For online publishers dependent on advertising, few things are as important as pageviews because more pageviews tends to equal more dollars. There’s nothing inherently wrong with attempting to boost these numbers; it’s to be expected.
But not all pageviews are generated equally. There are a number of swinish techniques online publishers use to inflate the number of views.
Linkbait-and-switch. There’s nothing wrong with a little linkbait. Linkbait is an important part of a viral marketing strategy and can produce some great SEO benefits. That doesn’t stop some publishers, however, from crafting linkbait-worthy titles for content that isn’t linkbait. This is the digital equivalent of the misleading National Enquirer story.
Example: A marketing blog I often read found a way to mention tax evaders in the title of a post dealing with the ongoing backlash against Google in Switzerland. Clever title but unfortunately the post had absolutely nothing to do with tax evaders.
Pagination abuse. Breaking content up across multiple pages isn’t necessarily a bad thing — when it helps create a better user experience. But utilizing pagination as a tool for increasing pageviews is bad, bad, bad.
Example: When a popular tech blog added pagination to post comments, it wasn’t a bad thing. But then it changed the way pagination was set up: instead of providing pagination in which users can easily select a specific comments page (by number), users were forced to use ‘Newer Posts‘ and ‘Older Posts‘ links to navigate. You can probably figure out the reason why.
Automatic refreshes. One of the lowliest pageview-generating tactics: automatically refreshing a site’s pages after a certain period of time lapses. Automatic refreshes only really benefit the publisher since they typically come into play when a user leaves a page open in a browser window and goes off to do something else. Display advertisers end up paying for phantom impressions because of this and users have to contend with the annoying refresh that always seems to happen shortly after they return to the page.
Example: One of my favorite websites for stock market commentary automatically refreshes its homepage every three minutes. While the publisher would probably argue that this is useful to users because homepage content is updated on a regular basis throughout the day, in my opinion this is more excuse than
anything else. If I want to refresh the page, I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself.
Slide shows. List posts are popular for very good reason and you’re reading one now. But imagine if to read this post, you had to browse through five slides, each one detailing a single swinish way publishers put pageviews above people. That would generate five pageviews but it wouldn’t exactly be an ideal user experience.
Example: Although I said I wouldn’t name names, since Forbes.com was called on its use of this tactic in my recent interview with Rex Hammock, there’s no harm in holding them up as an example.
Over-linking. Showing yourself a little link love is not necessarily a bad habit. Obviously, if you have great content you should take advantage of the opportunity to direct your users to it — where appropriate. But a line is crossed when you bombard your users with internal links with an intention of generating more pageviews.
Example: a recent post on a popular social media blog contained 159 words. Not the longest post, right? Yet it was long enough to include six internal links covering 23 of those words. If that isn’t shameless over-linking, I don’t know what is.
If you’re an online publisher employing any of these tactics, you might want to think twice. Pageviews are important, but so are people — your users and your advertisers. Those who focus more on generating pageviews than maintaining a superior user experience and making sure that advertisers aren’t being cheated will eventually shed users and devalue their ad inventory.
Photo credit: ponchosquealº via Flickr.