You’re not still basing success on page views, are you?
I got into a little Twitter tiff — is that a Twiff? — with an SEO expert recently after I suggested in a workshop that writers optimize for humans first and Google second.
“You don’t want humans to be turned off by overly ‘optimized’ copy after they find your Web page on Google,” I counseled.
I’ll spare you the back and forth. But the SEO expert finally concluded: “Page views don’t care how well your Web page is written!”
Page views also, I pointed out, never bought a product, voted in an election or changed their behavior to help an organization achieve its business goals.
‘Because it’s there.’
The truth is, we measure click-through rates, page views and page view time for the same reason George Mallory took on Mount Everest: because they’re there.
But without more information, we don’t really know what these measures mean.
Take site traffic. Web bots, not people, account for 30% of all Web traffic, according to a new study by Incapsula.
And if your site is small? Good bots account for half of all traffic to smaller sites, but a little more than a quarter of traffic to the largest sites. Bad bots account for 31 percent of traffic to the smaller sites and 27 percent to the largest sites, according to Incapsula.
How many points are you giving yourself for those “visits”?
Take page view time. If someone spends more time on a Web page, is that because they were engaged? Or because they couldn’t find what they were looking for quickly? Or because your copy was so long and complex that it took more time to read it?
Page view time doesn’t answer that question.
It’s worth noting that in the prehistoric days before Google Analytics — I know: dinosaurs — readability researchers gave more points to prose that took less time to read. That’s because they believed that the faster someone could read a piece, the more clearly it was written.
Measure what matters. When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of their communication vehicles, far too many communicators spend tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours year after year to measure:
- Whether readers clicked through, visited a page or stayed awhile
- Whether they preferred headlines in blue or in red
- Whether they liked the picture of the CEO in his suit coat or would prefer to see him in shirtsleeves
- Whether they read to the end of the 800-word story on the future of the industry or stopped after skimming the display copy
That’s not to say that these measures have no value. They do. They can help you learn how to better appeal to your audience. They can even help you establish a link between your communication vehicle and the organization’s success.
The bottom line is the bottom line.
But so many communicators stop the evaluation process at measuring readership, clickership and viewership that it’s worth saying again: The bottom line is never, in any organization, good communication. The bottom line, as people much wiser than I have said, is the bottom line.
After all, the best way to increase intranet page views might be to share up-to-the-minute sports scores, weekend weather reports and employee cafeteria lunch menus. Who wouldn’t rather ponder the merits of green-chile enchiladas than read the CEO’s message?
The key is to measure what’s important. This goes back to the purpose of your communication vehicle. The purpose isn’t to get read or even to be liked. The purpose is to help the organization achieve its business objectives.
That means communication measurement seeks to answer one question and one question only: Did your communication vehicle help your organization achieve its goals?
To find the answer:
- Revisit your business goals
- Determine whether the company achieved those goals
- Find a link between your communication vehicle and business success
Another day, another conference …
Months after my Twiff, I repeated my SEO advice to a group of communicators at IABC Lincoln.
This time, a participant shared that the university he works for can draw a straight line between the amount of time people report spending with the alumni magazine and the amount of money they contribute to the school. Does that not argue for “page view time,” he asked.
Maybe, I said. I don’t know.
- Are big-check-writing alums reading the magazine, finding in it a great reason to support the school, then writing a big check? Could be.
- Are big-check-writing alums ardent fans of the university? And does that make them more likely to read the magazine carefully? Possibly.
- Are big-check-writing alums older? Retired? Do they have more time to read the magazine? Are they, demographically, more likely to engage in print? Maybe.
- Are big-check-writing alums ardent fans of the university, and so more likely to be embarrassed to reveal in a readership survey that they’ve actually never opened the magazine? Perhaps.
But, I said, you have two promising data points there. Let’s do the research we need to connect these dots. By doing so, we might learn more about how to use the magazine and other school communications to move the needle on the bottom line.
Move the needle on the bottom line.
Of course, no one person, communication vehicle or department can ever honestly claim credit for an organization’s successes. But what you can do is show a link between your efforts and your organization’s accomplishments.
Making that link — and not increasing page views — is the most important thing you can do to move up your organization’s food chain.