To be dreadfully honest, my knowledge of the intricacies of web analytics is infantile at best, but what I do know without a doubt is that they’re often misreported. The old business adage goes, turnover is vanity, profit is sanity. As Steve says, “The advertising economy is built on reach. It’s time for it to change to depth.”
So what’s wrong with page views (the incumbent metric-of-choice)?
A page view is each time a visitor views a webpage on your site, irrespective of how many hits are generated. Pages are comprised of files. Every image in a page is a separate file. When a visitor looks at a page (i.e. a page view), they may see numerous images, graphics, pictures etc. and generate multiple hits.
Evan Williams explains it really well (for non-techies):
Remember when web site traffic was talked about in terms of “hits”? You’d read about how many millions of hits Netscape got per month and other sites bragged about getting 30,000 hits a day. Eventually, we moved away from the term hit because everyone realized it was pretty meaningless. You see, a hit was often counted (depending on who was counting them) not just for a page load, but for every element (e.g., graphic) included on the page, as well. One visit of this page, for example, would be worth about 40 hits (if the browser had images turned on). But a site that was less graphical and had equal usage would register half the hits.
Pageviews replaced hits as the primary traffic metric not just because they’re more meaningful, but because it also determined how many ads could be served. Ads were sold primarily on a CPM basis, so multiply your CPM by every 1,000 pageviews you got, and that’s your dot-com revenue.
Reach (number of unique visitors) is also important, of course. comScore/Media Metrix uses uniques as its primary metric, because mainstream advertisers want to reach a lot of people, not just the same people over and over.
Page views don’t count for RSS subscriptions / readership, are rendered ineffective for sites built with Ajax and in a widgetized Web where bits and pieces of numerous sites are splattered over bits and pieces of other sites – a gloriously messy social humdrum of activity. But is any of it valuable?
So the social Web, businesspeople or not, are calling for more meaningful website metrics. In an age where social software has allowed us as individuals to create highly niche-oriented sites clusters of similar social sites could be extremely valuable to marketers if they had metrics for measuring social value. Culture? Trust? Respect?
Any ideas how we could more accurately measure the value of websites? And let’s say for the purposes of this discussion, although many of us don’t advertise on our sites, that we were convincing an advertiser…