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Counting Pageviews: 1, 2, 8, 15

Amid the current online boom and the growing fascination with pageviews (Eyeballs 2.0), it’s good to see the New York Times put the spotlight on the different ways to measure and present traffic.

Web site A claims it has x number of visitors while measurement services such as ComScore and Nielson/NetRatings suggest it’s much lower. Who’s right and/or more accurate. The answer: no one really knows because there are no industry standards when it comes to accurately determining pageviews, which is strange given it’s become such an important part of the Web’s economic landscape.

You figure the Internet Advertising Bureau or some of the major Web sites that depend on accurate traffic numbers would have done something. Instead, there’s been a proliferation of measurement services, including start-ups such as Quantcast and Compete.com.

If an industry standard for pageviews isn’t created, do not be surprised if the CPM advertising model continues to erode while performance tool such as pay-per-click continue to gain momentum. After all, how can an advertiser buy with any confidence if they’re unsure about whether the traffic information they see is accurate?

In the absence of accurate pageview numbers, there is also the risk/opportunity for other measurement standards to gain a foothold. For example, attention (or time on a Web site) is starting to emerge on the belief that the most effective online advertisers are those who retain visitors for a long period of time.

Sponsorship could also become more popular as a way for an advertiser to wrap their brand around a particular marketing initiative while keeping control of costs. Of course, the cost of sponsorship program hinge on measuring the size of the audience, which takes us back to the original conundrum.

So, what’s the future for the pageview? Maybe it’s in danger of becoming irrelevant if every Tom, Dick and .com can use their own methodologies to determine their traffic. Silicon Valley Insider asks whether the confusion over traffic even matters.

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  • Phil Phillipuk

    I’m a web analyst for a major financial services firm. Using state-of-the-art software, provided by the leading web analytics vendor, I monitor traffic flows through several web sites maintained by my company. My goal is to study the online experience, in order to improve it, within the context of our business model and overall company strategies. This is done using quantitative (web analytics) and qualitative analysis (market research, usability testing, etc.).

    I’ve been a web analyst since the late 1990′s, and this article seems almost as dated. Web analytics, as a discipline, has evolved several times over, since web server log files were first used to track traffic, in the mid-1990′s. The latest technology, commonly called “page tagging,” is infinitely more accurate, and is customizable for capturing true business metrics.

    Further, there is a Web Analytics Association who is educating organizations in, lobbying for, and standardizing the collection and use of key performance indicators for the web. The most basic metrics are the Unique User, the Visit, and the Page View. No one in this growing industry disputes this, and the data collection methodologies used by the leading web analytics vendors, varies slightly, if at all. The disparities between the vendors’ products lie mainly in their delivery methods.

    The web world, especially advertisers and those who directly rely on web sites for revenue, would all best be served if they abandoned the arbitrary standard set by the NetRatings and ComScores of the world. Their rating (and business) models are sorely outdated, and do not meet the measurement demands of the “web 2.0,” world.