The jpoc guide statistics for small websites

The most commonly mentioned term for websites is the hit. Unfortunately, the number of hits that your site receives is also one of the least useful measures of site activity.

A hit refers to a single http transaction between a client out on the net and the server on your web host. Now if you have a page which is just one piece of html with no images and nothing else embedded in the html, then a hit on that page will result in that page being viewed by a surfer.

But suppose that there was a network problem or the person requesting the page hit the stop button. You still record a hit for the attempt to read the page but in reality, nobody ever looked at the page.

Now suppose that, five minutes after viewing your page, a visitor decided to look at it again. This time though, the page is in the visitor's browser cache and the page is read again but your site does not see another hit.

Perhaps you have a visitor on a network at work and they are using a proxy server which has its own cache. Now, several people from the same company can view your page and the first one to do so will cause a hit and your page will load into the cache of the proxy server. Everyone else will just see a copy from the cache and your site will just show one hit.

Next consider how all of this interacts with a more complex page. Suppose that you have set of ten .gif files that are navigation buttons for your site. They appear on each page. Now, the first time that a visitor views your page, you should see 11 hits. One for the page itself and one for each gif. But what about when they view another page? How many of those gifs are still in the browser cache and how many are reloaded as fresh hits?

Finally, there is the matter of pages made up of several separate html files. Chiefly, this means pages that use frames. Again, how many hits does it take to create a page that is viewed by a visitor?

You can see from all of this that the hit is a poor way to measure the popularity of your website. Different factors, most of which are outside of your control mean that the number of times that a real person reads a page on your site may be substantially higher or lower than the number indicated in a hit count.

Well, there you have it, the dark side of hit counts.

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