Are Page Views A Dying KPI Metric?


In these times of online ad media spend continuing to increase (projected to reach $70B by 2010), it may sound absurd to diminish the value of page views. However, with the growth in popularity of AJAX & Javascript, user generated content and advances in dependable CPA/CPL based advertising, I believe page views as a metric has less and less value. If you think about it, sites using a large amount of AJAX for navigation don’t really generate a new page, unless they really want to. Sites depending on User Generated Content run into the reverse problem, with users who contribute content artificially inflating the PPV number. Finally, as the industry gets closer to precise tracking for CPA campaigns, the ad impression count will really be used to gauge success versus another ad network.

So what exactly is a Page View in the world of AJAX of Javascript? Take GMail for example. I can browse through a dozen different labels, but really have not loaded a new page. Comparably, it’s possible to login/logout of many sites without triggering a real page view. ComScore’s Media Metrix, the internet’s self-proclaimed sample based traffic gauge, counts a page view when at least 50% of the page’s content changes along with a 200 server code response its software can recognize. What happens when javascript is used to show/hide divs? Is that a page view?

Think about the flow of a site dependent on user generated content. A user enters a site, clicks/searches on a topic, sees something that makes them want to contribute, adds their contribution, reviews the contribution and finally, possibly checks up on the contribution to see community opinion. That simple scenario rolls up 2-3 page views in just the contribution part. Now imagine if you have a great site and the user bounces between multiple items, stopping every once in a while to add to them. During that time, is the user really concentrating on adding content… or looking around to see offers from advertisers?

If I am an advertiser, with a promotion running on a CPA/CPL deal, do I really care about any number other than the number of direct sales or leads generated by that promotion? Well, maybe I care a little… if I want to know how efficient my advertiser network was in displaying my ad. The metric I would really focus on would be visits (unique and repeat). Once I, as an advertiser, get that referral or lead there is not much value for that referring site on that session. As long as the user fulfills my defined action, it does not matter to me that it took a dozen page views to get that user on my site.

When it comes down to it, a simple fact cannot be over come by any amount of technological advancement. A user can only view one page at one time. Regardless on how many how targeted an ad is or how many impressions it gets, it’s worthless if its not seen. With tabbed browsers becoming the norm, this compounds the issue. So, it seems, one of two things must happen. The industry assigns much less weight to the page view metric, or sits down to (re)define what a page view really is.

Advertising at its core is paying someone to buy their audience at a lower cost than the amount of revenue you can generate from that purchase.

**update 2/15/2009** Others who agree

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  1. Posted August 16, 2008 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Anonymous
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

    Good article, adding it to my favourites!

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