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by Gemma Holloway on 2nd September 2013
You are all my minions! I’m joking of course, but I do have a little confession to make – My interest in psychology means that I love a little social experiment here and there. What most of you won’t know is that two of my previous blog posts have been part of a study (Google Analytics and Cookies; Universal Analytics and Cookies). So for anyone that read either of these blog I want to thank you for your participation.
Allow me to explain…
We are increasingly seeing a shift away from static written content towards content which integrates other media types such as videos, infographics, slides, static images etc. Take Buzzfeed for example, it’s rare to find a piece of content on their website which doesn’t integrate at least one other type of media.
So this got me thinking, does this extra media actually increase the engagement of the piece or is it all just a wasted effort? There’s only one way to find out.
So, I decided to write two blog posts focussed on similar topics, insert a short introduction video into one and not in the other. The first post focussed on ‘Google Analytics and Cookies‘ and contained a 25 second short introduction video towards the beginning of the post. The second covered ‘Universal Analytics and Cookies‘ and consisted of written content only.
Using Google Analytics and the social sharing plugins, I would measure all relevant statistics to determine whether or not the video had in fact increased engagement.
To ensure the experiment was accurate it was important to ensure the blog posts were as alike as possible and were treated identically as far as my control allowed.
Due to our blog schedule here at Koozai it was not possible for the posts to go live on the exact same day of each month; however, both were published towards the end of the month and the statistics gathered from each post were collected exactly one month after the post went live.
‘Google Analytics and Cookies’ went live on the 20th June at approximately 10am and ‘Universal Analytics and Cookies’ went live on the 23rd July at approximately 10 am.
Both titles were identical with the exception of one word in the title. This would eliminate the possibility of the user engaging with the post due to it’s title.
Whilst the posts themselves could not be identical (due to the differences in the cookies used), both posts were of similar length and covered the same sections; what the cookies are, how they work, potential customisations and what the various aspects mean when viewing the cookie data.
Once published, from my efforts, both posts were promoted identically. They were shared on the same sites the exact same number of days after being published. For example, if I shared ‘Google Analytics and Cookies’ on LinkedIn 3 days after being published, 3 days after ‘Universal Analytics and Cookies’ was published it would be shared on LinkedIn.
As well as the presence of a video in one post, both posts contained images and screenshots. These are present to illustrate the topics being covered in the text and for the purpose of this experiment were very similar.
For the purpose of this experiment, the variable I would be altering was the presence of a video; whereby one post would contain a video introduction, the other would not.
The overarching dependent variable would be the level of engagement received by users. This would be measured using a number of statistics taken from Google Analytics, including pageviews, average time on page, bounce rate etc, and statistics taken from social sharing plugins such as tweets, likes, G+’s etc.
The increasing use of various media types used within one piece of content leads me to believe that the presence of a short introduction video will increase the engagement of a blog post.
All the following results were collected between 17.00 and 17.10 after each post had been live for one month.
The table below shows the key statistics taken from the social sharing plugins present on the blog page:
The following table shows the key metrics taken from Google Analytics:
It doesn’t take a great deal of analysis to identify that the blog post containing the video introduction received a significantly higher number of social shares than the blog post which didn’t. It is worth noting that these figures only contain the shares which were registered on the social sharing plugins present on the blog pages, as below:
These findings would indicate that the presence of a video introduction increases the social engagement of a post due to the high levels of people which appear to be sharing the content.
The metrics from Google Analytics would indicate that more users viewed the page with a video as opposed to the blog post which consisted of text only. Whilst this is an important metric, until the user lands on the page they will not be aware of the presence of the video or not. What is interesting is the number of pageviews that were not unique. By subtracting unique views away from pageviews we can see how many times the page was viewed more than once. This resulted in ‘GA Cookies’ receiving 119 non-unique pageviews whilst ‘UA Cookies’ received only 38, therefore indicating that the blog post containing the video received a higher level of engagement from users.
It was interesting to see that the average time spent on page was almost identical for both blog posts with only a second separating them. There could be two interpretations of this; firstly, even though the video was present users didn’t bother to watch it, or alternatively, they were watching the video and therefore understood what the post was about and skipped directly to the part which interested them. Either way, if you are trying to maximise the average time a user spends on your page, this evidence would suggest that the presence of the video doesn’t affect this metric.
The final two metrics, bounce rate and % exit, were very interesting. The ‘GA Cookies’ had both a higher bounce rate and higher exit rate. Anyone who has read one of my posts before where I have spoken about bounce rate and exit rate will know that I enforce the point that these metrics being high is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when looking at a blog. However, in this case, both posts are blogs; therefore, keeping users on sites is only going to be beneficial for your website.
It’s also possible people saw the video and thought this was a Koozai TV post and the text below it was a transcript. Either way this evidence would suggest that users are more likely to stay on a site if a post doesn’t contain other types of media.
This study suggests that various media types can be both beneficial and hindering dependent on the goal you are working towards. For example, if you want the content shared socially or wish for the page to be viewed more than once then the finding of this study would suggest the presence of a video can in fact be beneficial for your content. If you goal is to keep users on site as long as possible, then it would suggest it is more beneficial to have a post which consists of written content only.
So finally, when deciding whether or not to integrate various media types into your posts it is important to consider the goals of the post and your website as whole.
As with any experiments, there are always some issues which can skew the data collected. Whilst we have drawn the conclusion that a video intro does increase engagement, it is important to note that this video was present on the ‘Google Analytics and Cookies’ blog. Google Analytics is currently much wider used than Universal Analytics; therefore it is not surprising that more users would want to read about this topic. It would be interesting to repeat the study in a year or so once Universal Analytics has been more widely adopted.
Following on from this is the fact that I had no control over where the posts were shared externally on emails and other sites. We have already identified that the ‘GA Cookies’ blog was shared more socially; therefore it is understandable to conclude that this post would also have been shared more externally as well. Again, we could argue that the sharing of this post has been amplified due to the popularity of the topic as opposed to the presence of the video.
Finally, this study was carried out in isolation, making the findings difficult to generalise. In order to come to a more universal conclusion it would be necessary to carry out a series of studies, on different topics, within different industries to reach an accurate conclusion.
So there you have it: My study into the user engagement generated by the presence of various media types. Perhaps you’ve seen a similar study on this? Or even carried out one of your own? Either way, let me know in the comments and hopefully between us we can come up with an empirical argument.