My website has a million hits a year! You might have heard that term before but it’s a misuse of the word hit, often accidental, when what people mean, or should be looking at, are page views. The two are very different.
The easiest way to think about the difference is that hits are how computers are interacting with your website. Page views are an indication of how people are interacting with your site and are therefore a much more useful way to monitor site activity.
Read on to find out the difference between hits and page views.
What Is A Website Hit?
A single website page contains an awful lot of data and items that need to be ‘read’ to bring information to your screen. Not just text, but a web page will include photographs, banners, headers, CTAs, videos, logos etc.
All these different elements are called assets. You don’t see it but each of these assets needs to be sent to your browser by a server, each of these asset requests is a hit.
Because there are multiple assets on most web pages, a page can generate anywhere between 5 and 100 hits!
What Is A Website Page View?
A page view is each time a visitor lands on one of your web pages. So real human eyeballs are looking at your content, not a computer requesting information. A single page view could equal 10, 20, or 30 hits.
It’s important to remember that a page view could also be a visitor viewing a page multiple times on the same day. To accurately understand how many individuals are viewing a page you would need to look at unique page views in Google Analytics.
What Is A Visit And A Visitor?
If you’re pondering the difference between page views and hits, then it’s also useful to familiarise yourself with what a visit and a visitor are too.
A visit is a session a visitor will spend on your website, regardless of how many pages they view. If the visitor is inactive for more than 30 minutes, then the visit is ended.
A visitor is a person that visits your website. The number of visitors on your website is usually tracked via cookies. You can also see unique visitors; this is the exact amount of induvial people that have visited your website.
Why Should You Care?
Back to our original question of what is the difference between a hit and a page view? I hope the above has explained the difference clearly, but you might now be wondering why it’s important.
This blog was written for our main target audience of marketers and business owners, if you work in marketing, you likely want to report on, and understand how many people are visiting your website. The same goes for business owners that don’t have a marketing team.
That means you need to be keeping a check on the correct website metrics. In this case, website hits are not particularly useful information to marketers or business owners. It’s incorrect to state how many ‘hits’ your website receives as an indication of how well it is performing, hit information is usually only useful to website developers and those other techy nerds.
If you’re wanting to give an overall indication of website performance in terms of traffic, then page views probably aren’t the best metric either…
So What Should You Report On?
Page views are still a very important metric for marketers! Page views can help you understand what pages on your website are performing the best and help you improve the rest of the site. Page views are also important when it comes to SEO – a high number of page views could be an indicator that a particular page is performing well organically. If so, you can analyse what you did with that page, and why it’s performing so well and try to replicate it.
But, if you’re wanting to make a statement about the size of your audience, the best metric to look at would be visitors. Of course, visitors don’t tell you everything you need to know, it’s a simple indication of the number of people coming to your website.
You can drill down further into new and returning visitors. They’re both exactly what they sound like – people coming to your site for the first time and visitors that are returning.
Here are some other top metrics to report on that give you a good indication of your website’s overall performance:
Traffic source – the source of your web traffic can tell you a lot about your marketing efforts and help inform your strategy going forward. I wrote about traffic sources earlier this week here.
Bounce rate – bounce rate is how quickly visitors land on your website and then leave. Your bounce rate should be as low as possible. If visitors are bouncing straight off your website, it could mean you’re targeting the wrong keywords, or your onsite copy, website appearance, and a host of other factors are just not grabbing their interest.
Exits – visitor exits are different to your bounce rate. These are visitors that have stayed on your website and viewed multiple pages but haven’t taken any action. If you notice a certain page has a high number of exits on it, you need to work out what is stopping visitors from taking the actions you want them to – making a purchase, for example.
Conversion rate – conversions are the number of people that have completed an action you want them to make. For an eCommerce business, a conversion would be a purchase. For a service business, conversion might mean filling out a contact form or making a download.
Time on site – the time visitors spend on your site is a good indication of how well your content is performing and the way you have presented information. The more engaging your copy is, the longer visitors will spend on your website.
Behaviour flow – this useful metric shows you how traffic moves through your website and can help you improve the structure of your site. An example of good natural flow through a website might look like this: visitor lands on blog > product page > contact page/purchase.
If reporting on all the above seems confusing, too much, or you just don’t have time to check out and analyse that amount of information then get in touch! GrowTraffic can produce a report that gives you all the information above plus more. A website audit is a good starting point from which you can build your SEO strategy.