Pageviews are dead … and Miley Cyrus killed them.

female travel blogger filming a travel video on a bridge with skyline behind her

We’re making a big change at Mediavine – the main overall RPM we focus on optimizing is shifting from pageviews to sessions.

Why?

Because pageviews are dead and Miley Cyrus killed them.

Wait… what?

A GIF saying "Whaaaaaat?"

To me, nothing better explains why the Internet has officially killed the value of a pageview than this hilarious Onion article about CNN running Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance slideshow as their top story.

In short, it’s satire of the obsession with the click-bait slideshows that have destroyed even reputable news sources, all in the pursuit of a higher pageview count.

However, the issue is that in that pursuit, we have destroyed the actual value behind a pageview.

What do I mean?

Using a pageview to equally describe the value of a reader leisurely scrolling through a full 500-word article on your site, or a reader that clicks a single button fifteen times to move to the next slide over and over, is inaccurate at best.

Those two users had completely different experiences on your site, engaged very differently with your content, AND with your ads.

They are not equal in the eyes of viewability, time on site, or engagement. So why would we use the same unit of measurement to calculate them?

If we continue to use pageviews – those two actions are the same in our eyes.

You can search the web for “pageviews are dead” and find articles from over a decade ago. So why am I covering this now, and why do I think I can change your mind?

Because it’s 2017. Let’s do it. Let’s REALLY kill the pageview as a unit of measure.

We’re definitely as guilty as any one of our publishers for obsessing over pageviews. It’s time we put these poor things out of their misery.

In that slideshow example hilariously used by The Onion, Miley Cyrus let CNN multiply its pageviews by THIRTEEN.

Think that deception only exists in the world of satire? During a test of using slideshows as a type of content on The Hollywood Gossip, we once got a user to go through 200+ slides.

But those 200 extra pageviews lead to poor viewability of our ads, terrible user experience, and in short, divided our income up into tiny little fractions of time that were not worth it to our advertisers.

Moreover, this experiment often alienated our readers by diluting the user experience, making them click a button over and over again for a single piece of content.

There’s also the wild inconsistency of how pageviews are calculated.

I’m going to say something controversial now, and it’s in the vein of satire. I absolutely do NOT want you to do this.

A GIF saying "Don't do it. You'll regret it man. Trust me."

Manipulating pageviews is far easier than creating click-baity slideshows, and I can prove it.

Anyone can inflate their pageviews just by telling the Analytics Tracker to count them a different way.

Much like you can change how bounce rate is calculated, you can use the following code to tell your site to send an additional pageview count to your tracker for every second a user is on your site.

Up to a “reasonable” 200. Just put this code anywhere in your post body and that’s exactly what will happen if you happen to be running Google Analytics:


<script>
var i = 1;
const timer = setInterval(function(){
i++;
ga('set', 'page', '/page/' + String(i));
ga('send', 'pageview');
if (i > 200) {
clearInterval(timer);
}
}, 1000);
</script>

Okay, so that’s a dramatic way to make my point, but that’s how exactly how meaningless pageviews can be. And when you think about it, that’s effectively what manual clicks from a slideshow are doing too. You’re just alienating your reader to manipulate the count, instead of writing code.

It’s triggering a whole new pageview, but a reader isn’t REALLY consuming a whole extra page of content. They’re simply trying to get to another part of that existing pageview.

What numbers should we care about?

Funny enough, there’s been a better metric by Google Analytics staring you in the face. In fact, Google has been begging you to move away from pageviews for years, and you probably never noticed.

Don’t believe us? Log into your dashboard in Google Analytics. What metric is that initial overview chart showing you? What’s the very first number they show you?

Sessions. Sessions are the number you should care about.

Sessions are defined in Google Analytics as each time a user comes to your site. An additional session is only created for a user if they visit another page after 30 minutes of inactivity, or came back to visit from a different source, or referrer.

Translation?

A user coming to visit your site to read a recipe, slideshow or blogpost. That whole experience is the session.

They may be on a single page for 5 minutes, or they may click around for a while, looking at multiple posts. Two different behaviors, but because they’re interacting with content meaningfully, the “session” measurement better puts this in context.

