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Stop measuring clicks! Start measuring engagement
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Stop measuring clicks! Start measuring engagement 

Since that point in time, the clickthrough has become a defining action for online advertising. However, some thought leaders are beginning to suggest that perhaps clicks are not an accurate measure for reader attention. Mike Cassidy of the Big Data application developer BloomReach shared his thoughts on how the click will decline in prominence as other forms of measurements become more relevant.

“In the pre-historic Internet days, clicks were a reasonable way to measure traffic,” Cassidy remarked. “There simply weren’t many practical alternatives… It’s also easy. Once something is established, everybody knows how to do it; everybody knows what everybody else is talking about.” In addition, keeping track of clicks has been a reputable way of measuring engagement.

How can companies move past their reliance on clicks? Cassidy believes that businesses will need to be convinced that there are better ways to track customer interaction with a brand. “I think what it will take is a demonstration of how you make more money — or how your money is better spent — when you pay attention to the engagement and experience that users are exhibiting and having on your site,” he commented. “If more than half of the shoppers who click on a product or a page on your site, spend less than 15 seconds on that page, chances are you’re not selling much to them. The challenge for retailers — and others — is to make that experience better, to offer more relevant results when users are searching, whether it’s for products, content or information. The challenge is to build a system that demonstrates that it knows your users, so they feel welcome and not frustrated when they visit your site.”

Cassidy urged a shift to something calls the “attention web.” The attention web refers to measuring how long visitors spend on a site reading and engaging with content. Cassidy acknowledged it will not be an easy transition, although he asserted that it is a necessary one. “The first step is a mind shift: Those running Web site have to buy in to the idea that the click Web is not the Web they want to live on,” he remarked. “Then they need to focus on building relevant search. Help users discover what it is they are looking for. Users use their own terms and have their own ideas. Web developers need to be able to understand what it is an individual is looking for. It’s harder than building a site that attracts clicks, but in the long run, I’d argue it’s worth it.”

What barriers exist to the attention web? Cassidy opined that cost is most likely a significant obstacle to creating an Internet where clicks carry less weight. “It is sometimes hard for folks in an organization to convince the organization’s leaders that a different way of doing things — possibly a more expensive way of doing things — is the way to, especially when for years, if not decades, performance was measured with clicks, not attention, or engagement,” he said.

Until the concept of the attention web becomes more popular, Cassidy recommended improving website content. However, that is easier said than done. “Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to getting great content – and great content is key to a successful website,” he asserted. Cassidy advised businesses to hire or contract the best content creators available, although he admitted that is the first step in the process. “Once you have great content, you need to make sure that people can find it. And even then, it’s not just a matter of people finding your content. You need to build a search experience that ensures that users find relevant content – that they find what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it,” he commented. Cassidy concluded with a dire warning to companies who fail to make this shift: “If you don’t show it to them, they’ll find someone else who will.”

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