How To Lose Your Credibility: Talk About "Hits"

I read a transcript of a media event at work the other day, and one exchange between a reporter and the event’s speaker caught my eye.

Reporter: You said there are 140,000 hits on the xxx website. Is there indication that xxx is kind of catching on with the public?

Speaker: …The website is growing everyday. I know the last four days there have been over ten thousand hits.

Sorry, you’ve lost me. Hits? Seriously, did you really just use the number of hits on your website as evidence of popularity?

If you ever have to talk about website statistics, here’s a pointer: never talk about hits.

Let me explain.

In layman’s terms, a hit represents a request for a file from your web server.

Sure, that file could be a web page, but it’s equally likely to be an image, a script file, a stylesheet or any one of a myriad of potential targets.

Each page on your website can call on multiple other files. My personal website’s homepage, for example, currently requests 27 other files whenever someone visits it. That means when someone visits my homepage, my website gets 28 hits (the page itself plus 27 other files).

A hit doesn’t represent a person.

To put the earlier "ten thousand hits" statistic into context, that would represent 357 visits to my homepage. The speaker said that was over four days. That’s 89 visits to the page per day.

I’m not saying there were only 89 people visiting the website in question. Still, there certainly weren’t 10,000.

Hits mean nothing.

If you want to talk about the popularity of your website, refer to unique visitors, or even visits.

Don’t lose credibility through using the wrong terms.

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