How many clicks do you register on a site before navigating away to a different one?
Pages-per-session is a measurement that simply reflects how many pages a visitor loads within one visit to your site. Upon arriving by way of search or social traffic—or perhaps even by typing your address into the good old-fashioned URL bar—this measurement helps point to how engaged visitors are with your site specifically.
Of the wide variety of metrics used to gauge a site’s performance, this one gives you a great perspective into how your site is engaging your audience. As previously discussed with a metric like time-on-site, you’re only getting part of the story on how visitors interact with your pages.
It’s difficult to capture 100% of a user’s time-on-site, but this is not the case with pages-per-session. With every page load, your analytics platform will record a tally, so nothing is lost.
How to succeed without really trying.
Pages-per-session is helped along by page design. Are your pages beautiful and easy to navigate? Visitors will then be more inclined to do some navigating of their own volition, naturally driving up your pages-per-session. The readers click because they want to.
News sites and other content sites stand to best flex this metric by making use of “related stories” links, motivating users to stick around and interact with more of your site’s content. It’s called organic recirculation, giving people an easy means to continue loading pages without leaving your site.
Also, pay attention to page depth, described by the screenshot below. Page depth is pages-per-session’s cousin metric, which tells you how many sessions are yielding one pageview, two pageviews, three pageviews, and so on. Identify the steepest dropoffs and observe how they change. This is another reliable way to track your site’s level of engagement.
Your goals may vary.
Point boldly to your high-value pages. Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with your traffic goals, a single video view could be more valuable than several article views. Make it as easy as possible for people to click on the links you most want them to click.
Don’t fear the occasionally low pages-per-session. Not all sites operate like a news site, which depends upon attracting visitors and keeping them around. Some sites might hook a visitor with one page only to see them buy something—clearly a successful session despite a low page count.
This is closely related to our previous discussion on bounce rate. When someone loads a page and immediately exits, it may simply mean you gave them what they were looking for very quickly.
Visitors will hate the player and the game.
Beware the temptation to game this metric. As they lead directly to ad impressions, pageviews are a key revenue generator for online media properties. This means it’s in every publisher’s direct interest to take steps to drive them as high as possible. This too often means taking shortcuts and sacrificing the quality of a reader’s experience.
Publishers may be motivated to break up single articles into multiple pages in order to drive up pages-per-session, but this is merely a bald-faced means of squeezing more clicks out of the same amount of content.
Yes, this strategy will certainly increase pageviews in the short term, but it will leave your visitors feeling scammed in the long term, and the additional ads may not perform for your advertisers. Who wants to click three times (or five times, or seven?) just to finish reading one article? Such tactics put the reader last and discourage repeat visits. It feels deceitful to any reader who’s paying attention.
Bringing it home.
Pages-per-session is an advantageous metric because it cuts out much of the gray area that others, like time-on-site, necessitate. It’s an absolute answer to how many pages people load with each visit to your site. It becomes easier to more directly track the correlation between template changes, like changing your related posts or organic recirculation modules, and your overall site performance.
By providing your users with a sharp site design, many opportunities to click links to worthwhile pages, and steering clear of pageview tricks, you’ll soon have engaged visitors that trend your pages-per-session upward.
And what kind of publisher wouldn’t want that?