Difference Between Hits, Page Impressions And Unique Visits

Sometimes during my daily visit to new forums and blogs, I see people announcing about finally getting thousands of hits per month, giving the impression that their website has become very popular, then I look up at my Alexa toolbar and see that their above 7 million, and with page rank zero, which just doesn’t add up.

Everyone knows that Alexa computes traffic rankings based on the amount of people that visit a website while having the Alexa toolbar installed, and while not everyone who visits has the bar installed, it is still weird that their rank is so bad and yet they are giving readers the impression that they are receiving thousands of visits per month by using the term “Hits”.Difference between hits page impressions and unique visits

Either they don’t understand what hits are or they’re counting on the fact that most people don’t know the exact definition of a “Hit” when it comes to websites and how WordPress hosting servers work. Many people are unclear what the data means when they are checking their stats in Google Analytics or some other tracking software.

“Hits” are not what people think! It does not mean visitors and it doesn’t determine the websites traffic at all, also it doesn’t indicate the amount of visits a website is actually receiving.

So What Are Hits?Unique hits vs. page impressions

The server your website is hosted on will count a hit as soon as any action is taken regarding the files you have on the server.

For example: photos, video, audio, documents even buttons on your website are all files, and any access to those files counts as a hit.

Suppose you visit not even a PHP but a simple HTML website, and lets say the homepage consists of 5 images, 10 buttons and might even have a video file.

Just by visiting that first page and displaying all these items (or files) on your screen, the server generated:

(5 images + 10 buttons + 1 video = 16 hits + 1 more for accessing the HTML file itself thus resulting in a total of 17 hits)

and that’s just for 1 Page View. If you refreshed your browser it will generate the same number a second time and so on.

Which is why you should never refer to your website’s popularity by using the term “Hit” this term should only be used when you’re talking about the server.

Now lets talk about Page Views or as some people might refer to it as Page Impressions.

What Are Page Impressions?

A page impression happens anytime you load a page through your browser. Anytime you navigate to a different page or even use your back and forward buttons to get to a certain page, each time you load that page counts as 1 page impression.

Now, as explained above, each time you get a page impression, several hits are counted based on the amount of items that are loaded within that page.

You can use page impressions to indicate how popular your site is by showing the rate of page impressions per visitor. In other words if lets say there are 10 page impressions per visitor, this means that your visitors are interested in your website and they keep going from one page to the next because they like your content.

So using page impressions is a good indication of how popular your site is, especially if you’re selling advertising space on it, advertisers would want to know this kind of information since they want their Ad to be viewed as much as possible and if a visitor is going through more than one page, then their chances of having that visitor notice their Ad and even clicking on it is higher.

One more thing to mention though, Unique Visitors.

RELATED VIDEO: Getting Started With Google Analytics Just for Bloggers

What Are Unique Visits?

Unique visits refer to the amount of visits your site receives over a period of time (usually within a 24 hour period)

This means that if a person visits your website and then visits again a few hours later, that is counted as only 1 unique visit.

The way this works is by identifying that persons IP address or sometimes even cookies and checking if there was an earlier visit from the same computer within the last 24 hours, if there was, then the server doesn’t record any new visits by that same person until the 24 hour reset occurs.

If your website is receiving a lot of unique visitors per day, you can definitly use this as a way of showing off since it’s definitely a lot more cooler than page impressions, but also a bit more difficult to achieve unless your website is full of awesome content like Basic Blog Tips for example. :D

I hope this clarifies a little about the difference between hits, visits and impressions and what they mean, but if you still have questions, ask away!

 

About 

I'm a Computer Science Major at York University (Toronto). I am passionate about programming and creating websites. I love to learn about new things, specially related to SEO and Blogging. Currently working on my Blog to find new ways for generating an income online so I can create a free step by step guide for anyone choosing this path. :)

116 Comments (click here to leave a comment)

  1. So are unique visits the same as unique visitors? I see they are a little different in my Google Analytics account and a little confused.
    Btw, are page impressions the same as pageviews as well?

