The HIV.gov website gets millions of visitors every year. But—in the words of singer Shania Twain—"that don't impress [us] much!"
- When we started this adventure 13 years ago, reach was a top priority. Reach metrics tell us how many unique website visitors, total visits (because some visitors visit for more than once), and page views we have.
- Today, in addition to reach, we want to know how our visitors engage with our website. Engagement metrics help us understand what website visitors are doing on our website.
- Some engagement metrics include how long visitors stay on the site once they reach it (website visit duration) and the number of pages they view while they are on the website.
During the past 13 years, our website has evolved from yesterday's state of the art website, to a fully responsive and interactive site that contains a blog, videos, downloadable resources, a treatment and services locator, links to partner websites, and shareable content.
We're going to break down how we measure engagement, and we hope this can help with your own web metric collection and planning.
We collect these website engagement metrics:
- Page views per visit
- Average visit duration
- Time on page
- Bounce rate (the number of visitors who leave after viewing one page)
- Visits per visitor
- Number of times visitors use the HIV.gov search bar
In addition to these metrics, we also track the following to understand engagement on our site:
- Clicks on specific website elements and links
- Resource downloads (such as PDFs)
- The number of times blogs are read in their entirety
- Video interactions
Collecting and analyzing these metrics gives us the opportunity to see what visitors like or dislike and continue to improve the website.
We get these tools from the Digital Analytics Program (DAP). DAP offers guidance to website owners on types of metrics to collect and how to analyze them. The DAP is a program for federal websites. If you don't have a federal website, you could use Google Analytics, a free tool, to collect your own metrics.
Four Things We've Learned with Event Tracking
Using custom event tracking (i.e., the process of using web analytics to track user actions, such as clicks) through Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, we track clicks on various links and website elements. These help us understand:
- What content you find valuable and interesting
- Whether important information is reaching you
- And—most important—how we can improve your experience
Once you better understand how your visitors are using your site, you can find ways to make their visits more productive. Our four take-aways:
- In our website redesign last year, we added the HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator to three locations, and the percentage of visitors who go from the website to the Locator increased 52%.
- All the content on HIV.gov is tagged with topic tags. They are an easy way for our users to find related content. In 2018, topic tags have been clicked on more than 60,000 times. So far this year, the most popular tags are treatment, prevention, and black gay & bisexual men.
- In the redesign, we added a new element called More From HIV.gov, which highlights content that is related to the information visitors are currently viewing. With this new element, visitors are clicking between static content like this and blog posts 3 times more than they were before.
- Our website visitors on mobile devices prefer to navigate the website using links in the content versus the navigation menu.
Based on these data, we have already enhanced the search functionality, and, in the future, we plan to use more videos, create more content that interests our users, and include more links within the text to help users on mobile devices navigate the website. We will continue to refine our measurement tactics to better serve you!