With so much information available in Google Analytics there are some terms that I’ve noticed confuse people every now and then. one in particular is Hits and Visits. They are similar in what they count, but they are very different at the end of the day.

A visit is each time an individual user comes to your site and browses. The number of visits is really the most important statistic for many websites as it shows how many people have been looking at your site. A similar stat you will see is unique visits. The ideas behind unique visits is that it attempts to track the number of individuals that view your site, not the number of repeat visitors. The problem with unique visitors though is that it relies on people using the same computer. If I check the same site at my office and again at the library or a friends computer, each of those would likely be counted as separate unique visits. Unique visits is unfortunately not as accurate as you might think, and because of that I tend not to focus on unique visits and focus instead on the number of visitors.

Another stat a lot of people like to look at is hits. A hit happens every time a file is downloaded or requested. So each page that is viewed is a hit, but if that page has a photo gallery with 100 photos it would count as at least 101 hits. If a site has a couple of images used in the CSS for background images, those count as additional hits when they load the first time. The number of hits sounds like a nice stat since it normally has a high number, but really doesn’t offer a lot of insight into how the site is performing.

When you’re looking at your site analytics and want to get a feel for how many people are looking at and interacting with your site, look at the number of visits. Unique visits and hits may sound nice, but the number of visits is what will give you the best view of the traffic.