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Web Site 'Hits' Explained

If you guessed it is the number of people visiting your web site you would be WRONG! A common misconception going around in the Internet world is the term HITS. Many people use the term as a measure of the popularity or their web site

You will often hear:

"I got 10,000 hits on my web site today"
or "Our web site gets 50,000 hits a day, boy will you get some traffic if you advertise here"
or "We can get you more hits for your web site..."

Ok, so what is a Hit then? 

First let me explain something about how a web site works:

When your browser comes across a web page it sends a message to the web site server requesting  that the web page that you are seeing be displayed. The web page is actually a file which contains the text that you see on the screen. It also contains HTML code that the browser interprets to display the web page.

Most web pages contain text, graphics and other fancy stuff. The file contains the text but not the graphics etc instead it provides a framework for the graphics to slot into. ie: bits of code that say "put that picture here please"

Then the browser must also go and get the images, graphics, sound files or whatever to make up the web page. The browser will ask the web site server for each of these elements individually. ie: "send me picture 1 please, now picture 2, ok now picture 3... Each of these elements is a separate fileYou can see on this stats page that the pages Shoes was called by the browser and it sent a whole lot of images with it. This equal 20 hits, but only 1 page view..

Once the browser has all the elements it needs to display the web page you will see the web page in full on your screen. Sometimes this can happen very quickly if the additional files are small.

Ok then, back to what is a hit? Each time the Web server sends out a file (any file) it records one hit.

Therefore a web page containing three pictures = 1 file for the text & framework + 3 files for the pictures = 4 hits. On the right is a server stats page from FastLook that shows a user has request the Shoes page. Then the page has requested images and banners etc. This would be recorded as 20 hits, but it is only 1 page view.

Now, a web page containing just text would only be 1 hit....and this is where the misconception has arisen from because in the early days of the Internet text was all there was so it was an effective measure of site traffic.

But now if you let your advertising mind wonder a bit, a web page containing text and 10,000 1 px x 1 px images (this is a very small picture) would register 10,001 Hits...but there is only 1 visitor.

So in effect the term hits is now almost irrelevant when quoting web site traffic or the popularity of a web site.

What is a useful measure of web site traffic then I hear you scream?

The most commonly used web site traffic measurements of popularity are "unique visitors" the number of unique browsers requesting web pages in a specified time period from the server and "page views" the number of pages viewed by any browser during the same specified time period.

But once again these measurements are not without there pitfalls.....but the biggest is that they mean very little if they are quoted independently of each other.

For example, a web site may trick users into entering and they leave immediately thereby registering a high unique visitors and a very low number of page views....or conversely the web site may open a large number of framed pages thereby receiving a high number of page views and a small number of unique users.

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