Should Churches and Non-Profits Worry About Page Views?

When I’m working with clients, the topic of page views often comes up.

Page views are requests that are made to load a specific HTML page on the web. In the early days of the www, we didn’t have great metrics or analytics to measure statistics up against the more mature offline world, and page views became one of the default ways to tell if a site or page was successful. It’s a terrible metric that is easily gamed, and those of us who work in marketing know that page views are not valuable to determine a site’s health.

Yet, we continue to fixate on them from terrible “clickbait” Buzzfeed headlines to Communication Ministers constantly checking a site dashboard to see if the latest Christmas Cantata podcast post has more links than last year’s version.

Ev Williams, founder of Blogger and Twitter and now Medium, has an interesting point for churches and non-profits to ponder as we head into the new year…

I would rather have fewer people stop by and read something for five minutes that makes them think than a million people stop by for five seconds because of a catchy headline.

The optimistic part of the message is that advertisers get this too. Brand advertising has never worked on the Internet anyways, because banner ads don’t work. So whatever the form factor is, people have to be actually engaged in something for it to be meaningful.

via Q&A with Evan Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter.

Or as Cory Haik writes,

Purely chasing pageviews is a fool’s errand. In the short term, it gets you a bigger comScore number. But those calories are empty.

The clients I like to work with are groups that have a mission to make the world a better place in some fashion. For those clients, I like to keep reminding them that thousands or millions of page views mean next-to-nothing compared to actually engaging a few people and impacting their lives. So the answer to my question in the title of this post would be a flat out “No.”

As the web continues to mature and change, we’ll certainly move away from the page view as the venerable metric of a site’s success. Attention, engagement, sharing… those are much better metrics. Particularly for the types of clients that want to change the world.

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