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DR. WEBSITE: Defining Hits, Visits, And Page Views as Measurement Tools

By David Fiedler and Scott Clark

Dear Dr. Website®: I know what a "hit" is on a Web page, and I can even guess at what a "visit" is. But now I'm hearing that "page views" are what really count. What does it all mean?

Without trying to get too philosophical and telling you what it all means, we can at least give a try at the Web-related stuff. Whenever someone loads a page from your Web server, he or she is getting the text on the page as well as the HTML commands you've embedded there. Each of those commands (such as <IMG SRC=²something.gif²>) can cause another object, stored in a separate file (such as a GIF file), to also be fetched from the server and displayed in the visitor's browser.

So, if your home page has six graphics associated with it, your server's log files actually register seven "hits" when the page is loaded: one for the page plus one for each graphic. When the Web began and people started boasting about how many hits they were getting, it quickly became obvious that you could get dozens or even hundreds of hits with a single gigantic home page.

That's where the concept of "page views" or "HTML page requests" came from. Each is simply the request to load a single HTML page, no matter what else is on it. Many log analysis programs can be asked to provide separate counts for page views automatically, or you can ignore all graphic and multimedia files and get approximately the same result. If you use a great deal of Java or ActiveX, you'd have to take that into account too, though JavaScript is inline as part of the HTML file and doesn't cause extra hits.

A "visit" is what happens when someone comes to your site and requests one, a dozen, or a hundred pages. The definition of a visit is somewhat arbitrary, because you have to define everything carefully: Is a single IP address a "someone," or a proxy server that feeds 50 people?

You can be more precise with cookies, but not everyone is happy with cookies because of privacy issues. And if "someone" requests pages constantly for 2 hours, then stops for 15 minutes and makes requests for another hour, is that two visits or one long one? That's why many sites have standardized on page views as a basic measurement.


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Keywords: html
Date: 19970929

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