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Are You Boosting Pageviews or Attracting Readers?

If you’re a content provider who’s still presenting articles in slideshow form, we have some bad news for you: the days of easy pageview inflation are over.

A few years ago, many media companies, bloggers and other web sites thought they had found an easy way to game the system when it came to pageviews. More pageviews = more advertisers and advertising dollars, so what could be wrong with forcing readers to click through multiple pages to read what would normally have been a one-page article?

A lot, as it turns out.

1. It can damage your brand.

The first danger of artificially boosting pageviews via unnecessary slideshow formatting is that you risk alienating your readers and potential customers—you know, the reason you’re posting content in the first place. Lifehacker even posted an article showing people how to turn those reviled slideshow articles into formats they might actually want to read. Slideshows can take longer to load on a slow internet connection, and it takes more effort to click a “Next” button than it does to scroll. Once readers associate your website with frustration, they may not come back. And they certainly won’t share your content.

2. It wastes resources.

Your writers and web folks could be spending their time—and your money—creating compelling content and designing truly great user experiences. If you’ve got them dividing up their copy into tiny “snackable” chunks and surfing stock photo sites for illustrations, they’re not doing the innovative work that could legitimately get you in front of more eyeballs.

3. It doesn’t actually get more people to see your content.

Using a slideshow format doesn’t actually increase your viewership. Best case scenario, it juices your numbers to attract those delicious advertising dollars. But if your goal is (as it should be) to bring more readers or potential customers to your website, pageview acrobatics like this are only a distraction from the bigger issue.

4. It improves some metrics while damaging others.

Sure, you’ll get more pageviews if you divide your content into multiple slides. But while that number will go up, time spent per page will go down, as will ad clicks, comments, engagement, and (as we mentioned above), sharing. If you have too few words per page, paginate improperly or create your meta title incorrectly, your SEO will suffer. And if someone does share your content, you’ll get individual social share counts for each page, rather than one count for the entire article.

5. It cheats you out of useful information.

Confine your articles to a single page, and you’ll start to see some truly actionable information in your site metrics. You’ll find out how compelling your content is, how positive the user experience you provide is, and what your readers value, based on what they share.

In an article on Slate, Farhad Manjoo interviewed the editors of two über-popular sites that refuse to divide content into multiple pages or slideshows. Joshua Topolsky, editor of The Verge, says, “From the beginning, there’s been a company-wide belief that we can marry great advertising with great content and not have to cheat or trick our users. And so far, that’s proven 100 percent correct. […] I believe advertisers are really beginning to see the true value in engaged users who care (and return) versus sheer volume of pageviews (though our pageviews have also been through the roof).”

In the same article, Jonah Peretti, the founder of BuzzFeed, says, “If you build things that people are excited about sharing with their friends—if you build things that don’t annoy people and if it’s presented in a user-friendly way—then, long-term, people will share content more, new people will come and check out what you’re doing, people will have more positive feelings about you, and… OK, maybe it’s a little bit utopian of a view, but it’s working for us.”

The take-home? If you spend your time and resources on creating genuinely interesting, valuable content, your pageviews and other metrics will increase the old-fashioned way—by attracting more readers who stay on your website longer, come back often, and share your content.