A recent blogging advice site offered this piece of wisdom to its readers: "If each visitor reads 1.5 pages or more, you're building a community of readers". That's not necessarily so..
A blog that gets most of its traffic from regular subscribers (high repeat visitors) is going to show a smaller number of average page views per visit - they've visited regularly, have already read the other pages, why would they read them again? A blog like mine, primarily driven by search engine results, should have a higher page view per visit count BUT (and it's a big but) that depends on the specific page, too. If a page reached by search is a complete answer to a specific problem, people may immediately leave because they are off to apply the fix!
For a sales website, trying to drive visitors to that final page where they place their order, a high number of page views per visitor might indicate confusion: they can't find what they need to know and you may be losing sales because of it.
So how many Page Views per visitor should you have? I don't know - because it depends on your web site. You need to compare your site to other sites that are similar to yours. There are two places I know of where you can do that: Alexa and Compete. Both of these allow you to plug in multiple websites and compare them head to head for popularity, page views per visitor and other statistics.
For example, I often measure this site against Linux.com - that's a pretty popular place, but not so far above this site as to make comparisons meaningless. They used to have a very high PV/V ratio, but it seems to have dropped recently - I have no idea why, but as long as my ratio is similar to theirs I feel I'm probably doing the right things. Like me, they probably get a lot of their traffic from search, some from regulars, and have a few "oh that solves it" pages.
On the other hand, it wouldn't make sense for a blog that gets 10% of its traffic from search to compare itself to either of us - their PV/V ration probably should be low, maybe hovering around that 1.5 number thrown out at the beginning of this post. If a site like that has higher numbers, they must have very forgetful readers! Of course it is also possible that the small number of search visitors read dozens of pages and push the average up.. so it wouldn't be a bad thing for them to have high PV/V stats.
High PV/V can be good, it can be bad, and it can be unexpected. You need to know the traffic sources before you can judge.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2011-03-20 Anthony Lawrence
Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed with Browser X' label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network. (Tim Berners-Lee)