As someone who owns an ad-supported content website, there are only a handful of measurable things we care about for our how people visit us.

  1. How many users came uniquely to a piece of content on our site? A session is a great indication of this. Much better than pageview, which could double or triple if a user first came to the homepage, and then had to click a few pages to find what they wanted. We care about knowing the user is getting the content they wanted from the outset.
  2. How much did they consume on our site? Session Duration will show you how engaged your audience is. Would you rather have a user reading one page for 2 minutes or 2 pages for 10 seconds each? The latter is what slideshows were doing. Two minutes on a single post is clearly a more engaged reader.
  3. Did they sign up for our newsletter, push notification, etc? For these we recommend using “Events” to track, if you’re running Google Analytics and setting a “goal.”
  4. How much did a user make us in ad revenue? For this, our dashboard now features a Session RPM to paint this accurate picture.

We know that last one is a bit of a doozy.

At Mediavine, as part of our commitment to how the session measurement better tells the story, and better understanding our traffic, we’ve officially moved from focusing on a RPM calculated based on pageviews to one focused on sessions.

You will still be earning the exact same amount. We track ad impressions completely separate from any of your site analytics. We’re only changing one portion of the RPM equation which compares revenue to traffic to give you benchmark of how your site is earning.

Now before you say, that’s not RPM – it actually is.

RPM is revenue per thousand impressions. What it’s not, is a Page RPM. It’s a Session RPM and it’s much more valuable to us for optimizing your site and it should be much more important for you to optimize your site, user experience and revenue.

Let’s give a real world example to explain. Imagine a world where some large, all-powerful social network requires you to spend advertising dollars boosting your posts in order to reach your followers.

If you were basing your data off a $10.00 Page RPM and were sending those users to a slideshow where the average user clicks through 5 pages, you’d be making a $50.00 RPM right? 5 x 10 = 50. That means you could spend up to $50 to buy 1000 users or pay up to $0.05, right?

Not unless you want to go out of business.

Out Of Business

The fallacy with that math is that it’s assuming each pageview is worth the same as the previous one, when the truth is that the more pages a user consumes, the less they’re worth (that’s a whole separate blog post).

If instead you focused on Session RPM, you’d know what each click from Pinterest, Facebook, or your mailing list is really worth. In this case, you’d know your true Session RPM might only be $12.00.

In this case, you’d suddenly only be able to pay $12 to buy 1000 users, or $0.012 a click. That’s quite the difference. At scale, you just saved your business.

Beyond just knowing what you could pay to advertise, it’s a more important number to think about in your head – what 1000 visitors coming to your site makes you, not 1000 pageviews (which could be produced by 800 people or 50, if you’re employing that little script I shared above) will make.

Breaking yourself of the Pageview RPM and focusing on a Session RPM will let you focus on how get more users, rather than trying to alter the experience of the ones you have. If you need a metric of how well those users are consuming your content, focus on their average session duration.

This is not to say that the Session is the ONLY valuable metric. Analytics are complex, and there are different ways to measure things for a reason. Individual pageviews are still valuable. Pages per session is a very useful metric to help you measure how many pieces of your content a user is seeing.

Information is valuable, but the obsession with pageviews is leading to content formatting tricks that aren’t good for anyone. Not readers. Not site owners. And not advertisers.

We know all changes take time to embrace and not everyone will, which is why we’re offering both calculations for the time being. You’ll be able to toggle between Session RPM and Page RPM.


However, we will no longer be judging our success based on pageviews. Instead, let’s shift to focusing on how we can maximize both user experience and revenue. Neither of which are directly benefited by more pageviews.


We’re also changing the qualifications for being able to join Mediavine. We used to require pageviews. Now, we’ll be asking you for your sessions, and we’re requiring that a site have 50,000 sessions per month to join Mediavine.

That’s how seriously we take this change. Once you see how much more valuable sessions are for gauging success, we encourage you to start sharing sessions in your reporting to brands for sponsored work. Help educate everyone in your influencer sphere.

Let’s kill the pageview once and for all.

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