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Here's a quick test for you: what's a "hit"? For instance, when a company says, "we get a million hits a month," what does that really mean? Does it mean:

  • a million visitors; or
  • a million pages transferred to visitors.

Actually, it means neither, despite the fact that many companies are implying that it means one or the other. A hit is simply the transfer of a piece of information. It might be one of these things:

  • a web page
  • a banner or picture in a web page
  • an error message caused by a link to a banner or image that the web server can't find
  • any kind of object embedded into the web page: a Java applet, sound, or video, for instance.

So what does a "hit" tell you? It's completely meaningless to anyone but the website administrator. Unless you know what's in the web pages, you have no way of knowing what a hit number represents. Is the site really getting a lot of traffic? Or does the site contain a lot of pages that have scores of tiny images in them? Or are there lots of broken links on the pages?

I received some junk e-mail the other day that said this:

"Our award-winning mall gets an average of 1.5 million hits a month."

So what? What can this possibly mean to someone who doesn't know what a hit really is? 1.5 million visitors? Pages transferred? Why are they telling us how many hits they get if not to create some kind of impression of traffic? Yet there's no way for us to know what this number means ... mentioning this number does nothing but mislead, and I'm sure that many people are confusing hits with visits.

A few months ago I emailed a few people who had sites at a large web mall, asking them about their experiences. This mall claims to have 11 million hits a month. "What's a hit?" I asked one of the people with a site at the mall. "Hits are classified as people that actually came to my web site," he said. He's completely wrong, but it's an impression that many companies -- particularly malls and hosting companies -- are happy to create.

Worse, I believe that some companies are using -- intentionally or unintentionally -- the word "visitor" when they should really be saying "hit." So when someone tells you a hit count -- just ignore it. It has absolutely no meaning.


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