During the first dotcom boom, the term “hits” was used so frequently that it became a standard when talking about how successful a site may be. However, it was misused in nearly every instance in which I saw it. I am not sure how it became so misused, but I have a theory.
During the dotcom boom, people viewed a site as being successful if it was generating a lot of monthly visitors. That was flawed because I don’t know of any site that can be successful just based on the number of visits. Being able to monetize the visitors is required (if the site’s goal is to make money). But even if it is a personal site, the owner would judge success by the returning visitors or at least getting the visitors to do something at their site (even if that just means reading what the person has to say). I could easily get thousands and thousand of visitors to any site by doing some redirects, but if the visitor gets to the page and has no interest, it was a waste to have the person visit the site.
Anyway, back to the late 90’s. Since a greater number of visitors was interpreted as being successful, people wanted to get their number of monthly visits as high as possible. I think that some overly ambitious web entrepreneur pitched some VC (Ventuire Capitalist) saying his site was getting a million hits a month. I can hear the young entreprenuer that is seeking capital pitch the VC, "Look at the stats from my web host…1,056,430 hits”. The VC, which probably knew nothing about “this world wide web thing”, did not want to look stupid and ask why they were called hits or what exactly that meant. So he assumed ‘hits’ was techie for visitors. He probably went to show off to his fellow VC’s the fact that he had just invested in this hot new site that was getting over a million HITS a month (and he probably looked around at his VC mates to see if they were impressed with his knowledge of the world wide web. “He even knows the techie slang”, they would whisper to each other). So saying hits, made him look knowledgeable (not to mention hip). From there, it began to snowball.
Unfortunately, this trend of misusing “hits” did not fade away into oblivion much like the companies that probably started misusing the term. This story of course is all speculation, but I have no idea how the term became so prominent and so misused. Hearing someone use the term hits can actually be helpful. for example, when you hear of someone talking about ‘hits’ on their site, you can be pretty sure that they are fairly clueless regarding the “world wide web” and so you can take them along for a fun ride if you would like… “I promise I can double the amount of hits your site gets in a month. Just pay me $10,000.”
Hopefully you know the difference, but below is a brief summary of the difference between hits, pageviews, visits, and unique visitors.
Hits – The number of files requested. This only means that if you have 20 files on a page (images, supporting files, the actual page file, etc.) you will receive 20 hits for every pageview. And if a person visits 8 pages on your site, you could get 160 hits from one visitor. Hits are useful for the server administrator, but have no use for a marketer, CEO, or anyone else. Doubling the hits on a site would just require that you add double the amount of files (add thirty 1x1 pixel images to every page).
Pageviews – This is fairly obvious. It is the number of pages that are viewed on a site. Going to the main page of a site (for example, index.html) would count as one pageview. If the visitor also went to the contact.php and aboutus.php pages, that visitor would have logged 3 total pageviews.
Visits – When a person goes to a website, it is referred to as a visit. As long as the same person is viewing different pages on the site within a certain time frame, it is considered the same visit. If they leave the site and come back at a later time (another day for example), it is counted as another visit. (Side note: Bot activity can also be considered a visit.)
Unique Visitors – This refers to the number of unique people that come to the website. The number is rarely 100% accurate (although some things can help increase the accuracy). If a person goes to your site from different computer they will be counted as unique visitor. Similarly, if two different people access the site from the same computer, it is likely they will be counted as one unique visitor.
Overall, looking at the number of visits as well as unique visitors is a great way to measure your sites success.
So hopefully you will spread the word regarding the proper use of “hits”. I would love to see comments from anyone that has example of supposed big players in the industry that improperly use the word hits (or use it in order to try to inflate their site’s statistics).