Journalists please please stop quoting website hits!!!!!

There’s a wee bit of under-education in the UK when journalists write about websites, usually they quote it in terms of hits e.g. ‘it receives 1,000,000 hits a day’. Yet this is absolute bananas: while a million a day sounds huge, it means absolutely nothing. A hit is an irrelevant stat that purely depends on the way a website is designed rather than used.

A hit on a website is counted when someone takes a single piece of info…. on any webpage there could be tens or hundreds or thousands of pieces of info. So someone could manufacture a page with 100,000 pieces of info…. thus one web-user clicking ten pages is a million hits in a day.

The real traffic measure should be ‘unique users’, which is the number of different people visiting a site each month. Due to the way it’s measured it can never be completely accurate but it gives a strong indication of size. Next best is visits, the number of different individual visits made…. thus one person visiting every day in a month is only one unique user but 30 visits.

As you can see, hits is thus perhaps the least relevant measure, and most easy to manipulate, which is why many sites, especially small ones trying to look bigger, quote it.

Obviously I’m interested in the stats because I like to see how big this site is. For info here they are:

Unique Users: 1,000,000/month
Visits: 2,000,000/month
Page Uses: 26,000,000/month
Hits: 230,000,000/month (it used to be twice that, but we made the site more efficient and it halved – even though pages and visits increased, showing just how irrelevant hits is as a measure!)

In fact when I’m looking at a website I tend to go to and put the website details in there – then click to see the traffic report. It gives you a stat of a website’s current worldwide ranking (done over the last three months). E.g. Yahoo is 1 (the most used site in the world), BBC.CO.UK is 23, worldwide is 750, is 2,900, is 21,000. This is very useful to give an indication of how legit a site is – any site in the top 100,000 is worth considering with legitimacy as it means it has some level of traffic, in the top 10,000 has substantial traffic.

Therefore the next time you read a site amazingly has 1,000,000 hits, maybe do an Alexa search and see when this site is really a giant or a tiddler.

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Update Note

A new ranking site has just been suggested to me … A bit like Alexa, rather than rankings it gives rough visit numbers for a site. Unlike alexa which relies on user data, this one relies a bit more on ISP data. The results are interesting. Comparing its stats for MSE to the actual stats (from the server statistics) it rates MSE lower than its real figures, but in roughly the right scale (ie it says 1.4 million visits in the last 30 days compared to the real 2.1million figure).