Pages hits are a terrible metric
Lets not forget that DistroWatch lumps all of mint's environments onto it's one page. Meanwhile each variation of Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Lubunut, Xubuntu) are listed separately. Add all those up and you'll see that Ubuntu is easily still on top.
Additionally I discovered Ubuntu's website far before DistroWatch. I only ran into them later on when I was already using Ubuntu and was looking for other Distributions to try out. Ironically Linux Mint was what I installed next, then Arch Linux.
As I became more experienced in using Linux distributions I ventured to the more challenging ones.