Tuesday, November 08, 2005

How website hits are different from number of visits?

I received this message from our graphic design partner, Ampersand Design. . . .

In general conversation, folks seem to think they mean the same thing - "Page Views". However from a web-log's point of view, and in reading web log reports "hits", "page views" and "visits" are very different things.

Hit - A hit is simply any request to the web server for any type of file. This can be an HTML page, an image (jpeg, gif, png, etc.), a sound clip, a cgi script, and many other file types. An HTML page can account for several hits: the page itself, each image on the page, and any embedded sound or video clips. Therefore, the number of hits a website receives is not a valid popularity gauge, but rather is an indication of server use and loading.

Page view - A page is defined as any file or content delivered by a web server that would generally be considered a web document. This includes HTML pages (.html, .htm, .shtml), script-generated pages (.cgi, .asp, .cfm, etc.), and plain-text pages. It also includes sound files (.wav, .aiff, etc.), video files (.mov, etc.), and other non-document files. Only image files (.jpeg, .gif, .png), javascript (.js) and style sheets (.css) are excluded from this definition. Each time a file defined as a page is served, a page view is registered by the log file.

Visit (AKA Session) - A session/visit is a defined quantity of visitor interaction with a website. The definition will vary depending on how visitors are tracked. Some common visitor tracking methods and corresponding session definitions:

* IP-based Visitor Tracking: A Session is a series of hits from one visitor (as defined by the visitor's IP address) wherein no two hits are separated by more than 30 minutes. If there is a gap of 30 minutes or more from this visitor, an additional Session is counted.

* IP+User Agent Visitor Tracking: A Session is a series of hits from one visitor (as defined by the visitor's IP address and user-agent, such as Netscape 4.72) wherein no two hits are separated by more than 30 minutes. If there is a gap of 30 minutes or more from this visitor, an additional Session is counted.

* Unique Visitor Tracking (cookie-based, such as Urchin's UTM): A Session is a period of interaction between a visitor's browser and a particular website, ending upon the closure of the browser window or shut down of the browser program.

Source (if you have trouble sleeping one night...) - http://help.urchin.com/index.cgi?cmd=gloss

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