If you don't know what you're doing, measuring reader engagement can be one of the most difficult tasks you'll ever face as a writer. How can you tell if people are interested in what you have to say, or if they're simply bored to tears? How can know that what you're writing has actually reached your readers, and isn't simply falling on deaf ears?
Although there's no singular factor you can point to and say "this is how I can tell people like my content," there are nevertheless a number of metrics you can track to give you some idea of whether or not what you're writing is resonating with your users. Paying attention to each of these metrics is vital to ensuring you're publishing effective content; if your content is ineffective, they're also vital to working out just what you're doing wrong.
I'm not really a fan of page/article views so far as using them as a metric for engagement. Taken on their own, they merely inform you of how many people are viewing your website, not how many actually care about what you've posted there. As such, while high traffic does indicate you're doing something right where marketing your content is concerned, it doesn't necessarily mean people are all that interested in that content.
To truly obtain an accurate picture of user engagement, we need to go deeper.
A far better indicator of engagement than page-views is user comments. Generally, if someone reads or experiences something online that deeply affects them, then they will naturally have a desire to discuss it. For this reason, I'd strongly recommend that you enable comments on any articles you upload.
That said; you need to pay attention to what people are saying as much as you do the fact that they're commenting. If someone's stopping in exclusively to express their ire for you, it might well indicate that something about your writing isn't really sitting well with your audience. Of course, they could just as easily be an unpleasant person, as well.
That's the thing about the Internet - people can be as negative as they want online without any consequences. For this reason, user comments are not a great metric for the measurement of engagement - not alone.
Now we're talking. How an article is doing on a given social network might well be the best way to tell if you're doing your job as a writer. If a piece is being shared and discussed on social media - whether on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube - then you're doing something right. People aren't going to share stuff that doesn't interest them with their friends, after all.
Again, though; pay attention to what they're saying. If people are sharing your work just to ridicule you, then that means you're very likely having the opposite of your desired effect on your readers.
If your website offers some form of subscription - whether it's to a newsletter or for exclusive content - pay attention to the rate at which people tend to sign up (or cancel). Climbing subscription rates mean that you've got people interested, while a rash of people cancelling their subscriptions means that your users are losing interest.
Word Of Mouth
Last, but certainly not least...have you tried talking to your readers? Ask someone who's read your articles (and who fits the demographic they're targeted to) what they think of your writing style and the depth of content you provide. How do they answer?
If their answer is positive, that might well be the best endorsement you'll ever receive.
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