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Website Visitor Metrics – How Do You Rank?

July 12, 2007

Nielsen/NetRatings announced today that it would change its top metric from the traditional page views and unique visitors to a new system calculating rankings based on the amount of time a visitor spends on a site and number of sessions.

According to Nielsen, it’s a response to shifts in visitor activity due to elements like video and technology like Ajax (which displays fresh content without a page refresh) resulting in more time spent on pages with fewer overall page views. Both of these increasingly popular technologies were already creating a skew for the page views metric.

With the new system, sites like AOL and Yahoo – who have users spending millions of hours each day using their instant messaging software – get the highest rankings. I would have expected to see YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook and other social media websites to be top. I’d say instant messaging is causing a new skew and Nielsen’s new metric is just as inherently incorrect as before. I do agree that amount of time spent on a site is an important metric, but I think this switch might be premature.