Definition & Differences Between Hit, Page, and Web Counters

Executive Summary and Article Navigation

In this article, you will find discussion and technical definitions of:
  • Hit counter
  • Page counter
  • Web counter
  • Tracking system
You will also find information about:
  • The difference between these 3 counters
  • Why you need a counter
  • Important questions to ask when choosing a counter
  • Determining what is counted
  • Paid vs. Free counters
  • Level of detail provided
  • Evolution of counters to tracking systems

Hit, Page, and Web Counters –– the difference

All three are counters; devices which display the number of visits which have been made to a website or page within a website. Some important differences are:

  • how many pages are measured (single or multiple)
  • the cost of the tool (free vs. paid)
  • how you access your website or page data
  • how far back this data is available
  • security feature which prevents recording of repeat clicks

The main reason for having a counter is to let you and your visitors know how many people have visited your page or site.

The decision you must make when deciding what product to use is the cost you are willing to pay and the type of information that you are looking for.

As with many forms of technology, you generally get what you pay for. Counting and tracking options which you pay for give you more detailed information of a higher quality. Additionally there may be some work involved, in terms of generating and interpreting your stats, depending on which option you choose.

Why are many counters free? Many counters are free because in return for installing a counter on your page, you give the company who’s product it is a back-link. Back-links are used to obtain a high listing in search results.

Additionally, most services offer the bare minimum, a counter, for free. If you wish to learn about your traffic in any detail, an upgrade and payment is necessary.

Hit Counter

A hit counter measures and displays the number of times visitors have viewed a single page on a website. Hit counters are typically displayed on homepages. Hit counters can be public or non-public. If they are non-public, or ‘invisible’, only the webmaster can see how many times the page has been viewed. Technically, hit counters measure requests sent by a visitor’s browser to a server. Each time a visitor’s browser requests to see a page on your site, this request is relayed through your server, and is called a hit.

There is a high potential for confusion here, because log analysis also involves the interpretation of ‘hits’. The hits recorded by log files are much more numerous, and do not individually represent individual human ‘hits’ or ‘clicks’. The hits recorded by log files each represent a single pieces of information (for example a graphic such as a gif) which, when taken together, make up page views. In log file analysis a single page view can generate dozens of hits, depending on how much information is being called up, in terms of graphics, etc. Therefore it is important to always find out the definition of a hit in the system that you are using.

The advantage of hit counters is that many are free, easy to install, and can be graphically altered to fit in with the feel of your site. Additionally, there are also numerous scripts available for free download that can be used to make your own hit or page counter, if you have the time and know-how. To have a look, type “hit counter script download” into your favorite search engine.

The drawback of hit counters is that they will not tell you how many unique visitors you have had. Nor do they always tell you the time period which has been measured. Often the data stretches back to the installation of the counter, which can be interesting, but will not help to analyze trends.

Page Counter

Essentially, a page counter is the same thing as a hit counter: a line of code and a graphic device used to display the number of visitors who have viewed a page on your site. A page counter only measures and presents statistics for the page it is installed on. Technically, a hit counter is a page counter, as it measures and presents the same information, the only difference being in name. Page counters often provide a service that measures page views on multiple pages of a website, as opposed to hit counters, which are typically used to count hits on a single page.

Web Counter

Much like a hit counter or a page counter, a web counter is a combination of code and graphic device that allows you to measure and display the number of visitors a web site has received. Web counters are typically used to measure multiple pages. A web counter is a step closer towards visitor tracking, as some web counters offer additional statistics, such as both the number of visitors, and the number of pages viewed, so that, for example, 200 visitors will have looked at 345 pages over a given period. Additionally, web counters offer analysis, for example, by providing a comparative overview to show which pages receive the most visitors.

Tracking systems

The next step is a tracking system. Tracking systems offer the additional feature of charting the progress that visitors make from page to page, by recording clickstreams. A tracking system can also tell you which search terms were used to find your site. Opentracker provides both of these services. Additionally, tracking services provide complete aggregate reports available for any given period during which data was being recorded. Tracking systems are designed to answer specific questions. For example, by matching click-streams and visitor profiles, to identify specific markets. If you have a product or service you are offering, you can determine where interested customers come from: a particular referrer, or ISP, and expand your efforts to reach that audience. You can go a step further and measure the effect of any changes you make, from the colors on your homepage to a new marketing strategy.

Using a tracking system, it is not necessary to guess what visitors are doing. If you know, to the click, what your visitors do, decisions about content management are much easier to make. Opentracker was designed primarily with this goal in mind: the ability to effectively analyze and respond to web traffic.

Opentracker is relatively unique in being a step beyond log files and log file analysis. We record highly detailed visitor activity and visitor profile data. We track unique visitors over the long-term. We host this data and make it easily available. There is no software to install, nothing to download, and no reports to generate. Your password protected statistics can be accessed remotely, only connection to internet is necessary.

To summarize:

Some important questions to ask when considering counters:

  • What do you want to measure, exactly?
  • Do you want to count a single page, or multiple pages?
  • Do you want to count unique visitors?
  • Do you want to make comparisons between pages?
  • Will you have easy access to your stats?
  • How far back will data be available?
  • Do you want that information to be public?
  • How is a ‘hit’ defined in the system you are using?

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