Screw pageviews.

Pageviews are to 2009 as “Hits” are to 1997.

Pageviews are so simple to understand. It says, “Page” and “Views”. It must mean “it’s the number of pages that were viewed on the website”.

And it’s so scalable too! I mean, somebody can ask me, “How many pageviews did this page get”, and you can tell them, and people will say, ‘okay’. It’s a directional number. Sort of like how ‘hits’ were back in the day. And in a soundbyte world, easy wins. It’s not all easy though. It’s easy to interpret a number the way you want to.

Sometimes, people will misinterpret ‘pageviews’ to mean ‘people’ – just as people (I verbally slip from time to time) will confuse unique visitors with ‘people’. (It’s not the same thing.) Truth be told, I don’t actually count ‘people’ in web analytics.

But what do pageviews really do for me? What’s the value of the metric?

We’re living in the age of JQUERY and the post Flashturbation era. We’re in a post-page refresh paradigm. I can go to a site, spend 60 minutes on it engaging with a game or a product comparison unit, and the site owner would believe that my visit was a failure. (Time spent on site = zero, bounce rate 100%, under the pure pageview paradigm).

There are so many better metrics to be had. Just most of them havn’t been deployed (properly and harmonized with the rest of the package) yet.

Did I watch a video? How long did the video run? Did I submit a comment? Did I rate a product? What else did I do while I was on the page? How many actions did I take?

Then I ask you, the community – what would you count as a successful visit?

Isn’t it sufficient that I came, I engaged, and that I am more likely to return later to continue on my relationship with your site – ultimately engaging in the future? What ever happened to the customer lifecycle? Could it be that the last generation of web analytics software was built by advertisers instead of by marketers?

I’m not just satisfied with knowing “how many”. I’ve never been. “How many” is advertiser talk.

I want to know “how many and what”, and more importantly, “how many and what and anonymously ‘who'”. I want web analytics for the marketer. I will gladly sacrifice understandability, ‘easyness’, for more complexity if it means I can tell richer, deeper, more actionable insights.

For those reasons, I say, screw pageviews.

5 thoughts on “Screw Pageviews

  1. Jen says:

    I think the situation is far simpler. “Page Views” is now a misnomer. We are forcing the metric “page views” to be “actions” (at least this is the way I recommend analytic implementations – I’ve never witnessed the scenario you describe w/ 100% bounce rate despite user interaction). So most of us can’t say screw page views: the metric is to integral. It drives pathing, funnels, bounce rates, and a number of ratios.

    If you grant that “Page Views” are “Actions” then they are nothing like “Hits” of yore. Nothing a user did had anything to do with Hits. At least if you put 47 steps in a funnel to increase your page views, and your page views increase – you know you successfully 1.)made your users click alot and therefore 2.) pissed off a bunch of people driving – yay! – more page views.

    You can argue that that is just us being limited by our toolset, I suppose, but my current approach is to make page views bend to my will. Each user action SHALL be a page view.

    Besides, you may as well (and I propose you must) likewise say screw sessions, screw unique visitors, screw any metric so easily manipulated and lacking in any context. You had a billion page views? So what. You had a billion sessions? So what. Having a million dollars isn’t so great if bread costs a hundred dollars. And your ad being clicked on a million times isn’t worth a damn if no one did anything great – in fact you just wasted money on a bunch of worthless clicks!

  2. I partly agree with Jen here. Let us *not* forget page views are fundamentally *clicks* i.e. actions. That’s why I thought the PV vs. events was a futile debate last year, or the year before. We’ve always analyzed actions in WA (at least that’s what I’ve been doing fro 8 years, and I believe my colleagues too), and the important thing is to *collect* those actions, whatever we call them.

    My prediction? Page views and events will be replaced by a new word, “interactions”.

    Gosh our field loves buzzwords!… We don’t have to pay lip service to everything a couple of gurus utter (not saying you do here Christopher, but the blogosphere is full of it).

  3. angie says:

    Jacques and Jen, I agree. This is something we’ve struggled with in the WAA Standards Committee. If someone has an all-AJAX site and they show zero “page views,” then they are not correctly interpreting the standard definition for page views. Jen’s view on making the page view bend to her will as an analyst is exactly on target.

    I like the notion of “actions” or “interactions,” but somehow still want there to be a differentiation between different types, what a WA tool currently calls a “page view” and what it calls an “event.” Again, maybe I’m being to technology-oriented here, but they occupy different tables within the WA tool and populate different types of reports. I personally wouldn’t want to see the things I count as “events” (which also bend to my will) to show up in my already-cluttered pathing reports, for example.

    In my mind, there’s still a difference in page-type interactions and event-type interactions, and it has to do with whether the user clicks something and makes the entire screen somehow fundamentally different from the prior one, or whether what they are viewing stays fundamentally the same while the user interacts with parts of it. And only someone responsible for measuring those interactions is in the position to know how much difference in the screenful is significant enough for them to want to count.

  4. Thanks for the careful commentary guys!

    “Interactions” would be a far more preferable term – there might very well be a rich diversity of flavors of interactions, each meaning something different to different users.

    Presently, the pageview paradigm is failing me. It’s not telling me enough.

  5. Jose Davila says:

    Chris, I understand your concern.

    Page views are not enough. They are far from telling you the whole picture, as hits at a certain point stopped being meaningful… Ok, maybe not that much… at least not yet.

    Counting the number of page views on a visit is normally the way a publisher measures engagement. However I’ve seen cases where more page views come with less time on site and less number of meaningful interactions: Lower engagement.

    The issue is that so many people has invested so much in the page views paradigm. Dashboards, reports and forecasts are page view based. So many salaries and performance bonuses are based on page views too. How to sell a different more complex approach? Once again we have to deal with change and with fear of change…

    Page views can mean so many things nowadays that they are loosing their actual sense. Talking about page views may sound simple. However they are not “real page views” anymore. The actual name becomes confusing.

    I like the interaction paradigm that Jacques mentioned. Perhaps we need to include a new layer of abstraction.

    May be a hierarchy of different kinds of interactions, each with the proper name, weight and value. You can group them all, but you can always drill down, even to see page view interactions if you want to.

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