Dinner Party Statistics
I was at a friend’s house the other night and a guy there was telling us about the number of hits he gets each day on his web site. He said, “I get hundreds of hits every day”. His website sounded like a huge success.
You know those web hit counters that you used to see on practically every web site in the 1990s, but now you only see them on sites that look as if they were written in the 1990s? Look – I’ve put one here on this blog post.
If you refresh the page, the hit counter will add one to the total with each hit of the refresh button. That should tell you that this hit counter and others like it are pretty useless.
The owner of a site with a hit counter on it can make the hit counter’s value increase just by refreshing the page a few hundred times each day, (or by using a program to do it automatically). He can even set the hit counter to start at a certain number rather then zero. For example, I started the hit counter above at 55,000 to make the casual observer think that over 55,000 people have visited this page.
What’s The Difference Between Page Views, Hits and Unique Visitors
This is all obvious if you know it, but it is surprising how any people don’t. Ask people you think should know the difference – this is a good question to ask a web designer you are considering hiring. If they get it wrong, I suggest you find another one.
A visitor, or rather a unique visitor is defined as a single person who visits your web site in a single session. So, if you visit a site and you spend say 15 minutes browsing various pages on it – say you visit a total of 25 different pages in that time, that would count as a single visit.
The page view count is the actual number of pages that are made in the timeframe. So if you have 400 page views say, on a single day, that would mean that all your visitors together, viewed pages a total of 400 times. In the example we used earlier we would say that the single visitor who visited 25 pages, would have contributed at least 25 page views. This is because I said he visited 25 different pages, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t visit some of them more than once. In other words he may have contributed maybe 30 or 40 page views.
And Finally, Hits . . .
So what are these famous hits? Hits are not really of any use to you. But I’ll tell you what they are. Imagine there is a webpage called dogs.html, and on that page is some text and 10 images of dogs. Let’s also say that dogs.html uses a separate CSS file called dogs.css. If you go and view that page, you will incur 12 hits just by viewing that page once. That is because dogs.html counts as one hit, the 10 images count as a further 10 hits and the CSS file counts as one hit, giving a total of 12 hits. Now say you refresh the page. You will incur another 12 hits. You will add 12 hits to the hit count every time you hit refresh.
If 5 people visit the page once, that would make 60 hits. Can you see how hits have no meaningful relationship to unique visitor numbers? Now imagine the page dogs.html had 100 thumbnail images on it. This would mean that every time the page was viewed it would cause 102 hits to be added to the hit count. No wonder the guy at the dinner party thought he was getting a lot of visitors because he had a lot of hits. It is likely he thought hits were visitors.
. . . And Back to Hit Counters
The Hit Counter above does not count ‘hits’ as defined here. It counts pageviews for the page on which it is located – in this case, this page. So Hit counters like the one shown above should really be called Page View counters.
Robots And Visitors
There are some other things to consider whilst on this subject, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Suffice to say your stats package needs to be a bit more sophisticated than that hit counter up top here. Also, ask yourself ‘what constitutes a visit‘. Stats packages may decide that a break of 10 or 20 minutes in your viewing of a web site constitutes two visits. And also note that some stats packages can mix up robot visits with human visits so all those hits you are getting could be due to a single robot with a crush on your site.