Questions about Web Site Traffic: Hits vs Visitors

I’m having these conversations more and more often… so I probably need to address it here… again. It’s about web site log files and the analysis of them.

web site solutionsHere’s how it goes: Web site owner contacts me… says his web site is getting 3,000 unique visitors each and every month. Then says despite the huge traffic, the web site in question is not working.

Is there anything I can do to help?

When these come in via email, I begin with detective work. Since I don’t have access to this person’s log files, I go and look at said website with the Alexa and Google PR tool installed in Firefox. Alexa tells me said web site is 11,080,071.

WOW! I didn’t know Alexa WENT that high. I know it’s not reliable for sites out of the top 100,00 and according to Aaron Wall in his post “Wow! My Alexa Ranking is Great!“says that

Just a few people from each browsing my site with an Alexa toolbar caused the rankings to nearly double, which is a huge change on a logarithmic scale for a site in the top 10,000.

So yeah… the Alexa toolbar is not a reliable measure of traffic. It only measures how many people who have the Alexa tool bar installed have visited the site. Those visitors tend to be web master types who are nosy about other people’s traffic. But for 3,000 visitors to come to a site in a relatively short period of time (one month) to a relatively NEW site (less than 6 months old), WITHOUT any other form of promotion is highly unlikely.

Next, I head over to No data for the site there either. Hmm…. the site IS a WordPress blog but it isn’t linking out and according to it’s PR ranking (which is zero) it’s not getting a lot of link love from reliable sources. It’s also not registered with any of the social networking tools for blogs like Blog Catalog or Technorati.

At this point, I have to question whether we’re seeing VISITOR or HITS.

To clarify, a hit is defined as a “call” made to the web server. Every time a visitor enters a web site, depending upon the structure of the page, they will cause MULTIPLE “hits” to the server. If a web site or blog has 49 small graphics on the page, every time a visitor loads the page, the site will register not one hit, but perhaps 50 or more hits on the server (49 graphic files plus the html file. PLUS any java applets, etc which are also “hitting” the server).

With this in mind, 3,000 “hits” may actually translate into 60 unique visitors.

A good traffic analysis program will actually TRACK the visitor’s movement throughout the site. I ADORE the program Click Tracks for this, but it can be a bit pricey for the “non-professional” webmaster. If you’re serious about using your web site to market your business, it’s a GREAT investment. (I need to upgrade my version as I see there are lots of shiny new toys in their latest version!)

So as you look at your log files, whether it be AW Stats and Webalizer (both are better at providing amusement rather than hard data, but they are free and readily available) remember that a VISITOR is not the same as a “hit”. It’s also important to note that I’ve had a couple of cases of client blogs with fewer than 100 visitors per month who are actually seeing client referrals from their blogs. I’ve also heard complaints from people with blogs with incredibly high visitor counts who aren’t seeing ANY referrals of clients from their blogs… which is the opposite side of the same coin.

The moral to that story: A handful of interested potential clients reading your blog is much, much better than a throng of visitors who want something for nothing.


  1. Hi,thanks for sharing this information.from this site i come to know about lots of questions which we need to remember to get good web traffic.this site ius really helpful for us.

  2. Gonçalo says:

    Did appreciate the info in here.
    Thanks and cheers,


  3. Thanks for the very interesting article, I have had three thousand unique visitors last month, my website opened in September. I was wondering if you could please give me any advice on how I can promote the website better? I’m not very clued up on advertising to be honest.

    Kind regards


  4. Kathy says:

    Gavin – Basic advice on promoting your website – join the conversation just as you have here. However, because you don’t have a blog to promote your website, you can’t dig deeper and participate in blog memes or other fun “games” that bloggers do to engage readers.

    It’s one thing to have “visitors” – it’s another thing to have targeted traffic. Think about your end user… who are they – why would they want to come to your site?