Why hitcounters are a waste of script?

A simple search on Google about hitcounters would lead you to literally hundreds of different sites which offer pretty looking widgets which display a counter in your site. The question is do you think that the number really means anything to you?

What are hitcounters?

hitcounterHitcounters are simple scripts solely created for measuring one thing only. The number of hits you are getting on the site. They are included in the HTML script so that when your site loads, the hitcounter records this as an increment to the total hits on your website. Yes, if you are interested in web analytics, hitcounters are a cumulative measure of pageviews. Thats it.

There used to be a time when web analytics was based purely on parsing server log files and crunching them into numbers. During this time having a hitcounter had a great value (since you would not be required to do the heavy lifting of understanding which page had which files and then parsing the server log). This is the era when these hitcounters really flourished … in fact in the pre Google Analytics days even I had tried a couple of these hitcounters. That’s around a decade back and things have changed.

So what has changed about hitcounters?

With the onset of free web analytics programs such as Google Analytics, Clicky, Mixpanel, you can measure far many things than a simple pageviews metric. In fact the pageviews metric these days is almost meaningless. Hitcounters these days serve only as a source of eye candy on the site … an eye candy which is a sidebar/footer widget at the best or an eyesore at the worst.

There is yet a diminishing population of website owners who still brag about this metric and hence go ahead to put this script on their HTML.

Why do I have against hitcounters?

I do not have any personal vendetta against any hitcounter script. However, think about it … you are adding a script to your page … this impacts your page loading speed. If this is scripted correctly, then hopefully it will not add to your web page loading speeds … if this some random script you have found on the internet, then it might as well be a backdoor for a malware.

A cumulative number is just one data point, instead if you tracked how this is growing, then you could eek out some insights from this number. What about tracking how a user is visiting your site across multiple visits? Naah … this functionality is simply not there in hitcounters! What about e-commerce tracking? Well … not there either. As I said before, it only counts pageviews and shows it in a styled manner. That’s it.

In short, at best it increases your web page loading times. Is that silly looking counter then really worth the cost you are incurring?

My answer is a resounding NO.

I have a hitcounter on my site!

Well there are two approaches you can take. The first is to discount what I have said in my post and go ahead on that dark road.

The Dark Road - Matrix

If you go down that road, forget you ever read this post and live happily in the land where everyone counts the hits on their websites.

The best part about a cumulative metric is that it will never dip!

The other road from here is the road towards enlightenment, towards data and correct measurements. Towards Google Analytics and other tools which will help you measure each and every aspect of your site’s visitors. Here’s what you need to do to take this path –

  1. Remove that hitcounter widget from your site
  2. Register for a Google Account and go to the Google Analytics site
  3. Register your site on GA
  4. Include this code in your site’s template
  5. Start measuring!

In this journey you will come across many hurdles and questions, however on this road you will find other travellers who will have mastered those hurdles and they will be more than happy to help. Have fun and enjoy developing a richer understanding of web analytics!

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