    • Hey Tuan, page impressions and page views pretty much mean the same thing, however page impressions usually used towards calculating ad views, for example if you have 1 ad and a user displayed your page once, then you get 1 page view and 1 page impression, but if you have 2 ads on the page, then you get 2 page impressions. This is why these 2 numbers might sometimes differ.
      However when referring to page impressions, people usually mean page view.

      As for unique visits it’s the same as unique visitors, but different services might phrase (or even calculate) it a little differently for example my Google Analytics divides “Absolute Unique Visitors” into 2 categories “First time visitors” and “Prior Visitors” and they state:

      “This report counts each visitor only once and then classifies the visitor as “First Time” or “Prior Visitor.” The question asked is, “has this visitor visited the website prior to the active (selected) date range?” and the answer is a simple yes or no. If the answer is “yes” the visitor is categorized under “Prior Visitors”; if it is no, the visitor is categorized under “First Time Visitors.”

      So for Analytics, it will show you unique visitors according to the date that you select, usually other services calculates this based only on the last 24 hour period.

  2. Very well explained Sayed …

    This surely will clear all the doubts that noobs have between hits, page impressions and unique visits

  3. I also remain confused quite with the hits, impressions and views. Your article has cleared a bit of my confusion. Thanks for writing on this topic.

    • You’re welcome Shree, I know this can be a little confusing, you will find many sources state different things, and also many services calculates each one a bit differently which is why I tried to simplify this as much as possible to show readers that at least there are differences between each term and they should pay close attention to the meaning of each one.

  4. when it comes to talking about search engine rankings online, I don’t brag at all about traffic rank nor page rank. I’ll make a post that I am thankful to make “humble progress”, but will leave it just at that. as an online publisher, it’s not good to brag about page rank nor traffic rank, because anyone can rank good today, and be gone by tomorrow. that’s the truth. so, this is why I stay humble in my daily online business practices of moving forward and staying grounded in humility, about making progress as an internet publisher :-)

    • You’ve got the right attitude Drewry, and you’re right the future is uncertain and you never know what you will rank tomorrow, best to stay humble, although a little bragging is not bad if and only if you provide the true correct information about your rank. :D

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Drewry.

  5. Glad you cleared this up for those that are confusing hits with page views or unique visits.
    I remember when I checked my first blog stats and being amazed by the big number of page views I had. Then I realized that these were not unique visitors and that one visitor may check out even 10 or 20 pages.
    Eugene.

    • That’s right Eugene, visitors who find your content useful will always come back, so your page views will go up but the number of unique visitors at this point will stay the same, until someone new (with a different IP) visits.

  6. So that how it goes… very complicated but its worth the hard work when u get to the top. thnx for the post it enlighten me a lot… :) I get go gaga to when I see that I have thousand of hits but now I know, I still have a long way to go.. :) more power..

  7. For a very long time, I’ve been so confused about the difference between all of those terms. Your article finally made everything clear. At least now, I know which ones I will check to assess how my blog is doing. Thanks a million Sayed!

    • While a high number of unique visits is good to have, having a high page impression also means that you’ve got good content, which means that people stay on your website longer than to view just 1 page. This information is very useful especially to advertisers, it’s how you win them over.

  8. @Tuan: Think of visitors as the person and visits as their action. So yes, there is a difference between visitors and visits. Usually, (but not always depending on tracking method) you will see visits greater than visitors, because visitors often make several visits. As for Impressions, they are usually associated with ads, while page views track page loads.

    Also, I don’t want to confuse things any further, but keep in mind that different analytics software will often define these terms in slightly different ways as well as track these metrics in different ways.

    Thanks Sayed for discussing this important topic!

    • You’re welcome Danny. I know this can get a bit confusing since as you said different analytics software might state or even calculate each metric differently.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  9. Thanks for explaining the differences between these terms, it does get a bit confusing at times. I knew what hits were but didn’t know what page impression were so thanks for explaining.

