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Hits or pageviews?

Article outlining the differences between hits, visitors, visits, and page views

Executive Summary and Article Navigation

Discussion and technical definitions of: And information about:

Hits, visitors, visits, pageviews: what are the differences?

Technical definition of a hit

Each file sent to a browser by a web server is an individual hit.

Technical definition of a pageview

A pageview is each time a visitor views a page on your website, regardless of how many hits are generated. Pages are comprised of files. Every image in a page is a separate file. When a visitor looks at a page (a pageview), they may see numerous images, graphics, pictures etc. and generate multiple hits.
For example, if you have a page with 10 pictures, then a request to a server to view that page generates 11 hits (10 for the pictures, and one for the html file). A page view can contain hundreds of hits. This is the reason that we measure page views and not hits.
Conclusion: hits are not a reliable way to measure website traffic.
There is an additional potential for confusion here, because there are two types of ‘hits’. The hits we are discussing in this article are the hits recorded by log files, and interpreted by log analysis. A second type of ‘hits’ are counted and displayed by a simple hit counter. Hit counters record one hit for every time a webpage is viewed, also problematic because it does not distinguish unique visitors. Here is an article discussing hit counters.

Technical definition of a visit

A visit happens when someone or something (robot) visits your site. It consists of one or more page views/ hits. One visitor can make multiple visits to your site.

Technical definition of a visitor

Technically, a visitor is the browser of a person who accepts a cookie. Opentracker utilizes 1st party cookie technology. By this definition, a visitor is a human being, and their actions are ‘human’ events, because only humans use browsers (with javascript) to navigate the internet. If a cookie is not accepted, then we use IP numbers to track visitors.
clickstream Opentracker measures unique visitors, which we track over long periods of time by giving them a cookie, this cookie is unique to their browser. We have found that cookies are often more reliable over the long term, as many servers re-assign IP addresses on a regular basis. IP usage patterns are changing. AOL, for example, has recently implemented a rotating IP address technology, to stop log files from tracking their members’ search term queries. How reliable are cookies when tracking unique visitors? Unless the user deletes their cookies continuously, they will be measured as the same visitor with each visit.

To increase reliability we use first-party cookies, which means they name the site where the visitor is browsing.

Strictly speaking, “one visitor” means “one person” based on the definitions given above. So that if someone continuously visits your site over long periods of time, they will be recorded only as one visitor.

visitors online

How to distinguish between new and returning visitors

  1. A returning visitor is a visitor who visits your site with a 24 hour period in between.
  2. Secondly, we measure visits, a visit is a visitor’s clickstream broken by a ten minute interval, (minimum of ten minutes). So you have a cup of coffee, and return to the site after ten minutes, this will be a second visit. Say you go to bed, and you return to the site 24 hours later; you will be a returning visitor.

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