The coolness that is website analytics

I’ve been trying to learn more and more about the joys of website mastery. While I don’t know that I’ll ever achieve such a lofty title as webmaster, I enjoy learning and running a website is pretty fun. I’ve learned lots of little tidbits that aren’t always necessarily common knowledge. Sharing uncommon knowledge is pretty much the definition of blogging really so this is definitely the place to do it. For anyone who is thinking about starting a website and/or blog, you might find this interesting. If you’re already a webmaster or happen to have hefty amounts of knowledge about running a website, you may as well leave now as this is likely to get a little boring for you.

For anyone who decides to, it doesn’t take long after setting up a website before the urge to know how many people are visiting it becomes pretty strong. One of the greatest buzzwords that I always associated with setting up a website is “hits”. I understood that it’s important to know just how many “hits” your website is getting. It wasn’t too long after starting this site that I installed a hit counter to make myself feel good that my blog was getting visits and someone was paying attention to what I had to say. The interesting thing about hit counters in their purest sense, is that they don’t really give you good information that’s quantifiable to most of us. Let me fill you in on the difference between hits and visits in my purest layman’s terms.

One thing I frequently noticed was that my tiny little site was getting far more hits than I felt was reasonable given the content and how long it had been on the web. My website, which hadn’t been running for long, was seeing 200-300 hits per day. My web host provided hit-like data as part of my hosting package and I was seeing very similar data from there. While this was great for my ego, my logical brain told me to look for something that made more sense despite two sources providing the same information. A good friend of mine happens to be something of a guru of website marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO-the art of making your website turn up in search engines like Google or Bing) and he filled me in on why my hit counter numbers were so puzzling. A “hit” refers to each request that gets made on your website’s data. Should you create a nifty website with half a dozen pictures, some scripts, and maybe some video or audio files, a separate hit will get counted for each item that gets requested. Loading a single page for one visitor can result in a few dozen hits, depending upon how many things are on the page that is being requested. I’m no longer entirely sure what all the fuss is about “hits” as this doesn’t seem like useful data to me.

Now I’ve learned about “visits”. This is actually useful information for us small time web types. I acquired information on visits by placing a small amount of code, supplied by Google, into my website and signing up for the Google Analytics service. Now we’re cooking! Visits refers to a user actually viewing your website rather than a viewer downloading each little piece that makes up on of your webpages. This is quantifiable data! Using Google Analytics I can see all sorts of data about my visitors. Like what pages are most popular, what web browsers and screen resolution my visitors use. Even what regions of the world my visitors are coming from and lots more. Some of it I even understand! I’m now getting much more realistic numbers about how many people come so see what I have to say. In my case, it’s just good fun, but I could see how corporate websites could use their website data to target advertising campaigns, or get advance notice about how many regular visitors will be capable of actually viewing the whizbang new high tech feature that is being implemented. As disappointing as the number of visitors can be some days, my site statistics now make much more sense and I no longer have to wonder why I have that nagging feeling that I’m not really getting hundreds of visitors each day like my hit counter claims I am.


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