Statistical data is one of the primary information sources you can use to learn about your website’s viewers. Many web hosts offer pre-installed statistical software and/or support for third-party systems, such as Google Analytics. While the methods of gathering information and presentation of these applications may vary, the types of data in general are very similar. This quick guide will cover some of the common terms, what they mean and how they are of benefit to you.
Hits – Some website owners will boast, “I get 10,000 hits a week.” While this is impressive, it is important to understand that “hits” refers to every page accessed on the site any number of times and even multiple times by the same person. Theoretically, a single person could generate 10,000 hits for a site all by himself.
Files – These are the number of actual files delivered to users. Every time someone accesses a web page, a file is downloaded to their browser. The exception being when they receive a “404 file not found” or other error. “Hits” still include errors, but “Files” only includes actual downloads.
Sites – This category reveals the actual number of unique IP addresses or hostnames that accessed your site. This is not a perfect gauge of how many visitors you have received, but it is pretty close. Keep in mind of course, that it includes search bots.
Visits – Perhaps the most reliable measure of actual users, visits only occur when a user accesses your site for the first time. This gives you an idea of how many unique people are actually viewing your site.
In part 2 of this guide, we will look at some of the more detailed statistics you can gather from your analytics software and how you can use them to make your site better.