February 2, 2010

Pageviews vs. Hits


Hostway Team

By Monique Martin

You’re reading your latest Web analytics report, but it might as well be Greek. What does it all mean? Here’s a quick primer on hits and pageviews that will help you make sense out of it all.

What Is a Hit?

Most Web pages are combinations of HTML and image files. When a person goes to a page on your Web site, their browser downloads these images and HTML files and renders them as a single Web page. A hit is simply a request to your server for a single file. Each request sent to your server for a file is counted as hit. That means that a page with one HTML file and two images will count as three hits.

You can probably see where this is going. If you used a style sheet to help create your Web page, when the browser requests that .css file from your server, that counts as another hit. JavaScript files also counts and so on and so on. The hits just keep on coming. And, all of this is because one person looked at one page on your Web site.

What Is a Pageview?

A pageview is a request to load a single page of a Web site. Every time someone clicks on a link and loads that page into their browser, you’re getting a pageview. As you already know, one pageview can result in multiple hits.

What does it all mean?

Hits can be an exciting number, but they’re misleading. With single pages able to create dozens of hits, the number of hits doesn’t tell you much about your Web site’s traffic.

Pageviews, on the other hand, are a solid measurement of traffic. If you send out a marketing piece, watch the pageviews and not the hits.

Visitors and unique visitors, sessions and length of session, exit pages and pageviews are the most important metrics for any Web site owner. Keep your focus there and forget the hits.

When to Read Reports

It’s easy to obsess about your analytics. If you check the reports daily looking for surges and fearing dips—don’t. It’s easy to fixate on small day to day changes and miss the big picture. Daily traffic will fluctuate. Look for the larger trends. Weekly reports will give you a clearer picture of your Web site’s traffic.

And, most importantly, use your Web analytics to measure the success of your marketing campaigns. Knowing your traffic baseline can help you determine if that PPC campaign or that monthly newsletter were worth the effort.

Analytics should always be a means to an end. Think of them as calls to action. The data isn’t the end of the process; it’s the beginning.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as Chief Operating Officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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