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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 at 10:10 am

Web 2.0 Metrics: The More Things Change…

By Robert Gorell
February 21st, 2007

Sugar-coated metrics, no teethLately, untold ink (read: pixels) has been spilled by marketing bloggers in search of definitive Web 2.0 metrics. For instance, now that the web page is dead, does that mean Page Views are dead, too?

Far from alone in his search for a new metric [cue Huey Lewis], Micro Persuasion’s Steve Rubel recently asked, “What will replace the almighty Page View?“:

These days most interactive web sites are built using Flash and/or Ajax (a cake mix of Javascript, XML and HTML). Page views are useless here.

As much as we’d like to believe Page Views were dead (try telling that to most advertisers), the better question might be whether Page Views were ever “almighty” to begin with. Still, Rubel concludes that there are three front-runners in the race for the next über-metric: Unique Visitors, Time Spent, or Events.

Let’s take them one-by-one, shall we?

Time Spent: I don’t know ’bout you, but I’ve spent plenty of time on poorly planned sites trying to figure out why the powers that be are wasting mine. And what of the unobserved page left open by another tab in my browser? More time isn’t always more value. (Don’t let this add noise to your metrics.) Unique Visitors: Yes, please. Events: Sure, but herein lies the challenge.

Intrigued by “Events,” Chris Garrett responds with a few questions of his own:

  • Who decides which events count?
  • How do you decide which events count?
  • Are more events better? A better made UI might require fewer events …
  • Is reading one post one event? Even if it is over multiple pages? Reward a metric and people cheat that metric …

These are great questions, but let’s not forget that–much like the debate between Visits and Unique Visitors–real analysis doesn’t happen in a vacuum. By nature, persuasion is a non-linear process. In other words, singular ‘Events’ only mean something when planned in the context of a persuasion scenario designed from the perspective of your customers/visitors. This helps your customer accomplish their goal while you achieve yours. Better yet, once you’ve predetermined which ‘Events’ (steps, or elements) matter, you can measure and optimize accordingly. Remember, not all events are equal–nor are they all meaningful (does it really matter that you zoomed in on my map if you found me?).

So, how do you measure scenarios? Persuasion Architecture allows us to measure each and every visitor touch-point using our open standard, PAXML (Persuasion Architecture XML). The great thing about PAXML is that it gives us a contextual basis for mapping, then measuring, idiosyncratic customer behavior. It gives a vocabulary to prioritizing events. This is why it’s so important to understand customer motivations–preferably by modeling with personas–in advance of building the site or multi-channel interactions you’re metricizing in the first place. Which is exactly why planning, not metrics, must come first. [Although not yet commonplace, PAXML is currently, or soon-to-be, supported by your preferred major analytics vendor. Contact your analytics firm directly to see if they support PAXML.]

Which brings us back to why you shouldn’t mourn the Page View. If you were looking for an ego boost, she was a great metric. This is surely why advertisers remain addicted to them; Page Views are merely raw traffic data with absolutely no accountability. If advertisers can show they drove ‘X amount’ of traffic to your site, they’ve done their job. Unfortunately, this says nothing about what any of those folks did once they got to said “page” (there’s that word again).

Much like ‘Events,’ Page Views live in a vacuum, removed from any true accountability or value to marketers and the organizations they serve. On the other hand, once you’ve measured Page Views as part of a predetermined series of interactions with people (or “micro-conversions”) on their way to an end conversion (or “macro-conversion”), now we’re talkin’.

As marketers, it’s no wonder we’d like to have stock metrics to guide us. Who wouldn’t? Clients certainly like to think in these terms. But real metrics assumes real planning as their prerequisite–Web 2.0 or otherwise. So, before metricizing ourselves to death, let’s all just take a deep breath and ask bigger questions.

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Comments (6)

  1. Web 2.0 Metrics is about structure first, metrics later…

    Earlier today I read an extremely interesting post about Web 2.0 Metrics on GrokDotCom but I did not have a chance to write about till now.  Robert Gorell, a FutureNow writer, said it's not about pageviews, uniques or events and then…

  2. [...] Back in February, Rubel asked "What Willl Replace the Almighty Page View?" (whether he read my response about the futility measuring "time spent" is anyone's guess). Meanwhile, some are more hesitant to rejoice: The news immediately made [...]

  3. Sweet Shirt. I’m getting ready for 3.0. I wonder what that will be like or is it to soon.

  4. [...] Robert Gorell [...]

  5. [...] Web 2.0 Metrics: The More Things Change… [...]

  6. I appreciate your insights and the good information you have shared here. All points are significantly important for me and your article have helped me a great deal.
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