vector newsletter

Hitcounters count hits....   but what are the hits they count?

This is one of the very first VectorInter.Net newsletters. It was originally presented at a very early web site developers convention in an "ad-lib" form. Moments before speaking I was included in a conversation about "How to inflate the numbers" on a hit-counter. It struck me as dis-honest, mis-leading and just plain stupid.... so I tossed my prepared presentation (which in now lost to history) and made fun of the mis-use of Hit-counters on web sites. The rest, as they say, is history. This "rant" has taken many forms over the years, but is presnted here in nearly it's original "online" version. The hitcounters are now just static JPG images. They used to count, up and down, at the same time, since I thought that was funny. This is still one of the most popular newsletters in the VectorInter.Net archive, consistantly tied for #1 with the infamous Santa Claus Memoand the "most-popular", Who invented the @ symbol in every e-mail address.

   One of the first things newbie web site owners commonly do is splash a hitcounter on their homepage and start watching the numbers. How do I know they are brand-new web site owners? The fact that a hitcounter is visible on the web page tells me so. How many hits does a hitcounter hit... if a hitcounter really counted hits? Getting the number to go up is a major concern each day. They want to see the numbers increasing exponentially - 100 hits a day, then 200 hits per day, ... the total keeps growing. It takes a while, but sooner or later the question arises;     �Why don�t all these hits generate any sales?�
   If you recognize yourself in that description, Follow me and we will look at the numbers your hitcounter is giving you. You need to analyse what is really going on, before you get excited or depressed about those hitcounter totals. There is nothing wrong with wanting to know about visitors to your site. Traffic data is a very valuable web site management tool, but the days of the big, visible hitcounter on your homepage is over. Look at any major web site. Do you see visible hitcounters on the home page of Ebay or Yahoo!? Believe me when I tell you, those sites and most other commercial or high volume "information" sites use sophisicated data logs and tracking statistics to monitor visitor traffic. If the techs at thought a homepage hitcounter was important, it would be on their home page too. Do you see my point?   Let me steal and alter a great script line from a famous book. My quote will be:"If you don't know who is being counted by your hitcounter, then does it matter how many hits get counted? �

     Just FYI - The line in the book originally reads: "If you don't know where you are going, then it doesn't matter which road you take, does it?"
Cheshire Cat speaking to Alice in Alice in the Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

   To understand the numbers you see on a web page hitcounter, you must first understand a few technical terms and have an understanding of the many different ways your web site is contacted every hour of every day.
Four quick examples are :

      The search engines....

every search engine needs to send a �spider� through your web site to �read� it. This is a good thing to see. If the search engines catalog your web pages they will be avaiable to customers looking for you. Spiders will create lots of �hits�, but no sales for your products. Spiders don�t spend money.

      The command control modules

There are many control functions at work keeping your web site operating. Without getting technical, your web page designers, the site hosting company and other legitimate programs have ongoing contact with your web site. They create hits, but don�t spend money at your web site.

      The paid monitoring services.

Did you sign up for a monitoring service to inform you about broken links, missing pages and server outages? How do you think they keep track of this? An automated robot opens your web pages constantly. These guys aren�t spending money at your web site either, in fact you are paying them to generate useless hits.
   My last example is unfortunately a harmful pest, called a


As the name implys, these are robots that operate similar to the search engine robots. The difference is these spiders are up to no good. They can search for every e-mail addresses on your site, then add those addresses to a spam mailing list. Some spambots look for security holes, that hackers return to and exploit. There are others, but you get the point. Spambots run up your hitcounter, but they are �shoplifters in your store�.
   So as you now see, your web site and each individual page is recieving a constant flow of vistors. Notice that I haven�t even mentioned real potential customers that may be viewing your site and trying to make a purchase! Before we move on, two quick technical terms. There is a difference between a �hit� and a "page view�. A �hit� on a web page is nothing more than you walking by a newstand, acknowledging that magazines are on display. A �page view� is a customer stopping to pick up the magazine and �downloading� the page by reading the headline. Page view statistics can be very helpful in other ways too. If we go back to my newstand example, webmasters can tell which page the customer viewed inside the magazine. How long did he look at each page? It is frequently more telling to know which pages customers never view. Did our newstand customer pick up the magazine (home page), then put it down and walk away? Some advanced statistics gathering tools can tell us which magazine was viewed before yours, and which magazine was selected after yours. If you follow the analogy, Growing the numbers on a hitcounter comes from greater numbers of customer visits. Customer visits don�t always come from higher and higher hitcounts.

How many hits does a hitcounter hit... if a hitcounter really counted hits?    Now, we can finally re-visit the original question in this article.

�Why don't all the hits on my web site translate into real sales?�

    If you are trying to build a successful merchant web site, you must monitor and analyse your visitor traffic. You want to know more than "where" visitors come from. Some links and search engine referals will provide good paying customers for your products and services. Other sources of traffic are a disappointment or a complete wastes of effort. As a web marketer, you put a lot of effort into building links, submitting pages to search engines and trying to build page traffic. Shouldn't you know which efforts paid off, and which links send traffic that never makes a purchase? I�ve actually had web site operators tell me, "I don�t worry about where traffic comes from... because my revenue comes from out-bound link referals and "banner ad" revenue". This is just wrongheaded. Thousands of random hits were important for web sites who wanted to earn banner advertising dollars, in 1996.   In 2003, advertisers want results. This means you need quality, targeted traffic. 100 targeted hits are more useful than 1 million random hits. Targeted visitors are interested in your product or service and there is a greater probability of �converting� them to paid sales. This is why advanced web site owners worry about search engine rankings. Targeted visitors view your web site because they are actively looking for you, or your competitors. Once a visitor is on your web pages, the presentation, the content and value offered makes or breaks the sales cycle. That is the subject of another article you�ll find in the VectorInter.Net newsletter archives. Big volumes of random hits just have no value anymore. Untargeted visitors stumble upon your site by any number of accidental ways. They are not looking for your product or service. They are just running up the totals on your hitcounter and giving you false hope of increasing customer prospects. Even the �link farms� and Pop-up adversisers have quit buying this traffic. Accidental visitors and automated spiders have zero value to you or your bottom line. In some extreme situations, this �worthless traffic� could actually cost you money, if your web hosting company charges higher fees as a result of the larger bandwidth useage. How many hits does a hitcounter hit... if a hitcounter really counted hits?

   In the early days of the internet, the implementation of hitcounters was usually done for one of two reasons.... #1 - real interest in the number of visitors to a web site or #2 - trying to give the impression of great popularity by showing a big number. The real statistics are available without a visible hitcounter on your web pages. Contact the VectorInter.Net office nearest you. We can show you economical ways to track the traffic as it enters, flows through, and exits your current web pages. If you continue to be interested in having a hitcounter for the ego satisfaction of a large number, Let me recommend using several of the �FREE� versions available on the internet. The problem I see in using them is the number. How many visitors is impressive? Do you want one million visitors to your site? How many hits does a hitcounter hit... if a hitcounter really counted hits? Fortunately, Not only are these hitcounters FREE, but you can set them to start counting from any number you choose, or reset the counter to zero as often as you like. (That�s what I do on this page, but I have a wierd sense of humor.)

   Do you know Who invented the @ symbol in every E-mail? The VectorInter.Net Newsletter Archive has the answer. We are happy to share information about
How Domain Names Work and �How to promote your web site, offline�. The infamous Santa Claus Memo is still online too, and gets us in trouble every year.