Your business has been online for a year and you average 2 000 visitors a month. Not too bad, you felt, until the business owner across the road breezily informed you that he was getting 6 000 hits a day, and he has only been online for 4 months! What is going on? Should you summon your web developer to an emergency meeting? Or find a new developer? Or could that smartass dude across the street be lying to you kuwait email list just to unsettle you? The answer is “none of the above” for the simple reason that your business neighbor is not getting more traffic than you are: it just sounds like it because when you compare your “visits” with his “hits” you are not comparing apples with apples. Misunderstandings like this play out every day because of confusion and misinformation about how to interpret web traffic statistics.
So let’s get the record straight, by looking at the meaning of some of the key statistical information that is delivered to website owners by popular statistics programs such as awstats and webalyser and a host of others that have been designed to provide feedback on web traffic. Visits vs. hits Firstly let’s clarify the difference between visits and hits. Visits refer to the number of times that the website was visited over a specified period. Usually statistics programs also report on “unique visits” which is a measure of how many of the visits were by different people. Repeat visits are not counted in the “unique visits” tally. The number of hits on the other hand is a record of how many files were requested by the web server during visits. If there are ten pictures on a page, each one would account for a hit when the page was viewed. Typical web pages are made up of dozens of discrete files and complex pages can contain a much larger number of files and will therefore record numerous hits when visited. Hits are therefore pretty meaningless as a measure of website popularity. So just smile knowingly the next time that a competitor boasts about the number of hits on his site. Page views and visits duration Page views tell you how many pages on a website are visited during specified time periods. This information can give useful feedback on the appeal of your website and is especially relevant on websites with lots of pages, such as sites that list real estate for sale. If the number of page views is significantly higher than the number of visits, you can surmise that visitors are engaged by the content on your website. Visits duration statistics indicate how long visitors stay on your website and hence also provide useful data on how interesting your site is to viewers. Some statistics programs also tell you which pages are most often the last page that visitors view before leaving your site: this may tell you that you need to improve the content of certain pages. Referrers Statistics on referrers tell you which search engines and websites are bringing you visits. They also show you which search engines and websites bring you the most traffic. If you suddenly get a lot of traffic from a website that links to you, you will know that it will be in your interest to nurture and grow your relationship with that website. If you see that you are getting lots of visits from webmail links you can tell that your email or newsletter marketing campaign is working, or that people are discussing your website in emails. Search words, phrases, strings Search words, phrases or strings are what people typed in their search engine queries that led them to your site. If your site is about holiday accommodation and you are getting significant traffic from people interested in “shredding machines”, you know that you need to tweak your search optimization in order to attract more relevant traffic. Likewise you have homework to do if you have based your optimization strategies around phrases that are not bringing you visits. Where in the world? One of the fascinating bits of information you can glean from web traffic statistics is where your visitors live. A quick glance at this data on one of my sites tells me I am currently getting visitors from Kuwait and Vietnam, which is unexpected. But a word of caution: country information is based on the top level domain of the requesting site and there is not always a strong correlation between certain top level domains and particular countries. So, for instance, .com domains may be recorded as United States but the visits could be originating from a number of different countries. Big Brother Many people ask whether traffic statistics can identify who is visiting your site. No, they cannot. They can record the ip addresses of the computers used by your site visitors but they do not identify the visitors themselves. A word of advice Web traffic statistics are useful and if you are serious about promoting your website you cannot ignore them. But the information should be used cautiously as there are limits to what can be deduced from the data, and statistics are highly prone to misrepresentation. Data provided by different programs may also vary for a number of technical reasons. I believe that you will derive the most benefit from studying your web traffic statistics if you focus on the trends they show about your website, rather than how they compare with results claimed by other site owners.