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Monday, March 3, 2008

In search of a better online metric

A guest post on ReadWriteWeb from Muhammad Saleem takes a look at the need for a more useful online metric. It notes that using page views is flawed, partly because high incoming traffic amounts to little when there's an equally high exit rate and little engagement.

"Furthermore, the rise of new web technologies such as AJAX which don't require page reloads to refresh elements or modules in a page, or video embeds (such as from YouTube) that allow you to watch a video and then browse related videos without ever refreshing the page, are making page views a mostly inaccurate measure and rendering it largely irrelevant."
Some suggested alternatives include attention-based metrics - which calculate the total time spent on a site or interacting with a page (or element on a page in the case of Facebook applications) as a percentage of total time that people spend online. Another is Yahoo's Buzz, which relies on popularity indicators such as comments, ratings from users, number of times something is shared and clicks on ads.

"The problem it seems, arises because there is a disconnect between the advertising industry and the publishing industry. The reason why there is an eternal quest for traffic, not only in terms of unique visitors, but also maximizing page views per visitor, is because advertising networks let you in on the basis of how much traffic you're generating, and your eventual income is based on the number of impressions (and clicks).

"While it is true that the page view as a metric is on it's way out, this isn't going to happen unless a new metric comes from within the advertising industry, which, with over $20 billion at stake, has the most to gain from a more accurate way of determining where to spend their money."