So the BBC are claiming there were 9 million hits on the Swine Flu website on the first day when it went live; and on local BBC they were claiming 9 million visits. This is a classic error that people make when reading their web statistics.
Here’s a brief outline of “What is a hit on a website?”:
Firstly ‘hit’ information is gathered from server logs. Every time your web host shows something to a visitor it updates a log entry, so it knows what files it has shown to visitors. These are cobbled together using some stats package such as AWStats to show things like the total number of hits per hour/day/week/month.
But a hit is the most basic unit of information. It is a count of the files shown to visitors – NOT pages. So all the images on a page count individually as a hit. There are at least 6 images on the home page of the swine flu website www.direct.gov.uk/swineflu, and 5 images served as background images, so that means each time this page is viewed it counts as 12 hits.
So, 9 millions hits instantly comes down to something like 750,000 page views (even these kind of basic stats packages will give accurate page view information alongside hits information). Say a visitor views 5 pages on average, then that comes down to 150,000 visitors. Make allowance for search engine spiders, spyware crawlers etc. and you could be looking at 120,000 visitors to the website – somewhat rather different to the headline figure of 9 million that the BBC were trying to imply.
So why do people use hits? Because either they don’t know what it means or they are trying to over-inflate visitor numbers. In this case either the BBC are incredibly badly informed or – far worse – trying to make a news story out of nothing.
If you want REAL visitor data then the only way forward is to install something like Google Analytics. This uses different tracking technology to give ACCURATE figures such as unique visitors, country of origin, average time on site, bounce rate, number of pages viewed, entry page, exist page, what browser you visitors are using etc etc. Very accurate data, filtering out non-human traffic, giving you information that can help you with real decision making – and all for free!
If you need help making sense of your website stats then why not get in touch and we can help make the Internet make Sense to you.