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 Head of Marketing 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