MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

August 17, 2008

A Hit, By Any Other Name

"A hit, a hit, my kingdom for a hit!"

Perhaps William "Bud" Shakespeare didn't exactly write them but the sentiment is the same.

"Hits" the crowning jewel that all webmasters and bloggers use to measure the success of their site, and garner pride points ("My site gets more hits than yours!"). Hits drive advertising and link exchanges. Hits rank sites on popularity counters. The selling price of an established website always includes hits. Even some search engines consider hits when ranking sites.

But there's the problem…

A "hit" can mean several different things! And as such the number can grossly inflate the apparent popularity and visits of a site.

"Hits" can be counted as page views, server accesses, visits or unique visits.

Page Views – This quite literally means the number of times the page has been displayed. Doesn't matter the content of the page just the number of times the web page has been served up to a browser.

Now things get interesting!

Server Accesses – This is the number of times the web server has to be accessed by the web page to retrieve all the elements of the page. A web page is just HTML code (could also be PHP or ASP code but let's presume plain ol' HTML for now). There are all the extras that make a nice looking web page like graphics, photos, video or audio, scripts for animations and special effects, etc.

For example, suppose a web page consists of 4 elements: the HTML page it self, 2 graphics, and a photograph. Every time someone wants to see the page the web server has to serve up 4 items (technically popular web pages would probably be kept in the server's cache memory for faster results but that's not important, just mentioning in passing). Therefore, 1 page view = 4 server accesses.

As such, you can see that if by "hit" you mean server accesses the number of "hits" quadruples! In other words, someone using page views as "hits" would say the site had 1 hit but someone else using server access would say their site had 4 hits! That's a big difference!

But wait, it get's better!

Visits (or Visitors) – This is the number of individual accesses to the over all web site. For example, if 10 people are reading this blog page now that's 10 visits.

Unique Visits (or Visitors) – This is the number of one-of-a-kind individual access to the web site. For example, if you came to this blog 10 times today that would still only be 1 unique visit.


To tie all this together, let's say 2 different people come to a web site twice in a single day. This website has 5 pages, each with 4 elements on the page. Assume the two people view all the pages once each time they come to the site.

Therefore, depending how you count a hit, this website had:

40 server accesses
10 page views
4 visits
2 unique visits

That's a big difference in counting!

So the next time someone brags their site gets X-hits be sure to grill them on what the mean!

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