Executive Summary and Article NavigationDiscussion and technical definitions of:
- Why hits are not a good way to measure traffic
- The difference between server hits & hit counters
- Tracking unique visitors
- The difference between new & returning visitors
Technical definition of a hit
Each file sent to a browser by a web server is an individual hit.
Technical definition of a pageview
A pageview is each time a visitor views a page on your website, regardless of how many hits are generated. Pages are comprised of files. Every image in a page is a separate file. When a visitor looks at a page (a pageview), they may see numerous images, graphics, pictures etc. and generate multiple hits.For example, if you have a page with 10 pictures, then a request to a server to view that page generates 11 hits (10 for the pictures, and one for the html file). A page view can contain hundreds of hits. This is the reason that we measure page views and not hits.
Conclusion: hits are not a reliable way to measure website traffic.There is an additional potential for confusion here, because there are two types of ‘hits’. The hits we are discussing in this article are the hits recorded by log files, and interpreted by log analysis. A second type of ‘hits’ are counted and displayed by a simple hit counter. Hit counters record one hit for every time a webpage is viewed, also problematic because it does not distinguish unique visitors. Here is an article discussing hit counters.
Technical definition of a visit
A visit happens when someone or something (robot) visits your site. It consists of one or more page views/ hits. One visitor can make multiple visits to your site.
Technical definition of a visitor
To increase reliability we use first-party cookies, which means they name the site where the visitor is browsing.
Strictly speaking, “one visitor” means “one person” based on the definitions given above. So that if someone continuously visits your site over long periods of time, they will be recorded only as one visitor.
How to distinguish between new and returning visitors
- A returning visitor is a visitor who visits your site with a 24 hour period in between.
- Secondly, we measure visits, a visit is a visitor’s clickstream broken by a ten minute interval, (minimum of ten minutes). So you have a cup of coffee, and return to the site after ten minutes, this will be a second visit. Say you go to bed, and you return to the site 24 hours later; you will be a returning visitor.
- How does user/visitor tracking work?
- The difference between visitor tracking and log analyzers
- Internet Myth #4: I Need Lots of Hits on My Website