anvilfire graphic (c) 1998 Patrick Dempsey!   Statistics

Web Statistics, Understandable, Honest or Not?

Web site statistics are a complicated issue. Interpreting them and understanding them is an art. Some sites report their server "hits" as a gauge of traffic. This is an unreliable number that should not be used to compare web sites. If anvilfire used server hits we would be reporting traffic of 5,000,000 hits per month, a fantastic number.

The problem with "hits" is that each image on a page is a "hit", each javascript source file is a "hit" and invisible spacer graphics are also "hit". On frames sites like anvilfire the page that fills each frame is a "hit" as well as the frameset itself. Statistics based on hits can inflate traffic from 10 to 50 times the actual pages served. Our five million "hits" in a month translates into 120,000 "visits"

Pages served is a better representation but on frames sites the pages served are the contents of each frame. The average frames page has three frames (4 files) and some have as many as ten frames. Our guru page and Mass3j calculator each have 6 frames. Loading either of these counts as 7 pages.

Unique Visitors is one of the closest representations of the numbers of users visiting a site and is probably one of the most accurate representations. Some server statistics programs such as Webalizer report unique visitors. However, to the server "unique visitors" means IP addresses, the numerical address assigned by your ISP when you log onto the Internet. Most service providers have multiple IP addresses and assign them randomly. Each time a dial up customer connects to the Internet they may have a different IP address, or not. But for practical purposes this is the best we have.

Page Counters are bits of code added to each web page that call a counter program on the server that records the number of times a page is loaded. Most page counter programs also record the IP address of the user and do not increment the counter every time a visitor reloads the same page in a browser session. This is an accurate representation of visits similar to unique visitors but is related to individual pages only.

On anvilfire we have had page counters and counter reports since the beginning. In fact almost every page on anvilfire has one or more counters. Pages each have their own counter and some pages also have a "global" and or a "section" counter. Not all these counters are displayed.

Global counters are used on many (not all) anvilfire pages to capture the hits from search engines or link lists that bypass our home page or the page's frame set. These counters only increment once per session so if the visitor that finds an individual anvilfire page then visits others the global counter only counts ONE VISIT. This is honest and accurate recording of traffic. But it is not perfect. Many of our pages do not have global counters. But all that display banners do.

We have used these counters to report our traffic from the beginning. Access to better server statistics software such as Webalizer has backed up our numbers and shown them to be reasonably accurate. Our Global counters reflect the unique visitor numbers fairly closely. We have two live reports linked here:

Server Stats are long and often confusing reports. As discussed above, interpreting them is somewhat of an art. We have two posted here: The newer Webalizer report is much easier to understand but the old Analog report had some good features. What Webalizer calls "hits" Analog calls "requests". The big difference between these two reports is that we are generating as much traffic or more in one month today as in three months in 2000.

Blacksmiths Journal Top 50 Sites is a "third party" report. It is based on counter code placed on a remote web-site. Like our counters it also uses IP addresses to assure they only count one visit per page per session. They only report the pages and hits to pages with remote code and advertising icon like below.

The traffic reported is only as accurate as the percentage of places the counter code is found. On small sites and sites only indexed on search engines through their home pages the Top 50 Sites system is fairly accurate. On large sites like anvilfire with thousands of pages and only a dozen or so pages reporting, the Top 50 Sites system misses a LOT of traffic. In our case it reports about 1/4 of actual visitors and a much lower percentage of pages accessed.

Blacksmith's Journal Top 50 Links List

Local BSJ Top 50 report Typical report with explanations.

Besides demonstrating that anvilfire is by far the busiest blacksmithing site on the web it also demonstrates that it pays to advertise on anvilfire. Of top 50 sites three or four anvilfire advertisers have steadily been in the top 10.

NOTE: As of December 2006 anvilfire is not a member of the Top50 list.

Updated December 8, 2006
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