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Understanding User Engagement Metrics in Google Analytics 4

Getting your retail website up and running is an important first step in the digital marketing process. But once it’s out there in the world, how do you know if it’s actually working for you and your business?

This week we’re looking at user engagement metrics and walking you through how to find and interpret yours, so that you can feel empowered to make decisions that will keep your engagement rate high and your business booming! 

What is an engagement rate? 

The term engagement rate refers to the metrics that track how actively involved with your content your audience is, and is often used to analyze the efficacy of brand campaigns.

While your engagement rate can be calculated for Facebook, Instagram and a host of other platforms, in this particular article, when we talk about engagement rate we’ll be referring to it in reference to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Engagement rate in Google Analytics 4

Below is a snapshot of an example engagement rate in Google Analytics 4.

Snapshot of an example engagement rate in Google Analytics 4

Engagement time metrics

GA4 has the following engagement time metrics:

User Engagement” Metric - the length of time that a person spent on one page of your site. 

  • It’s measured in seconds. 
  • It has a “page” scope
  • Only seconds during which a web page is in focus are counted. 
  • This metric is populated by the user_engagement event, (which is fired either as an event or through the “&et=” parameter attached to page_view or scroll events).

Average Engagement Time” Metric - (sum of all “user engagement” metrics) / number of active users. 

Let’s use an example to explain these metrics further: 

Say there are two users, Alex and Alina, and each had one session.

Alex's session included two page views:

  • Home - user engagement: 20 sec
  • Collection - user engagement: 15 sec

Alina's session included two page views:

  • Home - user engagement: 15 sec
  • Collection - user engagement: 20 sec

Sum of user engagements: 70 sec

Number of active users: 2

The “average engagement time” is: 70 / 2 = 35 seconds

This is a user-specific metric. It tells us how much time an average user spends actively interacting with a website. 

The average engagement time metric that appears in the table’s header, really gives us the average as the baseline to compare against the breakdown traffic dimension value. See image below:

Average engagement time metric screenshot

As you can see above, an average user, (irrespective of the traffic source), spends 44 seconds actively interacting with a website. 

To calculate the “average engagement time” metric for each breakdown dimension: Get the sum of the “user engagement” metrics associated with a specific channel (seconds), and divide that number by the number of active users. 

How to calculate average engagement time

This process is easily tested in Explorations. Divide the user engagement metric by the active users metric for each session default channel grouping, and you’ll get the “average engagement time” values seen in the standard reports under “traffic acquisition”.

calculating the average engagement time


Understanding user engagement metrics can be challenging at the beginning, but we hope this quick guide will help you get started on the right foot! As always, reach out to us here at Slicedbread for all of your questions and digital marketing needs!

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