Web Analytics Obsoleteness: From Hits to Page Views

Nielsen//Netratings has dealt a blow to the often used page view metrics by no longer offering them for website rankings. Rather than calling it a change for sophistication, I’d like to call it an adjustment to changes on the web landscape. NN made it clear that the reason for ditching was partly (or mainly) due to increasing use of “Ajax” (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) applications that deliver photos, online maps, e-mail and other services and content without having to go to another web page.

Therefore it’s not surprising that the move was initiated. NN wants to be perceived as a company that is open to changes in the industry and changes its methodologies if it is necessary to do so. The broadening use of AJAX does not only cover newcomers and startups but also for the popular and big ones such as Yahoo! or AOL.

This prompted NN to place higher emphasis on the time viewers spend on websites rather than how many times a page is viewed. Not long ago, the idea of visits over page views was also given attention.

While it is true that many sites embrace AJAX platform that helps make sites more user friendly and NN wants to embrace a similar change, was it justifiable for them to dump page views? Remember that non-AJAX sites still dominate the web and proliferation of AJAX shouldn’t mean decimation of the page view measurements.

Now, the question is, which measurement is better when it comes to gauging a successful website? Time duration or page views? What about the impact of tabbed browsing with increased usage of Firefox and IE 7? Having a ESPN, CNN and Wikipedia tabs open all day does not mean advertisers can assume eyeballs are passing over their campaign for a full 12 hours… unless add-ons that detect user’s active tab are installed.