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”.
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?
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.
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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 definitely 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. 😀
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!