Monday, August 22, 2005

HITS, Helps Idiots Track Success

Every wonder what the word "HITS " really means when someone says their website had a million hits ?

Some people use "hits" and "visitors" as if they meant the same thing. This of course couldn't be further from the truth. While this sounds very impressive to anyone with little or no knowledge of the Internet, it does not help the credibility and ethics of anyone presenting these numbers amongst knowledgeable people experienced in Internet marketing.

For comparisons sake, we only take a few days to count a million hits, but we would never use this in our advertising as it is too easy to manipulate these numbers. One example that I recall was a website that had a black background with tiny stars mixed in the graphic. A very appealing looking site but since each of these stars was an image file with a distinct file name, one page view actually triggered over 600 hits. You can see how it is so easy to manipulate this traffic measurement. If someone is speaking to you about hits, they're indicating that they have very little knowledge of site traffic measurement - either that, or they believe you have very little.

Hit - Any file called for from the hosting server. Calling for a page with 20 images will show 21 Hits. (Original html file + 20 image files = 21 as one example)

Page Views - the number of pages served to visitors.

Visitor Sessions - As users start wandering through your Web site, they are paying a visit, or creating a visitor session as they browse. A break of some time interval (can be set by the reporting software) decides when a session ends and a new one starts. The same person returning five times is five sessions.

Unique Visitors - Supposed to be the measure of unique users. That same visitor who came back and made five sessions is only one unique user. There are issues with large ISPs such as AOL where the same IP address (used to identify the visitor) is used by many people. Each time they dial into their ISP, they may get a different IP address, but with thousands of users dialing into one phone bank over the day, you will see the same IP address for many different people. This can affect the reported numbers of uniques.

Once you understand what Internet traffic numbers mean, you can understand why some people say HITS stands for Helps Idiots Track Success.

That's my rant for today