    • You’re welcome Harriet, best way to remember this is to keep in mind that if you want to sell advertising space on your website, all that matters to advertisers are page impressions.

  10. Thanks Sayed, you well explained it. I think every webmaster should know that because it is important to keep track of your statistics to know what works for you and get more information about your visitors.

    • Thank you Salah, I which I knew this information when I first started I would’ve probably ranked faster, since I would’ve been able to better read the true rank my site was at.

  11. Another thing to look at when evaluating multi page websites are the bounce rate (does the visitor look at page and leave), the number of page views and the average time on the site. This will tell you how sticky the landing page of the site is and thereby whether your keywords or marketing are attracting the right type of visitors.

    • You’re welcome Clara, I know people define these terms differently sometimes so I just wanted to give everyone an idea about what each term mean and the differences between each one.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  12. I am so glad somebody stepped up to clarify what hits are! I wish we could put this in front of everybody who mistakenly thinks that hits equals visits…. its a very common misperception.

    • Hey Nishadha,

      While Alexa may not reflect true information of a websites’ stats since it calculation is based on people who have the toolbar installed, it’s still a decent way to quickly identify whether a site has any traffic or deserted.

  13. Danny

    Great to have that cleared up, thanks Sayed!

    But one thing I’m still confused about: In Google webmaster tools, Impressions doesn’t mean page views/impressions right?
    I always thought that that was how many people seen my site in the Google results but not necessarily clicked on it.
    Because my “Impressions” are much higher than my unique visitors.

    • Normally when people talk about page impressions, they refer to the amount of times each ad on your site was displayed during 1 page view or page load. Which is why if you have more than 1 ad per page, the page views and page impressions will differ.

      However for Google webmaster tools, you’re right, they state:
      “Impressions: The number of times pages from your site were viewed in search results, and the percentage increase/decrease in the daily average impressions compared to the previous period. (The number of days per period defaults to 30, but you can change it at any time.) ”
      So they calculate it based upon the number of times it was displayed in search results not based on a user actually clicking your link.

  14. Very well said Sayed. I used to be confused on those and cant figure how they differ. Its all clear to me now :) Thank you so much for elaborating and showing it in a more understandable way

    Cheers

  15. I’m surpised that no one has bothered to post anything about this so far. Hits are very different from actual impressions.

    • Indeed that are Brad, and people use “hits” a lot by mistake thinking they mean something else. I’ve seen this happen so many times I thought it’s time to take a stand and tackle the subject. :)

  16. Really informative article, I used to think that page impressions and hits are same. But now I understand the difference between them.

    About unique visitors I want to know if a visitors visit again but after 24 hours… does this visit would shown as unique visitors? or only within 24 hours visits are counted as unique visitors.

    • Most analytics use a 24 hour period to identify unique visitors, this means that if a user visits twice or more under 24 hours, they’re still counted as 1 unique visitor, but after that 24 hour period is done and they visit a few days later for example, they are counted as unique visitors again.

      The 24 hour period differs though, so best to check with your analytics.

  17. Thank you for this article.. I’ve been seeing these in my Google Webmaster tools but I really don’t understand them… Now I know that <10 impression means I had less than 10 visits in my blog…

  18. Excellent explanation. I know a few people who have become confused by the term “hits” because they make the mistake of associated a hit with a visitor. I’ll definitely be pointing those individuals to this page so they can see it for themselves.

    • That’s why I wanted to write about this, everyone can get a chance to provide feedback and we can clear any confusion anyone may have.

      Thanks şömine.

  19. It’s interesting that so many people work encounter these statistics on a daily basis yet don’t know the difference between them. Minor details to some, I imagine, but to others they make a big difference. As you explained, they can be used for deceptive purposes if people aren’t educated.

    Thanks for taking the time to explain what each of these mean and how they differ from one another. It’s a great post!

  20. I consider myself fairly internet savvy. That being said, i had no idea about the different between Page hits and unique visits. I always assumed that they were the same thing and interchangeable. I guess i was wrong

    • That’s because a lot of people use these terms and think they mean the same, so you get used to it being so, I hope now everyone can see the difference between each term and be able to better estimate their websites’ true rank.

