A Rant on Pageviews NOT being a Quality Metric

I was having a discussion in a forum the other day when someone mentioned that they were changing some pages on there site with the hope of increasing pageviews.  As Karlyn is known to do with email metrics the web analytics individual that I strive to be went on the defensive, or offensive if you choose.  What do pageviews mean?  Why are more pageviews better?  So if you don’t want to read any more of this post all that you need to know is that PAGEVIEWS IS A WORTHLESS METRIC.

Of course pageviews are going to be very different on various types of sites.  If you run a blog then you wouldn’t expect a very high pageview because most of your readers either come directly from their RSS reader or a search engine to consume your content then go on their merry way (a pages/visit ratio of 2 is really high).  If you run a large ecommerce site then you might see lots of pageviews because people are looking through your categories trying to find the exact item that they want.  Pageview rates are relative to type of site.

The Basic Question and Arguments

To help us compare I’m going to use the Pages/Visit ratio instead of simply talking about Pageviews as it’s a little easier to compare this ratio without knowing the full picture of a website, meaning how many visits compared to pageviews which is all that pages/visit tells us.

So let’s look at Wofford for example which had almost 200K visits in the last month and 750K pageviews for a ratio of 3.79 Pages/Visit.  What does this mean?

Does this mean that someone is visiting more pages on your site because they are deeply engaged or does it mean that they are having a harder time finding exactly what they are looking for?  Maybe they are constantly having to backtrack and dig more to find the information that they are looking for?  This can’t always be a good thing…

The opposite can be said for lower pageviews being bad.  Maybe it means that the person quickly found exactly what they were looking for because your site navigation is easy to use and got them exactly where they wanted to go?  Maybe they quickly became frustrated and left because your site is not very engaging.

Why It Just Doesn’t Matter

So if there was one priority thing I wanted a visitor to do at www.wofford.edu it would be to apply to Wofford right?  That’s fair enough isn’t it?  So if a first time visitor came to our homepage -> admission -> apply then the link there takes them to an internal portal.  So they visited 3 pages on my site which is exactly what I would want ever visitor to do in a perfect world but it brings my pages/visit ratio down… DOH!  Not at all they were quickly able to find what they wanted.

So my point is if your goal is to increase pageviews, well why?  It’s got to be all about the user experience and if a user is enjoying your site and the navigation is laid out well then maybe they have a better experience with higher conversion rates and lower pageviews.  Maybe it’s the opposite, but measuring by pageviews is simply misleading.

Just to make the opposite point because college websites are a very complicated beasts with lots of departments, audiences, and huge amounts of information.  So segmenting and separating data to make it easy to find might require quite a few clicks if laid out in an easy to follow manor.  If you ask any user they are more concerned about being able to easily find what they want instead of if they can do it in two clicks or four, especially with connection speeds no longer in the dial-up age.  Besides if a page does have every link on the world off it for a one click experience how can someone find anything on a page like this?

So there you go… my rant on Pageviews.  IGNORE IT icon smile A Rant on Pageviews NOT being a Quality Metric


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This post was written by:

Kyle James

Kyle James - who has written 226 posts on .eduGuru

Kyle is currently the Customer in Residence at HubSpot, a Co-Founder at nuCloud and  formerly the webmaster at Wofford College. Kyle is an active contributor in the social media spectrum. Although his background is technical, he claims to know a thing or two about marketing, but mostly that revolves around SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media. He has spoken at multiple national conferences and done countless webinars on topics ranging from e-mail marketing to social media and Web analytics. He's definitely a fairly nice guy.

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11 Responses to “A Rant on Pageviews NOT being a Quality Metric”

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    Andy DeSoto Says:

    The nice thing about pageviews in my perspective, at least, is that they make it much easier to see what’s hot and what’s not. As opposed to an actions/visit metric, etc., pageviews readily fluctuate and give instant feedback on whether or not a particular post worked, became popular with a certain niche, etc.

    Also, in my case, the pageviews and actions/visit graphs look almost identical, anyway.

    Reply

  2. Avatar image
    Kyle James (author) Says:

    @Andy - Ok I’ll bite. On a specific page by page level I can see pageviews being valuable compared to unique pageviews. The point I’m really pressing is that sitewide it’s worthless.

    And even for a blog in a perfect world you would have a pageview approaching 1. Why? Because every one of your readers would be dedicated readers who have already read every other one of your posts so they wouldn’t need to consume any additional content besides the newest post. Follow me? Of course this would also have to take into consideration that your blog is no longer growing because it reaches every single person in your niche.

