One thing that frustrates me more than anything else is web site owners/operators stating the amount of “hits” they get in a particular day/month/year.
There is only one thing more frustrating for me and that is the media who do not understand its relevance and just report what is told to them because they don’t know any better.
Let us get one thing straight, hits are a farce!
Server logs classify a hit as text or files/images that are loaded into the user’s browser.
How it works–
After a website is designed it is handed over to the developer for coding. When this happens the coder slices up the site into a variety of sections/files. You will see this in action when a web page loads, image by image file by file, otherwise each web page would be just one big file and you would have to wait for everything to load at once.
So when you visit a website and wait for it to load file by file you are creating “hits” in the server log file. As an example the Agentpoint site has approximately 57 files on its front page.
This means for every one visitor I receive on this site I get 57 hits recorded on my server log file. For every ten I get 570 hits and every one hundred 5700 hits. Wow, I am a gazillionaire!
So you can see “hits” are really just a big lie, not that everybody who makes these claims is lying, most probably just do not know any better. However more and more people are becoming aware of this and as the community becomes more aware these claims become less effective and will in time work against the individual/company making the claim.
Facts are – the most relevant information is divided into three categories:
1. Unique Visitors – Most log files will tell you how many unique visitors come to your site each month. A unique visitor is usually only counted once per month in the log file.
Example: By you visiting this page and reading this article you are putting information into a log file.
2. Visitors – Visitors are people who return again to your site in a given month and although only counted once as unique visitors they are counted again as a returning visitor. This is important as one of the great ways to grow your site is to encourage return visits and the best way to do this is to give them a reason to return (new listings/new information on your website).
Example: If you visited this page again tomorrow you would be counted as a returing visitor but not counted again as a unique visitor.
3. Page Views – Page views are another great indicator of visitor behaviour, they tell you how many page views you have each month. As real estate sites usually have quite a few listings you will notice that users will stay at your site a while and view quite a few pages.
Example: If you came directly to this page then it would be counted as one page view but if you visited 3 pages on this website before you got to this page then it would be counted as 3 page views for your visit.
So what can we tell by this information?
Your server log files (stats pages) should be able to tell you quite a bit about your visitor behaviour. The important information is usually worked out for you by your stats engine. Let us say you had 1000 page views in a month and 10 unique visitors with 20 visitors. This is easily worked out:
1000 (page views) divided by 10 (unique visitors) equals 100 pages per unique visitor. This can also be divided by returning visitors which tells you that each returning visitor (20) looks on average at 50 pages per visit.
Most stats pages can go even deeper into a site user behaviours such as what pages (properties) are most popular and how long they stay at your site. The best stats engines also tell you where they visited you from, how long they stayed and what keywords they used in what search engines before they got to your site!
Most of the best stats engines are over 95% accurate – which is much better than any TV, Radio or Newspaper polling can do.
Example: Can a newspaper tell you what pages someone looked at and for how long? No, although they try to tell you they can!
So look deeper into your stats page (please tell me you have simple web access to your own stats page, if not – have some stern words to your developer) and see what you can find out about your site and your visitor behaviour.
Hitwise and Red Sheriff
You may notice you will see rankings for different industry categories (including real estate portals) in Australian newspapers and online from time to time. These are usually provided by one of two companies, Hitwise & Red Sheriff. These companies allow their special code to be placed into every page on a website (FEE about $18,000 a year) or do standard polling to determine the popularity of websites around Australia.
Both of these are pretty flawed models because for one – you have to pay ridiculous fees to have their code put on your site. I certainly can find better ways of spending 18k per year on more important things with my web business. So the only polling is done by companies with enough money (big media players/banks and your goverment).
Both these services tell us interesting things but because they only track less than 5% of all Australian websites it does make the information seem pretty lame. You will notice they only tell us the top 10 in banking, real estate or some other industry sector and not what are the most popular real estate sites in NSW, QLD or the suburb of Kensington in Melbourne!
These services probably track a couple of thousand websites around Australia (maybe 50 in each category) and that is it. So really how can you take them too seriously?
People will always believe information supplied to them and think – fair enough. But when you investigate/understand things a little better you may question the information!