  21. So what is really the most important factor to determine how my site is performing? I always just counted the number of visitors but should i actually start paying more attention to the impressions? I need a crash course!

    • If you’re going to sell advertising space on your website, then when you talk to advertisers, make sure to mention impressions, that’s mainly what they care about. But if you want to check the amount of pages that your visitors are going through on your site (which is an indication that they find your content useful and thus going through more than 1 page), then check your page views. Usually page impressions will be more than page views if you have more than 1 ad in your pages.

  22. When bloggers write their marketing pieces, should they announce their page impressions or their unique visits? What are your thoughts?

    • If you have a high amount of unique visitors then it’s best to mention that, however displaying your page impressions is also enough especially if you’re planning on selling advertising space on your site.

      • that’s also a good way to look at things, Sayed. quick question for you…

        Do you think are a person or company can make more money by selling advertising space on their website, or from affiliate programs? :-)

        • Why not both? there is no guarantee as to which one will be more successful since it depends on many factors, however if you have a new website, you will not be able to sell advertising space on it right away until you get some traffic, so a good option is to use affiliate programs when you’re starting out.

          Then as your site becomes more popular and have more traffic you can sell advertising space on it while still using affiliate programs on the side.

          Both are good options and there is no way to tell which method makes more money since it depends on the amount of hard work you put in to it :P

        • Sayed,

          you do have a point there my friend. Speaking on my behalf, I personally don’t have experience “yet” with selling manual advertising “meaning selling ad space or banner ad impressions”. If and when I do engage in that potentially in the future, I’ll have to have someone school me on how to do so effectively. Thank you for inspiring me :-)

  23. Hi Sayed,

    Thanks for the explanation about hits, page view & UV. Certainly I have seen people on forums talk about this all the time, without knowing the exact definition. However, 1 thing puzzle me is that the number shown on Awstat (unique visitor) and Analytics (visits or unique visitors) differs a lot… (Awstat is more than double…)

    Do you have any idea on that?

    • Hi Ming,

      I’ve never used Awstat before, so I’m not sure how they calculate things, however when it comes to this type of thing, it’s best (and safer) to rely on Google Analytics, because at the end of the day Google is all that matters, and if their own Analytics is showing you certain results, then anything else related to Google (such as their search engine) should be seeing the same results towards your site. So it’s best to evaluate your sites’ performance based on Google Analytics, because that’s how Google sees your site too.

  24. to some that may be okay. my guess is that most people would see that as possibly showing off, if they were to let everyone know how many unique page hits they have and how many impressions and all of that other good stuff. Just my personal opinion. I might be wrong though…

  25. Ruth A. Hock

    Hi Sayed,

    Wonderful post, I really learned a lot from you. How I wish my website receive more unique visit next 2012 :)

  26. That was an awesome explanation, I never looked at this info like this. I will look at my visitors differently. thanks by the way I am a unique visitor.

  27. I think people who use analytics on a daily basis would understand the difference between hits, page impressions, and new visitors. New visitors is always the best, even though it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a completely NEW visitor as they could have just changed their IP, its generally the best way to determine how many new people are actually visiting your site. So basically if your goal is to get the most traffic going to your site, your going to want new visitors, not just the same people viewing your site over and over.

  28. My web host has webalizer, awstats, and analog stats available in the control panel. I also use Google analytics of course. I think maybe a lot of people see that analytics is a bit different than the stats within a hosting control panel. I don’t like webalizer or analog stats, but I do like awstats. As far as I am aware of it will count every little anything like you said, and I am pretty sure that means even bot visits. Where analytics tends to be a little different and javascript based. My hosts awstats will report tons of hits compared to analytics. Even daily and unique visitors are way different, but like I said I am pretty sure a lot of that is difference is because of bot visits.

