When it comes to visitor metrics for our web sites we all have come to rely on the venerable pageview as a way to keep track of how many people have dropped by. They are also used in the calculation of the ad rates charged for companies to advertise on our sites.
The only problem is that pageviews are becoming increasingly useless as a metric because of a number of reasons. Some are technical as in the nature of AJAX which allows only the portion of the displayed page to refresh with new data when needed.
Then we have web services like Twitter which has seen incredible growth except that if we go by the typical pageview metric the service has stalled traffic wise. Except it hasn’t. If anything use of the service has increased but instead of it being through the typical pageview model the increasing traffic is coming from third party clients and Twitter’s API.
As Tim Trefren noted in a guest post at ReadWriteWeb
There’s also a clear pattern in the direction the Web is heading – toward interaction and responsiveness, and away from separate pages. If you’re going for incredible user experience, on-page interactions are your bread and butter. Can you imagine what a drag it would be if the page reloaded every time you commented or ‘Liked’ something on Facebook? It would be awful.
This trend further devalues the pageview as a valid metric. If you have a highly interactive Web application that spans only a few pages, there’s not a whole lot of value in seeing how many times those pages were loaded.
But as we move more and more to API based services which allow for the use of non web / page loading applications pageviews become less and less relevant. For sites that depend on things like pageviews as their primary metric because of their ad based business model this trend away from pageviews being used as a baseline metric could prove to be problematic.
Interestingly enough this problem will be further exasperated if Google goes ahead with their announced plans to allow people to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics. Even though Google is still working on the browser plugin that will allow people to easily opt out the potential effect of this for blog owners and other sites dependent on the pageview counts could be far reaching.
It is hard enough for site owners to be able to monetize their content but to remove or marginalize one of the core metrics before we have anything to replace it with could prove to be a disaster in the making for sites of all sizes.