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Knowledgebase: Website Statistics
What is the difference between hits and visits in my statistic reports?
Posted by James Robshaw on 05 June 2006 10:48 AM

A lot of people mistakenly use the term "hits" when measuring or talking about the number of "visitors" their website gets.

In terms of measuring website traffic, hits are not particularly useful. Instead, you need to be thinking in terms of the number of visits your site receives.

If we take a moment to look at what a hit is, compared to what counts as a visit, you will hopefully see why this difference is important.

A hit is recorded every time a web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox) requests a file from your web server. The file that is requested might be a page of text, an image, a banner advert, a piece of JavaScript, or any other file.

The majority of web pages are made up of more than one file. For example, the page you are looking at right now is produced from a main hypertext (dynamic HTML) file, plus another file containing the side menu, a graphic file for the ProExe logo, a file that contains our footer menu, and a few more files besides.

As a result, when you view this page you generate around ten hits on our web server.

A visit, on the other hand, is recorded every time someone looks at a page on a website, regardless of how many files have to be downloaded as part of that process.

So, by reading this page you have only caused one extra visit to be recorded in our web logs, but something in the region of ten hits.

If we accept that this 1:10 ratio is fairly typical, then you can see that the person who talks about having had 100 hits on his website has probably only had about 10 actual visitors. Not quite so impressive!

So, if you want to get a proper measure of how many people are looking at your web site, and avoid over-exaggerating the popularity of your site, you really need to look at the visitors figure in your web stats rather than the number of hits.


Visits are also grouped by time. Webalizer* does this by looking at the IP address of the browser and calculates the amount of time since a visitor's last request (if any). If the time difference is greater than a pre-configured 'visit timeout' value (or has never made a request before), it is considered a 'new visit'. The default timeout value is 30 minutes. So, if a browser visits your site at 2:00pm and then returns at 4:00am it will be reported as 2 visits.

* In the 'Top Sites' table, the visits total** should be discounted on 'Grouped' records, and thought of as the "Minimum number of visits" that came from that grouping instead.

**Visits only occur on PageType requests, that is, for any request whose URL is one of the 'page' types defined with the PageType option. Due to the limitation of the HTTP protocol, log rotations and other factors, this number should not be taken as absolutely accurate, rather, it should be considered a pretty close "guess". 

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