  29. Nicely put Sayed, those new to blogging and even those that have been blogging for a while usually don’t have a clue about their stats, this certainly clarifies it for them.

  30. Great stuff, Sayed! I’ve always struggled trying to explain the differences in simple terms to others. I’ll be using your explanations if that’s okay with you ;)

  31. Exactly! Hits actually refer to the number of files that a website has to request. These statistics are a great source for webmasters while analyzing certain attributes such as website speed, page load errors.

    Visit refers to the visitor’s session within the website. If suppose, the visitor returns to the website second time on the same day, then it is counted as second visit. Unique visitors refer to the number of individuals that visit a website.

    Page impression means the number of time a page is loaded.

  32. hello
    nice article this will helps the new blogger to work better for their blog becuse a good to get the visitors back so nice post for them thnx for this featured post

    • I couldn’t agree more with that, which is why I always emphasize to everyone to keep your content updated and informative as much as possible, so that your page hits will be authentic =)

  33. June

    By page impressions we mean the number of page views we detect.

    A visit means when someone visits your site. It may consist of one or more page views/hits.

    A visitor is a person who visits your website.

  34. A very good explanation which makes it very simple for newcomers to finally understand this concept.

    I am always amazed by the number of “experts” who either do not understand the difference between hit, page views and visitors or blatantly lie to make themselves appear bigger and better.

    These figures can very easily be manipulated anyway. You can buy 20,000 unique visits from Fiverr.com which as you said will in turn create 10 times as many “hits” in your stats.

  35. Since commenting on this site, I just want to say thank you so much to everyone, for having me here. My page impressions and unique site visits have increased on DrewryNewsNetwork, as I feel visits have increased because of BasicBlogTips. Thank you again to Ms. Ileane, and everyone here for responding to my blog comments. I greatly appreciate you :-)

  36. Hey Sayed. Unique visits have always been the question on my mind – I never knew what they meant until I read this article. Thank you buddy. The difference between these three concepts are very helpful to me.

  37. Sayed, it is also interesting to see how different rankings sites rank the same websites. I may have a certain number of visitors and links in Alexa, and those numbers are different in Google analytics, and Jet Pack. What is your preferred tracking plugin or install.

  38. Hello Sayed, excellent this cleared up many things that confused me,great detail was provided in your definitions. I appreciate that, one thing that confused me was thinking impressions were actual visitor’s to my webpage, and of course, being uneducated in this matter I boasted a little thinking my website was doing very well, but I felt in my heart, I needed to dig deeper, so that I would not damage mine, or any other person’s credibility.

  39. I spent hours looking for a simplified explanation of these terms and you delivered big time…thanks!

    I’m constantly being asked what my uv’s are by beauty pr firms and I always provide the stats I get from my website platform squarespace.com but they’re SO different from compete.com, alexa, google analytics and quancast. For instance, I’m over 20K uv’s to date according to squarespace, but I have no clue what # I should be reporting…the uv’s or impressions. Also I have RSS feeds and a newsletter so how do I factor in those entities?

  40. thanks for the great share sayed.., i think after reading this article now i can distinguish between most confusing and closely related parameters of the blogging. impressions always confused me a lot, now its very much clear.,

  41. jindavali

    what if a person visit my site my site after gap of 24 hours? is he considerd as unique visitor of next day?
    explain me regarding payment cycle?

  42. Hello.!
    First of all very good and breif discription for analysing the website.
    But I’m Not agree with your this formula.
    5 images + 10 buttons + 1 video = 16 hits + 1 more for accessing the HTML file itself thus resulting in a total of 17 hits
    What i have learn from google’s own help center.(also from google analyics)
    hits and visit are the same thing. for example some one come on your website that will be called 1 visit (1 hit) no matter how many images+buttons+videos+ the visitor see,
    it will be counted as only 1 visit.

  43. Really great article about web analytics.
    My question is though why does Google analytics differ from my WordPress stats? Which one is correct?

  44. I have seen advertising websites showing their minimum number of site impressions required. Does website impressions and page impressions same?

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