Does your page contain embedded clips? Your analytics tools may be able to track the video plays (if they are your own player and your player is supported). But when Video ABC is being played on Page 123 right now, that’s not necessarily helping Page 123.
As the user clicks into the video, and quietly watches, she may actually appear to be unengaged with the page. Chartbeat explains their view on this one — and it’s quite defensible. I’m picking ChartBeat here because it’s popular, but all of your favourite analytics tools in this group have a version of this quandary.
Part of it is technical, but part of it also ties to precisely what Chartbeat’s opinion is on what “engaged” means. As Chartbeat explains, they had to make a decision on how to treat video plays — and no way was going to be reliably always correct all the time. The way we measure events is not continuous (unlike the heat mapping tools), so there’s a bit of a blind angle on whether that video play is really “active” or not. Your favourite analytics tool has to decide on how to classify this play.
So you can easily see what this may mean for your article with a great 20-minute embed: This article is now competing with others on your site and looks, everything else being equal, less engaged. It may very well be that the video is actively being watched! But your analytics tool may not classify this as an engaged session.
Whether yours is a site with infrequent videos but the occasional blockbuster, this can affect you. Your blockbuster clip – particularly if it’s longer – may create a weird edge case for the page. If yours is a site with frequent use of videos, this can affect you even more. But you’ll also have baselines that are likely to smooth out outliers – namely, your engaged session baselines will consistently be a bit lower.
Not exactly breaking news, but analytics tools are imperfect like all of us. And the more opinionated they are, the more the users who are using them tend to be non-specialist or technical, and the more their edge cases are harder to recognise.
Should you forgo this type of analytics products just because there are built-in assumptions that are hard to parse, assumptions you may not agree with, or situations where the paradigm of the product will actively be derailed by what happened on your property?
These types of tools have their place. Some great conversations have been started thanks to these tools giving data to professionals who really were never going to bring your big analytics tool suite at the center of their lives. They are happy with their opinionated content analytics tools, built with a good understanding of their specific needs and non-specialist background. And this is worth a lot.
But I would argue there are enough “gotchas” that they ideally should be combined with other referentials that are closer to your specific business. Home-brewed metrics can help bridge the gaps of your out-of-the-box analytics tools and how to position them to provide additional context that off-the-shelf solutions can’t provide.
If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.