Can ‘Visits’ Replace Pageviews?

In an attempt to provide advertisers with a new way to measure site traffic and engagement, comScore has added a new metric to its Media Metrix subscription reports: the visit. A visit measures the number of distinct times people visit a site per day, with at least 30 minutes between each visit.

“We wanted to get more into engagement and intensity of usage, and help better understand who the audience is,” Jack Flanagan, EVP at comScore Media Metrix, told ClickZ. By measuring the frequency with which a person views content, the metric aims to illustrate a component of user engagement.

Visits will augment the “frequency” metric, which counts the average number of days per month a user visits, and “unique visitors,” which counts the total number of people who visit in a month. Its advantage over “unique visitors” is that it can show more details on user engagement, Flanagan said.

For instance, a visitor that comes to a site once in a month will be counted as one unique visitor, as will a visitor that comes to the site every day that month. With visits, that user can be shown to be a loyal visitor, who visits the site multiple times a day. The visits metric will also be used to calculate “average visits per visitor,” which will show return visits per unique individual during the course of a month.

This is the first new metric comScore has added in a while, and it was mostly driven by the growing dissatisfaction with the pageview as more sites begin implementing technologies like AJAX or Flash that limit the usefulness of measuring an HTML-based action like a pageview.

In a post on Yahoo’s Yodel Anecdotal blog last week, Chief of Insights Peter Daboll said he found that visits could be a useful addition to his analytics reports.

“With ‘visits,’ we get an added layer of data that, combined with reach (the number of users) and engagement (how long they stay), yields a much more comprehensive and meaningful portrait of people’s interactions and activities online,” he said.

Daboll was quick to point out that the visit is not a “silver bullet,” given its limitation on measuring ad consumption and impressions. But it does offer more information publishers of sticky sites can use to demonstrate the value of their audience.

“What it does provide is a valuable reference for advertisers to determine where to increase their ad exposure and budgets. The more loyal users and ‘visits’ a site has, the more opportunities a particular ad has to be seen. It’s also a key measure of a site’s value and impact to a consumer’s life,” he said.

Flanagan said the issue of ad impressions is being addressed with another product, Ad Metrix, which comScore is currently working on. That product, currently in beta, will report ad impressions and ad-exposed unique visitors, and will be available some time this summer, he said.

A chart comparing unique visitors and average visits per visitor in February finds significant differences in the rankings for the top ten Web properties. While Yahoo remains atop the list under both methods, Time Warner slips from second to fourth, Google slips from third to sixth, Microsoft climbs from fourth to third, and eBay slips from fifth place to beyond the top 10 altogether when measured using the visits metric.

On the other side, Facebook comes from 36th place under the unique visitors model to land at second in the visits model, and Weatherbug does the same to reach fifth place from 48th.

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