When I work with newbie bloggers or writers who are blogging but really don’t know that much about blogging, they often tell me proudly how many “hits” they get or how many “visitors” show up each day. They become quite disappointed when I tell them these numbers, especially the first one, mean little to nothing in terms of real blog readers.
So, if you aren’t looking at hits or visitors, what do you look at to discover how many readers you have to your blog? Unique visitors. These are real readers. This is the number that matters.
I spend a lot of time defining the difference between a hit, a visitor, a unique visitor, as well as a page view in Chapter 5 of my book, How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time. Here is an excerpt to help you understand:
Technically a hit is each file sent to a browser by a Web server; therefore, it’s not really a visitor, or reader, of any type. It’s anything on the page of your blogged book that gets sent to a browser—a photo, content, a logo, a post.
A visitor is the browser of a person who accepts a cookie, or small script. Let’s say you visit a website. A cookie then is placed on the hard drive of your computer by the server of that website. The cookie is used to recognize your specific browser/computer combination if you to return to the same site. If a cookie is not accepted, an IP number or address, which is like online fingerprint, will track your browser/computer combination. Each Internet connection has its own IP number or address; an IP number or address is a bit like your home address in cyberspace. IP addresses on any network are a single device, but they can be a single IP address shared by a number of computers. Therefore a single IP address in your website log may not represent just one person.
A visitor could be an actual reader or a crawler, spider, or bot—all of those “things” that come from the search engines to catalog websites and content.
The all-important unique visitor refers to an actual unduplicated person—not bots, crawlers, or spiders (and not a hit)—to your website over the course of a specified time period—twenty-four hours. Different from a site’s hits or page views, which are measured by the number of files requested from a particular site, unique visitors are recognized and measured by cookies they accepted previously (unbeknownst to them) and by their unique IP addresses. Also, they are counted only once no matter how many times they visit the site during that time period—unless they deleted the cookie off their computer and then return to the site. In this case, they will get a new cookie and be counted again. Thus, in simple terms, a unique visitor is someone who visits your site once in a given time period.
A visit occurs when someone or something (possibly a bot) visits your site. It consists of one or more page views or hits. One visitor can generate multiple site visits.
If your blog analytics program don’t show you the numbers of unique visitors showing up on your blog each day, it’s time to get one that does. The analytics that come with most blogging programs tell you a little, but not a lot. You are best off getting an additional program, such as Google Analytics or Sitemeter. I use a very old one called Counterize II. Plus, my hosting company provides one as well. There can be a huge difference, however, in the numbers reported by your hosting company and Google Analytics. Supposedly the most accurate gauge of real readers is Google Analytics. I was VERY sorry to learn this after many years of watching my hosting company analytics show me large numbers of steadily rising readers.
Photo courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn
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