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When Is A Hit Not A Hit?

When Is A Hit Not A Hit?

"My web site has had a million hits!" Or how about "We have had over million hits this month alone" Sound impressive doesn't it? Well not really when you understand that a hit may sometimes be more of a miss.

When you type the address of a web site into your browser it sends a request to that web site's server to download the web page to your computer. That would be counted as one request or a 'hit' which is then recorded in the server log files. The problem is though, that web pages are not made up of plain text alone, but also images, java etc. Every request for a page also calculates these extra requests for files as 'hits'.

So for instance, if you had a web page that had say thirty-nine images on it (and some can have more), if this was downloaded only once that would be forty hits (including the web page). If the user then went on to a second page that also contained thirty-nine images that would be, one person, two page views and eighty hits. Is that impressive? NO, but high hit counts can sound good.

You see how misleading the term hits can be. Very careful consideration of this should be taken into account when placing advertising on web sites. Anyone with a dedicated hosting account will have full access to their web site server logs and can tell you instantly what their site traffic is. What you need to know is the number of page views or better still the number of unique individuals requesting only pages and this they should be able to supply you with. Forget about hits, hits are a big miss.

Some home pages without log file access add page counters or other types of stealth counters to their site to help keep a simple track record of how many times that page has been loaded. These should never be considered when placing advertising, or really be considered at all as an indicator to the true number of site visitors. Page counters may count the same individual loading the same page time and time again.

It is also quite easy in some instances to download the counter number file by FTP and reset the figures. Why start at 1? How about starting at 100000 - looks good? Not really when you understand how it can be all reset.

This is a link to the server log file for Sutherland-Direct a business directory we maintain, this is just a small section for the 31 days of March 2000 http://www.nnh.co.uk/sutherland-direct/server.html

If you take a quick look you can see the server requests/hits. But more importantly the page views and unique hosts/individuals. Sutherland-Direct has quite a good traffic flow but the 'hits' are not particularly high as most pages only have one image, more importantly though, are the number of page views and unique/distinct hosts.

If these pages had thirty-nine images per page you could times the number of requests/hits by this figure for a greater number of hits. It may sound more impressive to say 307,164 hits in 31 days but really it is just a little bit of a fib and missing the point of calculating the true extent of web site traffic.

Hit, miss or unique? It really is important especially when planning an advertising campaign. Don't make the mistake of not recognising the difference.

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Publisher: http://nnh.co.uk
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