Most web hosting providers provide statistical analysis software, such as Webalizer or Awstats. In all likelihood, some type of software is gathering data about your website, even if you did not previously know it or configure it. Now that you know about it or even if you already did, you need to know how to understand the terminology.
Hits: The most commonly-used term people throw around to brag about their websites is “hits”. People love boasting to their friends about how their website scores 300,000 hits per month. The fact is, however, that “hits” are not the most accurate way to tell how many website visitors you actually get. A hit is counted every time a single file (document, image, etc.) is accessed. That means a single visitor could conceivably be responsible for 500 hits, and those hits are registered each time the person visits.
Number of visits: A more accurate report of actual website traffic is “number of visits”. This is how many times someone visited your website. It could be a single person or multiple people. It will include you and also various search engine bots.
Unique visitors: This is the true measure of your actual audience, and the only one you can truly use to brag to your non-techie friends. This counts each individual computer that connects to your site and only counts it once, no matter how many pages or files it accesses. Even this is not fool-proof, but it will give you a much clearer idea of the number of visitors you receive each month.
Pages: This statistic tells you the number of pages accessed on your site each month. It can be correlated with your number of visitors. If it is close to being the same, either your site is very small or people are not staying long.
Bandwidth: This tells you the number of bytes transfered to and from visitors. It is important if you have a bandwidth limit, but most likely nothing to worry about unless you have a very high-traffic site.
In my next post, I will delve deeper into website statistics.