Some thoughts on time spent vs. page views

As you probably know, last week Nielsen//NetRatings added "total minutes" and "total sessions" to their site measurement.  But reports of the page view’s demise are greatly exaggerated.  Or at least they should be.  Here are two reasons why:

1. Critics claim that sites are designed to goose page views, adding extraneous clicks on the way to fulfilling user goals.  Well, SEO has always been a grey hat discipline.  This could be a huge setback for site usability:  the more a site confuses visitors and obfuscates desired content, the "better" those sites perform.

2. Different sites have different purposes.  It’s like investing – two stocks may have the same price but totally different fundamentals; you might like one for the dividend and another for the growth potential.  Total minutes and sessions make sense for content/media sites, e.g. AOL or YouTube.  Page views still make sense for "utility" sites, e.g. Google Search.  And for e-commerce sites, neither of these matter as sales metrics like conversion rate.

What’s the purpose of engagement?  To make money.  Yes, we build brands to create favorable thoughts in consumer minds and make good on our promises through customer experience.  And we hope that over time, people buy more stuff from us and tell their friends about how great we are.  Thus in my opinion, the only reason for a new "engagement" metric is whether you convinced someone to buy something.  Otherwise, we’ve got some good ideas out there already, like brand recall and recognition or click-through and conversion rate.

The lesson here is that advertisers need to have their act together when it comes to metrics.  If you’re selling ads on your own site – you should know what the optimum balance of page views and time spent are for each persona.  If you’re an advertiser, you should know the role that sites play in the customer experience (brand building?  direct response?)  and buy on the appropriate metrics.

From another perspective – if I’m on ur site, ignoring ur ads…then what?  In the long run, cost per action and other performance-based metrics are the only ones that matter.

Being: Peter Kim