I wrote a post last week about Guarantees in the SEO world. I have no problem with SEO providers who offer guarantees because I get why they do it. If I’m going after a client but they end up picking SEO firm X because X offers a guarantee and I don’t, I will be offering a guarantee from there on out. What I do have a problem with is SEO providers misrepresenting the value of getting a top ranking in Google for a term with no traffic. Deceiving the client in any field just isn’t professional. The reason I bring this up is because I’m going to talk about another topic today that gets its fair share of sleazy SEO providers exploiting it, the mysterious website “hit”.
Last week I was visiting a business forum I heard mentioned in a podcast when I saw a post where someone had asked why the amount of web traffic that Hostgator said they got was three times the amount that Google Analytics said. I knew exactly what the answer was so I jumped in and explained that Google Analytics will tell you the number of visits you had, the number of unique visitors you had and the number of page views you had. All of these are useful numbers to know. The number that is usually pulled from Hostgator or other web hosts is the “hit”. You would think that a hit would be the same as the number of page views but it is usually far, far higher. A “hit” from a web host is a count of files the server had to load for your site.
When Sally clicks a page on my wife’s site, Google analytics counts that as a page view. Hostgator counts the text and basic framework of the page as a hit, the Amazon banner down the right side as a hit, the ad for her graphics designer as a hit etc. etc. One page view could be a three dozen hits depending on how many elements your page has on it. If you would like to see proof, here is a Google Analytics Screen shot from my wife’s site for March 25th followed by a screen shot of our Hostgator stats for March.
From Google Analytics For March 25, 2012:
From Hostgator For All of March, 2012:
You can see 2,282 page views in Google with 37,615 “hits” according to Hostgator. Neither of these numbers are wrong, they are just completely different metrics. That said why would anyone in the modern era of analytic options still use “hits”? The other numbers in Hostgator aren’t much better as they to are inflated by iframes or other page within a page elements. Some people don’t understand the difference and there’s nothing wrong with that. All of this stuff is a learning experience for all of us. What I have unfortunately witnessed a few times are people who are being deceived by those handling their websites.
I’ve seen several instances where people whose websites have no Alexa rankings or rankings in the 6-8 million range brag about their website getting hundreds of visitors a day. I KNOW the smart thing to do is to nod my head and keep my mouth shut but I genuinely try to help people so I will try to explain to them that their website’s Alexa ranking doesn’t indicate that level of traffic and that they should check out Google Analytics to get great information about their site. Multiple times my reward for trying to help someone get a good grasp of their websites activities is a defensive reply and assurance that they know the numbers are accurate because their “web guy has shown them proof”. That is the point where I keep my mouth shut for good.
If you’ve ever wondered exactly what a hit was, now you know. Now you can wonder why anybody would use them as a metric unless your purpose was to make a site appear far more active than it is.