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Pageviews per visitor dropped after redesign - even as Google traffic soared

 5:12 pm on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)


Just wondering if I could pick a few brains here...

Basically we have a website which we redesigned back in June, it effectively created another layer of pages 'Individual Entry':

Home Page > Product Indexes > Individual Products > Individual Product Sub Type > Individual Entry

- So effectively tens of thousands more pages were created and submitted into Google, the aim was to increase the amount of long tail searches, by targetting thousands more individual search terms with all these new pages.

While this was a great idea initially and we saw a decent rise in pageviews per vistors (2.9 to 3.5 p/v), a few months down the line, sep 12-14 or thereabouts we saw a sudden and then more gradual drop in pageviews per visitor (2.9p/v) and a large increase in the percentage of referrals from google.

This graph shows in better detail to drop in pv/v
[i51.tinypic.com ]

Now thinking about what to do next to reverse this... We want to keep the new pages, but are thinking about excluding these new pages from the google index - we think people are entering too deep and jogging off again or previously not finding us via google for a long tail search and typing us in instead.

Our number of visitors have stayed around the same during all of this, but our direct traffic has plummeted and google referrals have rocketed. These google referrals generally view less pages than type ins (as they enter the site exactly where they want to be).

We can only summise at this point we are now more easily found in google for the long tail but have not gained any new vistors from this as people were previously typing us in anyway if we were not found for a lot of these searches.

Any suggestions or tales of similar experiences appreciated.



 9:59 pm on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Our number of visitors have stayed around the same during all of this, but our direct traffic has plummeted and google referrals have rocketed

I don't understand how there would be a connection between direct traffic and Google traffic.

Page views per visitor could have dropped because the pages didn't match what the visitor was looking for.


 11:19 pm on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Page views per visitor could have dropped because the pages didn't match what the visitor was looking for.

Or because search results are far better targetted.

Don't get hung up on site stats, the site is only the means to an end and that end is sales. Is it affecting the bottom line?


 11:48 pm on Dec 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

If the direct traffic visitors were mostly repeat visitors, they may have just found the new structure too much of a change, so they cut back on their visits and pages per visit.

The initial jump in page views might be accounted for by these visitors trying to find something where they thought it should be.

New visitors from any search engine would be nearly as likely to notice the change, or be bothered by it.

As those new pages got indexed and show up in the serps they might result in a drop in page views per visit, because visitors are land on or closer to the page with the content they want.

But at about .6 page views, the change in page views per visit doesn't seem all that big to me.


 6:52 am on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

aristotle - It's just what google analytics showed us - a huge drop in direct traffic and a huge rise in google traffic - equating to about the same number of visitors.

Because they were coming in via google there was a drop in the number of pages they were viewing (because when direct to content)

paitkow - we're a content site, not a sales site, so page impressions and vistor numbers are really important to us.

ken_b - we've had no grumbles about the site change, if anything they say it is easier to navigate and encourages more page views per member.

.6 page views to us means a drop of about 6m ads per month so we really want to get those back.

-- Thanks guys for the replies.


 5:42 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's just what google analytics showed us - a huge drop in direct traffic and a huge rise in google traffic - equating to about the same number of visitors.

Are you talking about percentages or about absolute numbers?

Eg. if you are suddenly ranking better across long tail and Google traffic soared, then in relative terms your direct traffic would be lower even if in absolute terms it may have stayed the same or even increased.

Secondly, you are talking on "losing" 0.6 page views - obvioulsy you are refering to an average figure. You may in fact have more page views than before in absolute terms.

For example, if you had 100 visitors with 3.6 page views and you now have 150 visitors with 3.0 page views per visitor, the "drop" of 0.6 is in fact an increase of actual page views by 90. So have you really had drop of ads per month looking at absolute number of page views?

In many cases the "rocketed" Google traffic comes hand in hand with higher bounce rate and lower page/visitor figure.


 6:19 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's just what google analytics showed us - a huge drop in direct traffic and a huge rise in google traffic - equating to about the same number of visitors.

There is, of course, the possibility that analytics is wrong...

One of my sites went from a bounce rate of around 65% to a bounce rate of 25% overnight back in October.

Is it also possible that some of your pages might not have the GA script installed correctly?

Also, have you looked at the click overlay? The one in GA is ok (it only shows you actual links that people clicked on), but if you have some of the click overlay scripts installed, they can tell you even where people clicked that WASN'T a link (like an image or logo that they thought was a link, but wasn't). This can help you see whether users might be getting a bit frustrated or not...


 7:04 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

again, thanks for the further replies.

aakk99 - I'm talking about absolute numbers, it seems that the a we've lost a chunk of direct type ins and gained a chunk of long tail google referrals, total vistor numbers are about the same.

On losing 0.6 page views, yes that is an average and altogether page views are down by that average number multipled by the number of daily vistors, our ad serving stats are lower so there is no mistake in google analytics.

Planet13 - thanks for the suggestiob, I'll take a look into click overlay, I've not done that yet - I'll dig around for a decent script (unless anyone can recommend a good free one).

Thanks again everyone... I'm still thinking a noindex on these new pages in google should theoretically return everything to how it was before ?!?


 7:22 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't know about a free one, but crazy egg is pretty darn cheap.

First of all, across almost 300 sites since we first had access to it, GA has dropped between 20 and 25% of traffic; visits, pageviews, and ecommerce transactions. This for sites we host and that are hosted elsewhere. GA should be taken as possibly reflecting of trends, but not to live or die by. If you're selling advertising by the pageviews reported by GA, you're probably undercharging.

Secondly, there are all kinds of things that could be affecting pageview analytics. Did you ever put tracking on outgoing links or PDFs so that it might be viewed as a pageview (and now it's gone) ? Do you know WHICH pageviews are down so much? Is it across the board?

Thirdly - don't count on returning everything to how it was before. You pretty much can't. Even if you undo all your changes, other things have no doubt changed since then. I wouldn't change anything till you have a better handle on WHAT to change. Or if, in fact, you need to.

I was tearing my hair out this past year over a big pageview drop after a relaunch till it suddenly occurred to me that we'd gone from a six page checkout process to a one page checkout process. D'oh!


 8:19 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the heatmap suggestion netmeg, we may give labs media click heat (http://www.labsmedia.com/clickheat/index.html) a run, for crazy egg we'd need a package many times bigger than their most expensive one.

We sell the ads by impression not pageviews so while we're not undercharging we are seeing a drop in ad impressions caused by the decrease in page views per visitor.

And we will definately consider things more before jumping into changing anything - don't want to make things worse! I am trying to track down for sure which pageviews are down, but because of the longtail nature it is hard (analysing tens of thousands of single/few hit pages and trying to find a pattern).


 4:53 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Does your record of ad impressions capture the URL that contained the ad? preferably with a time/date stamp?


 7:13 am on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

No it doesn't, for ad stats we just get a summary of how many impressions served and what sizes (we don't sell the ads ourselves, we outsource it).


 7:18 pm on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

A large part of it was mentioned above.

Direct traffic most likely goes directly to your domain root. To read an article they will perform 3-4 page views.

Google traffic most likely goes right to the article performing only 1 page view.

Create some advanced segments and look at direct traffic patterns and google traffic patterns.

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