Website “Hits”: a Useless Way to Measure Traffic

When you’re working to promote a website, you might hear about how many “hits” the big name bloggers get. And you’ll no doubt be trying to come up with ways to increase your own number of “hits.”

But in reality, hits isn’t a metric you should ever give serious thought to. It’s a holdover from the early days of the web and it actually means something different than your level of website traffic, which is what you really want to know.

This isn’t just an issue of semantics. For the statistics you should be thinking about, there are nuances that you need to understand in order to have a true understanding of how your website is performing.

Visits, Visitors and Pageviews: The Traffic Stats to Actually Care About

A hit literally means a file requested from your website’s server, so a single page that includes an html file and two images would technically generate three hits.

Hits are a relic from years ago when this really was the important statistic due to the limited nature of bandwidth. But today most people who use it are really just trying to quantify their level of traffic.

In order to make any sense of our traffic, however, we need to go into a little more detail. Are we looking at the total number of people who visit? Or each time any user navigates to our site, no matter whether it’s their first time or not? Or do you care about how many pages are viewed in total, which helps tell the story of how engaged your traffic is.

In most cases, we’ll want to know all three of these, because they go together. And those make up the three traffic stats that are important to start tracking and analyzing.

Visits – This is also known as a “session,” and refers to any time a visitor comes to your site. The same person could use the site many times and get counted for multiple visits. The visit usually ends after a specified period of time in which the user does not click on any additional pages or otherwise show engagement.

Unique Visitors – Sometimes just “visitors,” this is how many different people come to your site, and as such it will be a smaller number than visits. The way this stat is usually tracked is by IP address, so it doesn’t do a perfect job of identifying different individuals. More than one person could use the same computer, or the same person could visit from multiple unconnected devices. But it does give a close approximation and remains a key statistic.

Pageviews – This is the total number of pages that are viewed, irrespective of how many visitors account for them. So if two people come to your site and click on 50 pages, or 25 people visit and view 4, you will have the same number of pageviews: 100.

So make it a point to get the word “hits” out of your vocabulary, and start tracking these three statistics instead, either in Google Analytics or another website analytics tool of choice.

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Andrew Walsh

I'm Andrew Walsh, a web entrepreneur, author and academic librarian. Check out my book Savvy for the Social Web, or learn more about me my personal homepage. If you're interested, please follow me on Twitter and Google+
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