First, the definitions:
- Unique Visitors – The number of individuals who have visited your website. But, if a person on a dial-up connection disconnects and reconnects, they will be assigned a different IP address and therefore be counted as another unique visitor if they return to your website.
- Visitor – The number of visitors who have visited your website. But, again, if that person has dial-up, everytime they disconnect and reconnect, they will be considered a new visitor.
- Page Views – The number of web pages your website serves. So a single visitor may go back to your home page several times, or refresh a page, each instance counts as another page view.
- Hits – The number of files your website serves. Every time your CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) loads, every time each image on your website loads, each time your php or html files load, all these count as 1 hit. So if a website has a lot of these items on its home page, a single page view of that home page may generate 40 hits. And if a website has very few items, a single view may only generate 20 hits.
Why should you care?
You should care because the method that you choose to measure your websites success is important.
Which statistic should you use?
- Hits is no good because you could double it overnight just by adding a few images.
- Page Views is no good because you could have pages that need lots of refreshing (F5 on your keyboard).
- Visitors is ok, but if one particular person comes back several times in one day because they keep getting interrupted, you really only want to count them once.
- Unique Visitors is the best choice (and most webstats software reports that statistic accurately)
So the next time someone says to you “my website is so cool, I get 1000 hits a day”, you can say, “Whatever! I could put 100 tiny images on my pages and generate 1000 hits an hour! How many Unique Visitors do you get a day? That’s the only number that really matters!”.