How Does a Hit Counter Work?

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Number of Visitors

  • If you ever decide to create a web page or website for whatever reason, would you be curious as to how many people have ever visited your creation? If you created a website to sell products, wouldn't you want to know how much traffic you are getting? That's the purpose of a web counter--although the web counter can be deceiving when it comes to totaling how many people actually visit your website.

    Hit counters are those fancy little numbers on a website that are supposed to count how many visitors have been to that particular page or site on the Internet. Sometimes you'll see them displayed with "you are visitor number" and whatever number you are supposed to be.

How Free Hit Counters Work

  • Most hit counters you see on personal websites are hosted counters. A website "hosts" a place for your counter to draw its tracking information from. You input the page URL that you want tracked, and the host site displays an image of that counter on your page. Whenever someone that is web-surfing stumbles upon your page, the host site records this as a "hit" and changes the image on your counter to reflect it.

Advanced Counters

  • Hit counters that are designed that way can be found for free. However, there are more advanced hit counters that you could pay for. Some websites that host hit counters work in a way that tracks what kind of browser a web-surfer used to visit your site. For example, let's say you wanted to see how many people who visit your site use Firefox, Netscape or Internet Explorer. If you see a majority of users using Firefox, you might design your site to be more Firefox friendly in order to increase traffic.

Drawbacks To Hit Counter Data

  • Beware of relying on hit counters to give you an accurate report, especially free ones. Some of the free hit counters cannot differentiate between new users and people who are repeatedly hitting on the same page in a short period of time. Also, hit counters do not always properly cache out in between users. If you had several people hitting your page at the same time, you may only see one or two visitors versus the seven or eight that saw your page in the past minute. If a user decides to turn off images while browsing (like some mobile users do), a counter may not always recognize that, because they can be image-based. Overall, a hit counter can be a useful tool to "guestimate" the number of people visiting a website, but accuracy is left to be doubted.

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