Analytics Tips

Hits vs. Visitors: Getting a Real Count on Your Traffic

by Jerry West
Updated: July 14, 2010

Have you ever see the claim, "We get 80,000 hits a month" on a web site? Or the scrolling counter at the bottom of a page? What does it all mean and is it accurate? What is the difference between a hit and a visitor?

A "hit" is not a visitor to the web site, but a hit on the web server. A hit on the web server can be a graphic, java applet, the html file, etc. So, if a site has 79 small graphics on the page, every visitor to the site registers as 80 hits on the server (79 graphics plus the html file). In this case, 80,000 hits translates to just 1,000 visitors.

As webmasters, designers, business owners, SEOs, etc., we are not concerned with hits to a site. We want to know the number of visitors to our site. And we don't just want to know about every visitor--we want to know about every unique visitor. So if we can't count hits, can we use a counter?

The problem with using counters to track our visitors is they are set up to measure page views, not unique visitors. Everytime someone views your page, whether it's the first time or the twentieth, that visitor is counted. And if the page times out for some reason and they "Reload," it counts them again. And if someone just wants to have fun with your counter, they can exit and enter the site several times and are counted as a visitor each time, even if they never look at a product.

So if you can't count hits and you can't use a counter, how do you track the traffic on your site? Use a web traffic analysis program. A web traffic analysis program will give you vital information about the traffic coming to your site, including where visitors are coming from, what paths your visitors are taking and which pages are the main exit points of your site.

Your web host should automatically provide you with a traffic analysis program, but there are a lot of varieties from which to choose.


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Jerry West is the Director of Internet Marketing for Web Marketing Now. He has been consulting on the web since 1996 and has assisted hundreds of companies in gaining an upper-hand over their competition. Visit Web Marketing Now for the latest in tested and proven marketing tips.

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