Jul 17, 2007

Nielsen rejects pageviews for ranking criteria, switches to time spent on site

Like many in interactive advertising and marketing, I'm encouraged by the recent report that Nielsen is switching to a more practical and relevant criteria model for their online ranking system (http://www.marketingvox.com/archives/2007/07/10/nielsen-shuts-window-on-pageview-rankings/).

While pageviews were a benchmark for the early days of the Web, in recent years it has become increasingly obvious that a more useful criteria should be used. Particularly as technologies like AJAX become more widely used, pageview statistics become of less and less use to interactive marketers.

However, I don't know that the new criteria, length of time spent on a site, is a perfect solution, either. For one thing, it actually penalizes the sites with the best usability in terms of navigation. Google dropped in importance because users quickly find what they're looking for and leave the search page. Does that speed and ease of use decrease Google's relevance?

It also gives possibly undeserved weight to sites that are music and/or video heavy. How much of that time you spent on a video-intensive site was spent waiting for the media to load? Should the site get credit for that time? Actually, you could possibly make the argument that if the content is worth users waiting out the load times, they should get credit for that time.

While it's not a perfect benchmark, it was definitely a step in the right direction and a timely one. As online ad budgets continue to grow in comparison to offline spending, the metrics that determine where those dollars are spent need to be based on more relevant criteria than pageviews.

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