First, the definitions:
- Unique Visitors – The number of individuals who have visited your website. But, if a person on a dial-up connection disconnects and reconnects, they will be assigned a different IP address and therefore be counted as another unique visitor if they return to your website.
- Visits or Visitors – The number of visits to your website. A single unique visitor could be responsible for many if about an hour passes between them taking action (eg they leave your website open on a tab in their browser and forget about it until they click on it an hour later).
- Page Views – The number of web pages your website serves. So a single visitor may go back to your home page several times, or refresh a page, each instance counts as another page view.
- Hits – The number of files your website serves. Every time your CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) loads, every time each image on your website loads, each time your php or html files load, all these count as 1 hit. So if a website has a lot of these items on its home page, a single page view of that home page may generate 40 hits. And if a website has very few items, a single view may only generate 20 hits.
Why should you care?
You should care because the method that you choose to measure your websites success is important.
You should care because there is a lot of confusion out there about which one to use, and especially when selling advertising space people will brag about how many “hits” they get, so now you know to ask them “what about unique visitors, or page views?”
Which one should you use? Unique Visitors? Visits? Visitors? Page Views? Hits?
- Hits is no good because you could double it overnight just by adding a few images.
- Page Views is no good because you could have pages that need lots of refreshing (F5 on your keyboard).
- Vists/Visitors is ok, but if one particular person comes back several times in one day because they keep getting interrupted, you really only want to count them once.
- Unique Visitors is the best choice (and most webstats software reports that statistic accurately)
So the next time someone says to you “my website is so cool, I get 1000 hits a day”, you can say, “Whatever! I could put 100 tiny images on my pages and generate 1000 hits an hour! How many Unique Visitors do you get a day? That’s the only number that really matters!”.
And then they say “Wow, I’ve been such a dumb arse, how did you get so smart?”, and then you say “I learnt about it at Sheldon Nesdale at Firstbyte Websites in Tauranga, New Zealand, you should get his help with your website, he’s so skilled and very handsome!”.