Pageviews vs. Engaged Time in web analytics

Mike Petroff
Feb 6, 2014 · 2 min read

Anyone working in with web analytics has heard this before: “How many ‘hits’ did it get?” Pageviews have long been a standard way to measure and report the apparent success of an article. But if we’re only using pageviews as a standalone metric, are we missing an opportunity to gauge the value of the content?

Comparing Pageviews and Engaged Time

Pageviews are strongly influenced by titles given to the pages (SEO), click-bait pitches in email newsletter subject lines, social posts, and ‘popular posts’ sidebars. It’s a metric that arguably measures interest in a story, not the content of the story itself. The largest news publishing platforms can generate massive amounts of pageviews because of their audience reach. But, they can’t retain their audience if articles don’t provide the information a reader expects to find.

Engaged time, or time users spend reading, gets analytics folks closer to measuring visitor attention and apparent value of the content. Some content-driven (not ad-driven) sites like Medium and Upworthy focus heavily on engaged time as a barometer for how well an article performs. But, a great article won’t see traffic unless the title or short pitch connects emotionally to readers.

Pageviews = interest. Engaged time = value.

Why not combine the two when reporting? Using Google Analytics to pull pageviews, along with tools like Chartbeat to show engagement time, may give a better picture of the content that attracts attention and retains it.

Context is always key in reporting, and engaged time adds context. Pageviews are ubiquitous, but by no means do they provide a complete picture of success. Rather than attempt to replace the pageview metric, maybe we just need to focus more on where it fits alongside engagement time in our reporting strategies.

Mike Petroff

Written by

Digital content strategist, @Harvard digital & social.

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