How do you measure visitors' online engagement beyond mere numbers?

In our Museums and the Web paper we look at different ways on-line users have been classified, and report on studies at the Australian Museum that have attempted to unpack these findings further. Seb Chan's paper, Towards New Metrics of Success For On-Line Museum Projects, argues for a more holistic way to look at on-line visitation, using new tools and broadening the segmentations first proposed by Peacock and Bronwbill.

My Museum colleague, Russ Weakley, set out some ideas about ways to measure visitor engagement with our new website which seem to be quite useful on a broader scale. Here's some text from an email he sent about this issue:

We need to look at methods that measure quality rather than quantity. We may have 2 million visits a year (for now), but how many were satisfied? How many got what they wanted. How many engaged? ... More importantly, we will soon be focussing much more on HOW people are using the site and if we have made any financial gains, not how many people visit. This means looking at things like:

  • how many comments?
  • how many tags?
  • how many discussions between users?
  • how many questions have users answered for themselves?
  • how many images have users uploaded?
  • how many members do we have?
  • how active are these members (do they join and never return)?
  • how many people are being converted from free to paid membership!!!
  • how many products have been sold?
  • how many event pages have been visited due to site-wide advertising?
  • how many real donations have been made via the website and why?


Russ also pointed out that we need to go beyond comparing ourselves to other museums and galleries to looking at how we compare to sites like Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc. More importantly, is how we compare to other sites that are producing similar nature focussed content (for our Museum) within the commercial and private sector.

Since these discussions Russ has sent on a link to a blog post - What’s Wrong With Social Media Marketing Strategy - that makes some pertinent points.

So, much food for thought and we'll be looking at these issues in more detail over the next few months as we bed in our new site.