll also let you know how many of those posts were published during that time frame as “New Posts.”

See these metrics in action

Now that you’ve got a good grasp on the metrics we offer, check out this walkthrough of each of these metrics in action.

Interested in trying out these metrics for yourself? Sign up for a Starter plan and get a month free.