    Reply

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    Karine Joly Says:

    I’m with you, Kyle.

    I think pageviews are still considered something important because they used to be for advertising-supported websites.

    When I was a Web Editor for About.com., one of our main goals was to find successful strategies to have our content creators (they were called guides at that time, but were really what bloggers are today) generate as many pageviews as possible. About.com was selling ads on a CPM basis at that time.

    Today, I prefer to focus on unique visitors and subscribers for collegewebeditor.com - as I don’t think visits are even that relevant for a blog.

    And, if you think about it. The whole pay-per-click model of GoogleAdsense for publishers is a bit weird.

    If your content is great, people will find you and will read it without even giving a look at the ads.

    If your SEO work is great but not your content, people will find you looking for content that isn’t there and then will end up clicking on the ads, thus generating revenues.

    Isn’t there here another interesting metrics for bloggers?

    Reply

  4. Avatar image
    Stewart Foss Says:

    I agree, for a higher-ed institution site-wide pageviews are almost completely useless and worse, usually misinterpreted. But I do think there is immense value for page by page numbers. I have often used them to gauge the impact of navigation changes or featured items, but as with most things you can’t rely on that metric exclusively. You may have a link that gives a really bad information scent and leads people to the wrong page. If you looked at pageviews alone you’d think “wow, this is really popular content” when the reality is a really bad link name leading to it. Bounce rates, time on page, etc. can help you get a better picture of what’s going on and if you pair that with real user testing you can actually make some informed decisions.

    For non-college sites or landing pages for campaigns, the story may be different. If you are selling ads (which I do), pageviews are still important. Advertisers want to know how many views their ad will get and many ad networks sell $/1000 impressions. Also, if you are running ads to get people to the site pageviews may be important as a metric compared to visits or visitors.

    @Karine For blogs I think subscribers is the most important metric, especially considering many of the people who frequently read your content would often be doing it off site in their RSS reader. Especially if you are running a site where you are trying to build an audience and want to nurture a little loyalty. One of my favorite blog metrics is checking for referrals from sites like mail.google.com, mail.yahoo.com, mail.live.com, etc. To me that is a good hint that readers have found something they like and are passing it on. Even better though is webmail.whateverschool.edu

    Reply

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    Rommil Says:

    I personally don’t think you can ignore pageviews altogether. What you consider a proper metric will depend on your business goals, and the goals of your users (collected with a survey, etc). So in some cases, yes, pageviews is the incorrect metric to measure, but it may be the right metric in other situations. A more meaningful metric in my opinion, especially on content site is the bounce rates, and loyalty stats.

    Reply

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    Rommil Says:

    I have to say, I completely agree with Stewart.

    Reply

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    Kathryn Spruill Says:

    Um, “college websites are very complicated beasts with lots of departments, audiences, and huge amounts of information” is the apt description of the day! The worst offender: academic departments with their individual page. Let me guess - each department has a different look, feel and structure? What, your institution has some 60-80 majors? You think a prospective student is going to persevere in that environment?

    Reply

  8. Avatar image
    Kyle James (author) Says:

    @Stewart - Yeah I can see that being valuable for ad dollars. It’s kind of like those systems that determine a sites value based on Alexa Ranking and Google PageRank which are two other metrics that are basically worthless and always taken out of context.

    @Rommil - Yes Bounce and return visits are much more valuable. Hope to explore them in more detail in later posts.

    @Kathryn - Ah the perfect leadin to the next post I’m working on about Google Analytics Filters. :) Google Analytics gives you up to 100 profiles so you can setup a filter for each subfolder and track them individually. You’ll just have to read that coming post I guess. :)

    Reply

  9. Avatar image
    Andy Fox Says:

    Found you via the hubspot blog.

    Pageviews are important to some degree. If you’re averaging 1.5 ppv and you’re a non-ajax content site, you’re not displaying your content well.

    If you’re a shopping site and are still converting, who cares how many pages it takes as long as they whip out their wallet (although more pages could equal more purchases).

    I run the marketing for a How To Video site, WonderHowTo, and my standard is pageviews and time on site. For this kind of site 5pvs and 5mins seems to be the sweet spot.

    For my blog (linked above) i couldnt break 2ppv (i was avg at 1.5ppv) for a year until i switched to a magazine style format. Now i’m averaging 3ppv

    Just the other side of this.

    Reply

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    CoolGeeker Says:

    Partly agree with you.
    But I think under most conditions more pageviews just means more clicks and more time users staying on my website-which will increase the probability users click ads in my site.

    Reply

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