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Understanding Attention Metrics

Tracking clicks, page views and unique visitors have long been the metrics used to help online advertisers determine where to focus. Since advertisers realized that online marketing was a thing, the ‘click’ has been the primary indicator of interest in a subject, a product or a service. The ‘click’ was how marketers determined where, when and how to concentrate their efforts. Is the ‘click’ becoming obsolete as a measurable in today’s data-driven online world?

The mighty Facebook recently changed its News Feed algorithm in an effort to maintain and increase the amount of time its users spend on the site. By measuring how long you look at certain content they determine where you prefer to look. They figure if users spend more time looking at a particular story in News Feed, it’s a good sign that that content was more relevant.

In a recent blog post, Facebook’s Ansha Yu says “…we learned that in many cases, just because someone didn’t like, comment or share a story in their News Feed doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful to them. There are times when, for example, people want to see information about a serious current event, but don’t necessarily want to like or comment on it. Based on this finding, we are updating News Feed’s ranking to factor in a new signal—how much time you spend viewing a story in your News Feed.”

The algorithm now tracks how much time users spends looking at one story versus another, not necessarily how many clicks a story receives. This is all aimed at discovering what is most relevant to users. In the past Facebook has used ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and ‘comments,’ to determine what is most important. Based on a recent survey, they determined that they were missing an ingredient. That’s where time spent becomes a valuable tool.

So, if in addition to clicks, likes or other online behavior, time spent can now be measured, what does this mean for digital marketers? It helps us understand where our audiences choose to spend their online time in an all-new way.

This is important for a couple reasons. One, it adds a dimension of insight. It lets websites know what people are looking at and thus find interesting, even if they don’t like, comment or click. Two, it means the potential demise of irrelevant and poorly created content, underscoring the notion that something that isn’t worth looking at isn’t worth creating.

The Media Ratings Council (the national body that determines what can be used as advertising currency in the U.S.) has recently audited analytics firm Chartbeat, with findings leading to an accreditation to measure attention metrics. Instead of clicks or page views, which are inevitably flawed metrics, Chartbeat can track ‘active exposure time,’ basically determining how long someone spends with a specific piece of content.

This metric takes into account many factors such as what part of the page is in the viewing window and tracking mouse and keyboard interaction to make sure someone is actually looking at the page. According to numerous articles and professionals from AdAge to Direct Marketing News, this is being hailed as a better measurement than anything currently being used to track consumers habits.

Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile said, “This gives brands exactly what they want in a transparent way – they want the attention of their audience, and this gives them that in a completely measurable way. And for publishers, they want to know that they’ve created something valuable that holds people’s attention, and this tells them that.”

Engagement. That’s the golden ticket that leads to successful websites. One of the most necessary parts of online marketing is engaging and relevant content. Being able to measure ‘time engaged’ is a telling metric as to whether or not that content is doing its job.

Social media marketing is something of a constantly changing science. Facebook is one of the most successful websites of all time because of their incredibly well tailored user experience. That same user experience also includes the ads that appear in the News Feed. Using attention metrics to determine which ads are relevant and engaging is something that any online marketer would want to get their hands on.

The future is here for online and social media marketers and this new metric provides unique opportunities. Relevant and sincere content will become paramount for success in this ever-evolving arena.

Have your clients spend more time on your content. Get in touch with Imagine That Creative and we can help you determine what your optimal digital marketing strategy should be.