Hits - or How Idiots Track Success

Here's an amusing post/rant from Intranet Blog on how hits are a meaningless metric but are still way overused as a statistic.

To quote:

For those of you who have been around the web for more than a year or two, you have no excuse for continuing to equate success to number of HITS. Stop embarrassing yourself.

It always amuses me when I read a tech journalist talking about the number of hits some web site gets per month. It doesn't do much for their credibility.

It's worth noting that hits once were a useful measurement tool - back in the early days of the web when web pages were text only and one page view required one call to the server. But those days have long since passed.

I try to educate my non-technical colleagues about the appropriate terms to use when talking about web site traffic - it's definitely worth trying to spread the word.

Posted on: March 13, 2006 | 3 Comments

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3 Comments Posted

In many cases, people say "hits" when they mean visits. I deal with this on a daily basis with my clients. People not involved in the website industry are often a few years behind the technology curve. We that are on the cutting edge of technology need to gently correct them and let them know why "hits" is not the measurement of choice anymore, and that we should be using "page views" or "unique users" or other metrics. I see this as my part to educate clients (and others) so they are more inteligent in their conversations with others.

Rick - I totally agree. There's no reason to be using this redundant term, and in my experience, non-web folks are glad to be educated about the difference between hits, visits, page views, etc.

Most non-technical people see web traffic measurement as something of a 'black art' and so appreciate learning that at its core it's not so hard to understand.

Web analytics is 'snake oil' to many, especially operators of smaller businesses. Some folks are accomplished offline businesspeople but online business is another matter to them altogether.

As designers/consultants, we need to do our job in showing them what to track. I find analytics is an easier subject to approach when a client comes to me with a problem of some sort, i.e. 'my site isn't generating as many leads as I would like.' I then propose that we look at some measures in place, and when there are none, I propose we put some in place. This then gives the client real data to work from and makes them feel more confident of their business decisions.

By the way, I find your site very informative and thought-provoking!

Rick - thanks for your kind words! I always try to bring the conversation back to the fact that a web site is a business tool like any other and should be treated as such.

Consequently, if a client or potential client asks for a site redesign or a new feature such as a blog or newsletter, the first question I ask is 'why?'. What business goal is this work going to support?

If you can't clearly say why you want to do something, and then identify how you are going to measure your success, you probably shouldn't do it.

Sounds obvious, but it is surprising how often this question isn't asked.

Thanks for the link and the mention Christian! Keep up the good work!

I often have clients requesting "hit counters" on their sites, which makes me cringe. i never know how to tactfully explain why this isn't a good idea...

Sara - [grin] that's a tricky one. Perhaps you can tell them that having a traffic counter is so '90s (which it is).

If you recommend them to a cool web analytics service like MapSurface for example, they might pay attention to what you suggest!

Just a thought…

I totally agree as well – if you’re going to be on the web, get educated about the proper terminology! There is so much more to marketing than the number of ‘hits’ you get. But don’t get me wrong – I was a newbie too, and luckily found some professional marketing services (linked in my name) before my business took a header. I quickly learned just how much is involved.

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