Monday, January 21, 2013

Website Hits, Visitors, and the Inaccuracies of Hit Counters

What’s the difference between hits and visits? And are hit counters accurate?

Hits refer to the number of files that can be downloaded from a page. If a page has nine images, it counts as ten hits including the actual page view.

Visits refer to the actual number of pages viewed.

Both numbers can be inaccurate. Visits can be inaccurate as they count your own visits (even when editing your site) or page reloads. Hits can be inaccurate as they reflect a web browser’s requests for a file from your web server.

In short, most hit counters are misleading.

Linda Adams had this to say in her article Hits and Visits 101:

Many people focus on the hits or what a counter shows--because the numbers are high. It makes them feel successful, when, in fact, it is very misleading.

A counter simply counts the number of times anyone visits the page the counter is on. That means if you went back to the main page five times during your one visit to the site, the counter would show five ticks. Counters are notoriously inaccurate for this reason; some web masters have been known to keep reloading their page to make their website more seem more popular than it really is. Worse still, if you have one on your site, and it only shows ten ticks on the counter, this advertises that no one is coming to your site.

But what about hits? Be wary of anyone who says they are receiving a large volume of hits. It doesn't mean there are many people actually coming to the site! Huh? Then what do those high numbers represent? A hit is one file being downloaded. Let's suppose you visit a page with 100 thumbnails on it. Each one of those thumbnails is a file in addition to the web page itself. So, by coming to that one page with the 100 images, you have just generated 101 hits. But only one person visited. So a site that gets 87,000 hits may have only 3,000 visitors, depending on how the site is designed.

But many people often use the hits as a sign of success because the number, for obvious reasons, is so much higher. However, it doesn’t tell you any information you can use to build on your visitors. All it tells you is that you have a lot of graphics and other files on your site.

In addition, there are spam issues associated with some hit counters. Linchpin SEO has THIS article on why you shouldn’t use a hit counter.

If you want to track unique visitors (and more) accurately, try using Google Analytics instead.

So the next time you see a blog or site’s hit counter, don’t be impressed or misled by a large number. A tiny number might be a problem though…


And thank you to all who commented on my hair in last Friday’s post. It does take a long time to dry, which is why I usually don’t. No, I don’t tie it back because I don’t like the way it makes me look. Yes, I can just sit on it. And no, I don’t have any plans to cut it!

46 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I knew there was a reason I didn't pay attention to my stats. :D

shelly said...

Yup. This is true. One of my posts got hit by the same spammer 25 times in one day. I had to spam every comment. What a pain.

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

PS I'm just happy to get one comment.

Yvonne's World of Poetry said...

I'm happy for any comment providing their not abusive, Enjoyed read about the hit list.

Yvonne,

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I usually don't have the time to look at blog stats, but I will pull up Google Analytics from time to time. Interesting article, Diane!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Even our blog stats can be inaccurate, although not as much as a counter.

Al Diaz said...

I realized numbers were not accurate when I tried to match them together in my blog so I don't pay much attention anymore.

Karen Walker said...

Yup,this validates my choice to not pay attention as well.
Karen

Stephen Tremp said...

I rarely look at my stats. I should use Google Analylitics though. I'll check it out later this week when I have some time.

David P. King said...

That's why I tell blogger not to count my traffic each time I log in and set it up to keep track of unique visitors only. Got to love Google Analytics! :)

DL Hammons said...

I do use Google Analytics, and I pay more attention to the trends then the actual numbers themselves. :0

Southpaw said...

Good post. I use a combination of Google Analytics and a stat program on my host's server. - Then I take an average!

I look at unique visits and pages that were viewed.

Tracy Jo said...

Great information. Thank you!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's why I dumped the counter on my blog. None of the stats match anyway.

Bish Denham said...

I wondered about some of the hit numbers on some of my posts. Now I know. Thanks!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Stats are misleading and hit counters are way off.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I don't pay attention to any of this, partly because I don't know what it all means! Thanks for the info. :)

Emily R. King said...

Wonderful information, Linda. I don't put too much stock in any of this. All I know is that the numbers keep going up!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane .. thanks - I've never worried about these ... I just get on with life and blogging.

Love my comments and people who follow me and that interaction .. so important ...

