A brief question on Web stats. For my corporate clients, we usually use visitors as a metric for evaluating marketing campaigns and Web site growth. Now, definitions vary, but for Webalizer (a popular and free stats engine), a visit occurs when:
Some remote site makes a request for a page on your server for the first time. As long as the same site keeps making requests within a given timeout period, they will all be considered part of the same Visit. If the site makes a request to your server, and the length of time since the last request is greater than the specified timeout period (default is 30 minutes).
Conversely, hits “represent the total number of requests [for files] made to the server during the given time period”.
I usually choose visitors because I figured that’s a more meaningful and comprehensible value. Each visitor represents one human, more or less. Hits are less meaningful, in part because I haven’t bothered to exclude non-pages from the file list (though I do apparently exclude images). So, I assume that every time ‘styles-site.css’ or ‘favicon.ico’ get loaded, that’s a hit.
However, on other sites, people mostly discuss hits, not visits. Is this because hits are a bigger number? Or because visits are not a consistently-measurable metric? What’s the typical relationship between the two?
For example, when I got my butt Slashdotted last fall, I had 62,262 visitors in a day, which registered as 1,060,065 hits. So that’s about 16 hits per visitor. If I compare that with, say, February, 2004, I’m averaging about the same–18 hits per visitor. What does this tell me? I’ve got no idea. Maybe you do?