R.I.P. Page Views
For years now, web geeks like me have warned about using page views as the prime or only method to measure website traffic. Just like "hits" from the early days of the Web, relying on the number of times people view the pages of your website is a big mistake. This month's release of Google Instant Preview is further proof that the page view may no longer be a viable way to track website traffic.
A quick look through some support forums revealed that Google counts the "agent" that captures the preview of your pages as an actual website visitor in its analytics package. Translation: The computer at Google is being counted as a real visitor rather than being added to a known list of "bots" that typically are excluded from traffic reports.
The demise of the page view could also be attributed to the increasingly popular "Top Sites" feature of the Safari web browser. Like Google Instant Preview, Safari's Top Sites gives you a snapshot of each of the websites you frequently visit in their current state (see photo).
You shouldn't discount page views altogether. Instead, make sure you know where your site uses AJAX and pay attention to any strange spikes in traffic.
Regardless of the issues addressed here, you never want to focus on just one website traffic statistic. I'll regularly look at Time on Site, Page Views Per Visit and specific goals we set in our analytics programs to determine if what we are doing is working and then adjust from there.