Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Page View Metric – Is it really dead?

I read an interesting post regarding the Page View KPI no longer being part of the Web Analytics metrics in the future as Nielsen/NetRatings have decided to scrap Page views from their rankings. The article alleges that the Page View metrics is incapable of telling us about the overall user experience as nowadays most websites make use of widgets, videos , flash, AJAX content etc and it is impossible to measure those attributes with the use of Page Views. The article mentions “If you have widgets, you don't really have page views. If you do videos, you don't have page views.”

Will Page Views suffer the same fate as the Hits metrics? In the nascent stage of Web Analytics, Hits used to be the key metrics tracked in place of Page Views but as the Web Analytics community became mature, the Hits metrics was found wanting. This is because Hits measured everything from loading of images, CSS to JavaScript which meant that Hits will count all the individual requests and report them seperately which in turn was termed as inaccurate. One of the reasons why Hits noticed a quick exit was due to the fact that it could only be tracked via Server Logs and with the advent of conventional Web Analytics tools, it was easier to find a replacement in the form of Page Views.

Are Page views dead? Personally I think it is too early to say that. I say this because around 90% of the companies today would be using Page Views in their day to day reporting/dashboards and also all the major Web Analytics tools report this as a prime metrics. Page Views have been widely accepted as an industry standard and it would be really difficult to replace it immediately as a suitable replacement would not be easy to find. Though we have noticed in the past that Visits and Unique Visitors have been considered a better metrics than Page Views but it doesn’t really mean that we can totally discount Page Views as they have their own value in Web Analytics.

What can be the possible replacements for Page Views? I don’t think the existing prime metrics like Visits, Visitors would replace it but I agree with what was written in the article about User Engagement. User Engagement according to me is the Visitor experience on a webpage ranging from clicks on specific links, interaction with the embedded applications like Videos, Widgets etc and most importantly Time Spent. Based on my experience, I’ve noticed that majority of the exits on a website happen within the first 15 seconds and it is crucial for us to decrease the exit rate for this time range. Ideally in case of eCommerce websites, a user session should range between 5-10 minutes as I think by this time the user is well adept with the website interface. He would then decide to perform the appropriate task like filling a form to buying something. Similarly the user engagement metrics would be different for a content, classifieds and News website. So the Time Spent metrics is in a way a subset of User Engagement.

All in all I think it is too early to totally discount Page Views from Web Analytics but sooner or later the industry will decide to replace it. But whenever that happens, I sincerely hope that Page Views would be given a graceful exit unlike it’s predecessor Hits.

No comments: