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A Few Things You Didn't Know About 'Hits'

If you are new to Internet advertising let me take a moment to clarify the difference between 'hits', 'page views', and 'unique visitors'. You've no doubt visited sites that claim they receive a million hits each week, or something to that effect, and you may have caught yourself thinking "wow!, if 'hits' = visitors a lot of people pass this way" Well, it doesn't. and they don't!

A 'hit' means that the web browser has fulfilled a request and loaded a 'unique' piece of information, it could be an image or a web page. As an example, let's say you have a page (like our home page) that has 3 photos (jpegs)... 16 cute red buttons pointing the way to various articles... a control panel with 11 more blue buttons and bars ... some text... a logo (gif)... some fancy text (gif)... a banner advertisement. Whoa! Did you know that in order to load this information, the visitor's browser will have to make over 40 'hits'! So, in this example one visitor, looking at only one page has resulted in 40+ hits on the counter! Basically, the number of 'hits' a site receives is just that... a number! Imagine how many 'hits' you'd get if the visitor went to every page on your site!

What about 'page views'? Well, 'page views' are far more informative. Every time a visitors requests to see a fresh page on your web site, it counts it as '1 page view'. A person could visit just one page on your site and then leave - resulting in only 1 page view, or they could go through and read every single page - resulting in multiple 'page views'. Obviously the more page views per visitor, the better!

Finally, there are 'unique visitors' or logged 'IP addresses'. This is what most good web sites count to track their visitors, but it's not perfect and I'll explain why. Each time someone connects to the web, they receive a different 'IP address'. Think of it as a 'connection code' issued by your Internet Service Provider's (or ISP). Unfortunately, ISP's are assigned only a limited number of IP addresses. So when someone connects online, the ISP assigns them a code. When the same someone disconnects, that code becomes available to be assigned to the next person connecting online.

For example, when John connects online, he is automatically given an IP address. John surfs for about 30 minutes and then disconnects. The IP address that John had is now available for reassignment. So now, when Mary connects online, she is given John's old IP address. Five minutes later, John decides to connect online again. He is given a totally new IP address. So John could dial-in three different times and receive three different IP addresses. Each time he comes back to your site, he looks like a different visitor. To confuse things even more, if by some magical coincidence Mary just happens to visit your site that same day, you'll think she is John!

There is no perfect way to track unique visitors! With that said, IPs are most commonly used because they are the most accurate and until there is a perfect method of identifying unique visitors, we'll just have to take the visitor numbers at face value ... unique IP address = unique visitor.

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