Interesting to read about though .. and I'll use Google Analytics if I ever feel the need to check ... cheers Hilary

Sherry Ellis said...

Very interresting! Now I'm glad I don't pay attention to hits and stats!

Johanna Garth said...

That makes so much sense. I always wondered how people who hardly ever blog can do one post and have "10,000 hits". It just never made sense to me.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Hilary, that's the best way to check.

Johanna, now you know.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That is VERY good information to know! I had no idea.

Ciara said...

I haven't checked my stats in so long. Now maybe I can understand them. LOL

Ciara said...

Great information. I'll have to check my stats. It's been so long since I looked at them.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I didn't understand that's how hit counters work. It's so difficult to know what works.

Carol Kilgore said...

I don't even remember the last time I looked at my blog stats. But I never knew what they meant anyway. So now I know more :) Thanks!

Jo said...

Thanks for this explanation. I didn't have any idea how it worked. Will check Google Analytics if I can find it!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Yet another good reason never to check my stats! I don't have the time anyway so this is all good :)

Laura Eno said...

That's why I don't have one. I didn't realize it counted all the images too!
Does your hair ever fall in your food while you're eating? ;)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Those who may be interested will find an excellent article on the subject in the last issue of IBPA's print magazine/newsletter. Ways to best utilize analytics, etc.

Best,

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Excited about how much the new edition of the Frugal Book Promoter (expanded! updated!) can help writers with the tried and true and the new media, too. Now a USA Book News award-winner in its own right (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo) it the original edition was also a Reader Views winner and an Irwin Award winner.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

"Only" 3000 visitors? How "dreadful". (I'd do a happy dance through the streets of Atlanta!)

Annalisa Crawford said...

My stats always seemed anomalous, but it's interesting to read why!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Laura, I had no idea it counted images. Hair in my food? Yes! I often have to tie it up, especially when eating spaghetti. Although red hair and red sauce do mix well.

Gossip_Grl said...

If you don't want your own visits to count, Google Analytics has a button to click so that your page visits don't count.

nutschell said...

I always learn something new when I drop by your blog. Thanks for this info!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

randi lee said...

I know some people who are way too tied up with stats and could learn a thing or two from this post! Definitely passing it on!

klahanie said...

You bring up a lot of interesting points. And it the wholle site counter thing can be misleading. I don't pay much attention to them because I find the various counters I can check have a wide range of hits and visits on my site. And even discovered that I visited myself, 30 miles away from where I live.

Thank you and this is a visit from England, where in England, I have no idea :)

Gary

Arlee Bird said...

I don't pay much attention to my stats because they don't make that much sense to me. Comments seem like a more viable measurement. I set my blog settings so that supposedly they don't record my own visits. It's cool to look at the stats sometimes but I don't have time to obsess over them and try to figure them all out.

Lee
A Faraway View

Shannon Lawrence said...

Interesting! Is Google Analytics something separate from that found in Blogger automatically?

On sitting on your hair, I stood on my hair once. I was bent over to do something and didn't realize I'd stepped on my hair. It's WAY shorter now, but didn't used to be. Ah, the joys of long hair!

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Cynthia said...

I don't check my stats very often. And I hadn't given much thought to what hits were before. What you have here is quite insightful...now I know the difference between the two.

C.M.Brown said...

Some good points, I usually pay more attention to where my visitors are from, more than the number of visits.

M Pax said...

That explains a lot. Although, my numbers always seem to be lower than the comment #, which perhaps means my analyzer isn't counting my blog page but the home page. Maybe? Shrug. I should log into my webhost more often and check what they say.

Nick Wilford said...

Wow, I always thought were hits and visits were one and the same. Thanks for the education. I haven't looked at my stats in a long time, though. Like others have said, I'd rather have meaningful comments than a meaningless number.

Hart Johnson said...

I still like them, as it still gives an idea of traffic, even if it can't be taken in a 1:1 way. I also love my flag counter. Theoretically it is a flag per computer that has visited, though I suspect a computer gets forgotten over time and so it still over counts.

Susanne Drazic said...

Thanks for sharing this information. Now I know why some of the numbers always seem so off.

Monti said...

Thanks for explaining this. I am confused by the difference between my counter and the Blogger overview! What you wrote helps...

Monti
Mary Montague Sikes