Last week's outstanding MetricsInsider article by Josh Chasin describes the excellent work of Young-Bean Song of Atlas in engagement mapping. Based on the eminently logical idea that there are many sources we turn to along the way to making a purchase decision, an engagement map proposes to look at the complexity of influence in digital media. It's not just about the "last click," which of course is very often Google.
In print, this would be as intuitively obvious as understanding that the Yellow Pages played a significant role at the end of the marketing process.
And as Josh points out, there is a real need to map online and offline engagement. I recall in 2003, for example, telling a Dell sales rep who asked me if I had seen a Dell ad that, yes, I had seen a promotion for the laptop I was interested in purchasing in the New York Times. Credit: New York Times. Truth was, though, a bit more complex than that. I had been doing online research for several weeks, looking at reviews on sites like Cnet and PC magazine, considering Apple, IBM, and Dell, visiting their sites, and talking to colleagues and friends. And even though the sales rep recorded the effectiveness of the New York Times ad, he actually talked me into a different model -- which I remembered had gotten a great review on one of the sites I visited.
For online publishers, mapping your own content can help you present advertisers with the best ways of engaging your audience. That is, you can tag your content in a way to show how your audience is engaged on your site relative to the advertiser's interests. This is pretty straightforward if your site specifically helps people to make buying decisions. Every media category is different, but you can segment your content in ways that align with the consideration process:
· Awareness: general editorial, searches on broad categories
· Interest: analysis, topic videos, searches on product categories
· Consideration/engagement: white paper downloads, audiocasts on a specific information technology challenge, company searches, product reviews
You can use Web analytics apps (from companies such as Omniture, WebTrends, Coremetrics, and Unica) to do this kind of engagement mapping. WebTrends' Score, for example, enables you to segment your audience in terms of their types of engagement. You define the engagement categories and assign a "score" or a weight for the activity. Let's say that yours is a health and fitness site. You could show advertisers those visitor segments that are moving through the consideration process and the intensity of engagement by assigning values for these types of activities:
And so on. You get the idea: we can quantify visitor levels of engagement by applying our understanding of what we know about our audience and how they interact with our site content.
Wouldn't it be great if we could marry a Web analytics tool like Score with comScore? Then we could compare and contrast engagement mapping across sites. In fact I think there is a company already positioned to do this: Quantcast. If Quantcast can convince enough publishers to become "Quantified," (that is, allow Quantcast to validate publisher server logs), then we could move toward the kind of engagement mapping that leads to highly effective advertising, at each stage of the sales and marketing funnel. Ultimately I believe that is where we are heading: a measure of engagement that enables us to understand where visitors are in the buying process.
Advertising then becomes more of a participation in the user experience than an interruption. That would be the ultimate promise of an engagement map, wouldn't it?