Ajax and Pageviews and Google, Oh My!

Ajax and Pageviews and Google, Oh My!

Vario Creative offers web 2.0 design servicesYech…I’m looking into the design of a directory style site, and I really want to improve the user experience using Ajax.  I hate the idea of asking users to drill down through a sea of links to get their reward.  Instinct tells me that we’ve got to change the user experience to make the site the success that it ought to be.

Sounds great?  Sure, how can you go wrong by improving user experience?

Therein lies the trap.  There’s a road littered with pitfalls ahead – and they potentially get right to the core of the customer’s business model.  Without giving anything specific, let’s look at what we’d reasonably expect that strategy to include.  First, since it’s a directory, we’re going to expect that much of their traffic will be coming in from search engines, like our good friend Mr. Google.  Secondly, we’d assume they’ll be monetizing this traffic with something like Adsense, and probably traditional banners. It’s a decent strategy that could potentially develop long legs given time.

But the problem is that to make the site work better for living and breathing humans by using Ajax I will be drammatically cutting their pageviews, and potentially throwing up a roadblock for search engine spiders, which can’t read javascript, hence cannot read Ajax. 

The search engine problem can probably be abated putting traditional navigation links in the NOSCRIPT tags (this is the stuff non-javascript readers will see).  But even there, I have a concern that Google could possibly see this as a cloaking technique, designed to show them something that the rest of of the Internet doesn’t.  If that were to happen, we could easily be banned from Google, which is a very bad thing for a strategy heavy on search.

On the other side, we’re looking at a pageview dependent strategy.  So what happens when I eliminate 1/4 of the pageviews using Ajax in favor of improved user experience?  Will quality pageviews make up for lack of gross tonnage?  I doubt it.  Will increased traffic due to the enhanced navigation pick up the slack?  Again I doubt it.

So here I sit, trying to find a way to justify a course of action I know in the long run is the correct one: use the Ajax and make the readers happy.  Avoid 1996 web design schemes and move forward into the brave new frontier.  Instead of working with a broken ad revenue model, find new ways to fix it. 

So here are some links I’ve come up with for any of you who are similarly interested:

Pageviews not a Web 2.0 Ad Metric

Pageviews are dead? 4 Other Must-Have Attention Metrics

comScore Hopes New Metric Will Add Clarity—And Please Publishers, Hold Off Auditor

Guardian column: Death of the page view

The Pageview is Dead – Or Is It?

Okay, here are my general thoughts:

  • Visits (specifically unique visits) are a good measure of a site’s traffic, and the potential number of eyeballs you’ll reach.
  • Depth of visit measurements are key in judging the level of engagement of readers.  More reader engagement should be a more valueable eyeball.

Depth of visit can’t be judged by pageviews anymore.  You must look at completed actions – eyeballs at the end of the road – stories read, or form submission or posts/comments.  Forget the intermediary pages, and look at the end of the line.  Relate entry pages to exit pages (did they actually go anywhere).

But this doesn’t solve my problem.  I still need to think of a way to replace what might be gross tonnage revenue.  We’re not big enough to tell advertisers how it’s going to be, we’ve got to work with what’s already available.  Maybe pay per action ads will be the route to go.  So if you’re looking for the answer, I don’t have it.  Not yet at least.  But I do think that there’s a solution out there.  

Okay, your turn: comments and suggestions if you please…

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