When evaluating traffic to a website, a lot of terms come up. A hit on a website is the loading and delivering of an individual file. If a web page has two chunks of text in two files and 30 small graphics, it takes 32 hits to load the page. A visit is different; each visit is a single person's use of the page.
Hits are fairly easy and simple to count. Every file that the web server sends out counts as a single hit. This means that hits are a good indication of the amount of activity a web server is seeing. To get an idea of how many visitors that means, though, you have to divide the hits from each page by the number of files that page requires.
A visit is the loading of a single web page in its entirety. Visiting the start page of a website is a single visit, as is then loading a second page on the site. Visits do a little better job of determining a site's popularity, since they show how many times a particular page was loaded no matter how large or small the page is. However, counting visits may not quite be accurate since leaving a page and re-entering it drives up the number of visits. Waiting for a while so that the web server forgets about your visits and merely re-loading the page can have the same effect.
Counting Unique Visitors
Counting unique visitors can be difficult. You have to try and count every unique IP address that pulls a file from your site while counting multiple visits from the same IP address. Many hit-counters attempt to do this by means of filtering out addresses that repeat in sequence.
Relative Merits of Differing Counts
Each method of counting the activity of a web site differs slightly. Counting hits can be used to determine a site's popularity, but is better suited to keeping track of a server's level of activity. Counting non-unique visitors to each page can be useful when trying to figure out how many times an ad or set of ads is viewed in a given time period. Counting unique visitors will give you a good idea of how many different people have visited your site. Each method has slightly different value to an administrator.
The Role of Hits/Visitors in Advertising
Knowing how many people visit a website in a given period is very important to the owner of a website if they're selling advertising space. Website hits can be dismissed in favor of listings of page visitors or unique visitors, as they tend to give a better idea of how many people will see a given advertisement.
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