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Page views are prank calls

Many advertisers and marketers use a website’s page views as a way to judge if the site is worth being advertised on. But, says LIRON SEGEV, there is a far more accurate way to see if a site merits their advert.

As a blogger, I don’t earn revenue from the blog. I do it because I enjoy it and it keeps me abreast with technology. I do it because I like to tell the story of technology in a way people can relate to. As the blog grows, so do the running costs which are paid for in real Rands and Cents, not via “check my latest review phone”. So, like everyone else, I looked to earn some money by selling advertising banners. What I discovered was that people buying advertising space are obsessed with two words – “pageviews stats”.

Content website owners, also known as publishers, they are frequently asked about their stats: “How many visitors do you get? ” or “How many pageviews do you have?” What is really being asked is “can you quantify how many people are seeing your content?

This should be easy to answer. Tools like Google Analytics provide all this information with a simple click.

I put it to you that pageviews are the absolute wrong stats to be monitoring.

Here is why:

The popular market view is that a website that has a large number of views is seen as more successful or more valuable than a site that has fewer views. This view has merit when you are reviewing your own company’s website. You use pageviews to compare how many pages were viewed this month compared to last month compared to your competitor so you can benchmark your performance. However, in a publisher/content world this is a flawed view.

Publishers argue that due to great content people keep coming back to read the wonderfully crafted articles. However, a study conducted by Chartbeat, a data analysis company, analysed deep user behaviour across 2-billion visits across the web over the course of a month and found that 55% spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. In other words, 1-billion pageviews were useless. That is 1-billion pageviews worth of ad-impression that were wasted. 1-billion pieces of so called good content that were not read for more than 15 seconds.

Therefore I ask why would we measure success or the value of a site based on these 15-seconds non-reading simply-clicking-numbers? Surely a site that has LESS pageviews but MORE content being read is more valuable to a brand?

When I ask companies which would they rather have: more “15 second pageviews” or more content being read on your site, the answer is an overwhelming “more readers”. Yet, ads are being bought based on 15 seconds pageviews.

Perhaps we should we be using another benchmarking measuring tools to measure and rate the value of a site?

Brands and marketers are starting to ask the same question. Those that are not – should be.

Those sites that generate revenue from ads would argue that more pageviews are an indication of the site’s popularity due to its content. However, they have a vested interest in keeping the “Pageview is King” myths alive as this supports their business model of generating income. The more pages, the more ad-impressions there are for brands to buy, which results in more money being generated for the site owner.

This is why we often see sites that split one story over many pages as each page is an ad-opportunity. We see slideshows that require the clicking of the Next button and childish headlines like “you gotta see this – number 3 is not even possible” – all to encourage “the click”.

The less scrupulous site owners will turn to simply buying clicks and page view services that are littered all over the web. For $9.99 you can buy 10 000 impressions and even specify the originating country of the clicks to make your stats look impressive. All these tricks increase the total number of pageviews and look great on a proposal, but in reality, offer very little value to the brand advertising. No one wants to pay R500 for 1 000 views of your ad that is shown to a computer generated script or to people being paid to click on links with no interest in the brand at all.

If pageviews are not the instrument of measurement – what is ?

I equate pageviews to hundreds of people making prank phone calls to your company and 15 seconds later hanging up. Then calling again and hanging up again after 15 seconds. No company will look at their incoming telephone report and boast about their amazing customers.

Engagement is the equivalent of someone calling your company and spending time on the phone talking to your sales person. It might not be high volume and might not translate into a sale – but the real opportunity is there.

A site’s success benchmark should be around engagement. Engagement can be measured based around several real logical factors such as legitimate comments an article receives, number of “contact me” forms being completed, the number of people that read the content and found enough value to share that content with their followers. These are all indicators of a good engaged audience.

However, the most telling statistic that should be measured is the amount of time spent reading the content. A reader that spends more than 15-seconds on the page shows that the site has their attention. The site have given them a reason to stay. The site has great content.

So in summary:

Stop asking for pageviews and start asking for engaged time.

The move towards time engagement as a measuring tool makes more sense. It makes sense to the publisher who is encouraged to produce better and more engaging content so the reader stays on the site for longer. It makes sense to the advertiser as the right eyes view the ads with the best chance of meaningful interaction. It also makes sense to the reader as the site continues to generate content that is meaningful and worth re-visiting.

The only ones that object to time engagement measurements are the site owners that prioritise pageviews over meaningful content. So are these sites really valuable? I think not.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog at or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

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