James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Dear friends, the click is actually dying. I know you have heard that before and are still on the hook to report on clicks, click-through rate, cost per click, etc. But, this time, it’s for real.

Many have predicted that digital in 2023 will shift toward performance tactics and performance mindsets. And that “performance” isn’t a click. It’s about business positive outcomes like conversions, qualified leads, downloads, sales and other more important key performance indicators. This is fantastic news for brands, marketers and the top-flight vendors, who have struggled to sell on value when everyone has been compared on skewable metrics.

Some brands struggle to get to a deeper level on their own, but that doesn’t mean they have to live in a 1990s analytics package. For those not yet sophisticated enough to set up pixels, landing pages, conversion paths, etc., GA-4 is already bringing you engagement, bounce rates, time on page and other metrics. When viewed with a focused lens, these metrics should be considered key audience tests that smart digital marketers wield to engage the engageable and optimize away from audiences that don’t care.

For instance, let’s say my direct traffic is spending 2 minutes per session and bouncing at a 30 percent clip. Typically, the direct traffic is my most loyal audience and should set the bar for engagement on my site. Not every site is the same and Google Analytics isn’t a perfect tool, so the various traffic sources aren’t perfectly clean, but there are important stories that can be told.

Back to the test case … the direct traffic spends 2 minutes, bounces at a 30 percent clip and is over 60 percent for GA-4 engagement score. My aim would be to see similar metrics from search, both organic and paid, because I want my prospects to have as good an experience as my loyal fans. That gives me three sources that combine to benchmark my audiences on-site.

All of that sets up the key conversation with other source vendors: What do I do when you are sending me a bad audience?

I start by defining a bad audience, and the numbers absolutely tell the story. A bounce rate over 90 percent. Time on page less than 10 seconds. Engagement below 50 percent. Any one of those on their own might be explainable, but if they are combined from a single source, that source isn’t bringing the right audience to me.

I’m not proposing we instantly sever ties over these metrics. No, it’s time to optimize and quickly. Is it the targeting? Is it the timing? Is it the messaging? Each of these offers opportunities for conversation and each can be optimized and tested. The burden, however, is on the source because there are inherent benchmarks from other sources, other vendors, other tactics, etc. If my best customers and random prospects are finding value on my site, why aren’t the people you are sending to me?

On-site engagement metrics are the iterative step to get us to the place where we can kill the click. They aren’t the business-centric KPIs we are striving for into the future, but they will take us to a better place. And, friends, we want you to come along with us.