Measuring the number of page views as a key performance indicator (KPI), is a growing practice among publishers. In fact, editorial and development teams are increasingly being rewarded for boosting page views, with some publishers even shaping their entire site just to generate page views.
That is not a business model! Let me prove it with an extreme example.
Any publisher can deploy bots to generate page views for their site. No advertiser will pay for those page views, because the page views have no advertising value. While page views could be used as a KPI by the editorial team to generate more content for bot consumption, no revenue is coming through the door to keep them employed.
The right metric for publishers should be revenue performance indicators (RPI), which means the metrics tie directly to the business model. Many publishers are looking to build recurring revenue streams from loyal audience members, and in this case, RPIs such as audience size, loyalty, and level of engagement are meaningful. However, some publishers are relying on non-recurring revenue from SEO acquired visitors, and in this case, RPIs such as percentage share of search and time on site become more relevant. In paid content, RPIs such as price per article or price per device become critical. And for all of these business models, average revenue per user (ARPU) is the RPI for benchmarking efficiency and profit (see my post on ARPU here).
While correlating user behavior to the business model is the only way to judge revenue performance, surprisingly few publishers can differentiate between a page view that is aligned to the business model vs. a page view that is not. Consequently, many publishers are chasing low value page views and jeopardizing their long-term viability. Might as well hire some bots…
Matt Shanahan is vice president of strategy at Scout Analytics, a specialist in digital revenue optimization.