Hits vs. Visitors

We were at a sales pitch yesterday. The nice salesman was trying to sell us on online ads.hits

You might think that would be an easy sell for us, but we’re focused on organic search and never do any advertising, so I was listening closely and giving it serious thought.

Rosie was listening closely, too, but she was having completely different thoughts.

“Did you notice,” she asked me as we left the meeting, “that he talked about all the wrong stats?”

We’d been working with a couple of sites where we needed to reconcile different types of web analytics, so this topic had been in our conversations a lot recently. I shot Rosie a quizzical glance.

“That’s why so many of our competitors talk about hits,” she explained kindly. “You can have 1200 hits with only a handful of visitors, so it makes their results sound much more impressive.”

It had never occurred to me that this was the reason we were always hearing about hits, but I bet she’s right.

A hit, at a website, just means that your browser contacted a server. Your computer, that is, asked the computer where the website lives to send you something: a picture, perhaps, or a form or something. One visit to one page could have dozens of hits: one for the Twitter icon, one for the Facebook icon, one for the LinkedIn icon…

As you can imagine, different individual pages will require different numbers of hits, depending on how they’re built. Some hits are from robots,too, and not from human visitors at all.

Hits, then, are about computers communicating with one another across the ether, and mean absolutely nothing when it comes to human traffic.

Rosie concluded that when we talk with people about visitors, they don’t like the lower numbers, since they’re used to hearing about hits. But I think that you’d rather have honest, meaningful numbers.

At the very least, now you know what the terms mean and can make your own informed decisions.







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