The Compromise of Analytics: Single-Page Javascript Driven vs. Multi-Page Websites

dynamicvsmultipleThis is a rather small argument, but I thought, while looking through my Google Analytics, that I would talk a bit about the impact of analytics (and SEO, too) between utilizing a Javascript based dynamic content site and something slightly more static, such as a multi-page website.

I currently have 2 sites active that use both techniques.  The site utilizing a single page, and dynamically loading content via Javascript (thanks jQuery!) is Liar’s Snake, my blues music project.  This site, obviously, utilizes the traditional multi-page content structure.

First, allow me to talk about the virtues of a single-page site.  One, it functions more like an application, rather than a website, and allows for some cool (and fast) loading techniques that many users enjoy.  Two, managing it can be incredibly simple: You’re not splitting your content amongst multiple templated pages, which is great for simple sites (such as mine that I mentioned above).  To update the content anywhere, I literally just have to open the index page.  I could also just load the content via PHP Includes, or MySQL, much like other sites.  It provides supreme flexibility in that regard.

The disadvantages are two fold.

One, SEO can be severely hampered.  Breaking content out into appropriate pages is like candy for search engines; If someone searches for “Liar’s Snake Albums”, they’ll have an easier time finding the album page, rather than loading the one dynamic page (which, depending on your implementation, may not even load content properly FOR the search engine), forcing them to search the content for it.

Two, the biggest reason I wrote this, is the pains of integrating analytics such as bounce rate.

Bounce rate determines how much a user browses your site, essentially, which is an important number.  The lower the percentage, the better.  Right now, I’ve got an above-average bounce rate, but that’s not entirely unexpected.  I frequently get returning readers who just visit to an article I just linked to, and don’t need to read the rest of the articles.

How does a single-page javascript driven site affect bounce rate?  Without some advanced analytics designed for sites with such a structure, you are guaranteed a 100% bounce rate.  That shows you very little; duration on page is a potential indicator of engagement, but not always, thanks to the invention of tabbed browsing (not to mention the telephone, or work, frequent interrupter of casual web browsing).

So, you have to decide what is more important to you based on the site.  If you’re managing something internal, or a social networking site, dynamic JS-based content loading is acceptable, as bounce rate isn’t as important aside from the login page.  For blogs, portfolios, or multi-page news sites, bounce rate is a critical metric that MUST be allowed for.