A question that comes up regularly on the Google Analytics training courses we run is what’s the difference between website hits and website visits? That’s usually followed by someone asking whether there actually is a difference, or whether hits and visits are the same thing.
The Google Analytics system doesn’t make any mention of hits anywhere in any of its reports or other data – which is strange, given that the term “hits” is so widely used whenever the man in the street is talking about how popular a website is.
However, that doesn’t mean hits and visits are the same thing. In fact, they are very different.
A visit is what happens when someone visits a website and looks at one or more pages of the site. That’s pretty straightforward, really. And that’s that most people are (incorrectly) talking about when they refer to a “website hit”.
Pretty much every web page you’ll ever see is made up of more than one file. For example, a typical page like the one you are looking at right now might have a file that contains the text of the article, another that contains the company logo, plus one for the content of the menu bar, one for the footer menu and copyright message, one for the style sheet that controls how the page looks, and so on and so on.
As a result, when you view this page you could easily generate anything between about ten and forty hits on our web server.
That means that if we quoted our number of hits when we actually wanted to tell someone how many visits or visitors our site had had, we’d be overstating things by a factor of about ten (at least).
And that’s why tools such as Google Analytics don’t even bother telling you how many hits your site has had.
So next time you hear someone saying that their website had 1,000 hits last month, what they probably mean is that they had 1,000 visits. But, of course, it might mean they really did have 1,000 hits and hence only around 25 to 100 actual visits.