I've been wanting to write this post for a very long time (since the middle of last year), and I figured that I might as well write it before another wave of crazy things hit my way!
So! If you'd stuck around for a very long time (by that I mean like more than a year), you would have noticed that sometimes, I do an oddball entry that doesn't seem to fit in anywhere on this livejournal, and nothing can be more 'oddball' than this entry http://thoughtsramble.livejournal.com/15615.html on the different widgets I've been trying out to count my hits and uniques. I knew it didn't fit, but I had been playing around with about five sites, and I was really eager to share with whoever was reading it. Turns out that the information was useful, at least to some, and even though this entry has, for some reason, attracted lots of spam comments (with varying content, but most with rubbish urls) I'm still glad I wrote it.
Thus today, I'm going to share a little more of my thoughts/experiences on somewhat the same topic! My knowledge is very limited, and I welcome anyone who wishes to correct me:D
For every hit counter out there, there is probably the option of whether you want it to jump by hits, pageviews, or uniques. Now, hits are almost completely useless, because it generates much more numbers than the reality. Take for example, Site A has x images and Site B has 10x Images on one page. One visitor goes to both sites, and ta-da, Site B will most probably see a greater number of hits as compared to Site A. And nothing can be done about it, which is why the general opinion out there is that hits are useless. You can't really judge how many visitors you have based on the number of hits.
Next, we have 'page views' or 'page loads'. Page views are, in my opinion, nice to look at, but may or may not be the number that you are looking for. Say for example, that one visitor comes to your site for the first time, and discovers many entries that he or she is interested in. (Let's say it's a she). She loads 9 entries, and may or may not read through all of them. This will generate a number of 9 page views for just 1 visitor. This is good because other than a nice fat number, you can also tell which pages are the most interesting to your readers, and a site that has so much content to interest your readers is always très bien.
However, if you are looking out for more accurate information as to just how many visitors your site has attracted, 'uniques' is the thing you are looking for. If your site has 10 entries of 10x Images, and a visitor comes along, yeah you will have a great number of hits, and 10 page views, but only 1 unique. The number may be much more humbling, but it is, overall, the best way to judge the number of visits your site has attracted.
The widget that I've been using has been really satisfactory so far. I don't keep track of whether the counter jumps accurately, but the information translated back into my account is really easy to understand. I'm not sure if it's just me, but I'm pretty sure that for some sites, 'hits' probably mean something different, just like the one I'm using. There is a function to tell you which are your most popular pages and how many hits they have gathered. In that situation, I guess 'hits' takes its most literal form, i.e how many people have clicked on that particular page. The widget also allows you to change the setting such that you choose the most suitable time lapse in between each pageview for it to be counted as a unique. (So let's say maybe your visitor has to visit 10 hours later, for he/she to be counted as a unique visitor again. The site I use actually recommends 1-6 hours.).
I find that both pageviews and uniques are my best way of judging my livejournal. I like to know that many of my visitors don't just come for one type of recaps. They open up other links, other cuts etc which interest them, and that is nice to know, because it probably means that your site has much information with varying contents. However, sometimes, even pageview numbers have to be taken with a pinch of salt. If your site has images that make the page difficult to load, chances are that your interested readers will refresh a couple of times for the images to load, and you will have an inflated number. So to me, when number of pageviews was reflected by different entries the visitor has read, it's fine, but you can never tell exactly when those paegviews are 'refreshes' or truly different entries.
So I depend almost entirely on the number of uniques!(: But you know what, I still love comments the most. Hits, pageviews, uniques are just numbers after all, and they don't even reflect much of whether someone is that interested in your site. She could be skipping every ten lines of your recap that you so painstakingly wrote, and you would never know, but comments, ah, those are the best things to know whether someone is really interested. That's how I feel anyway, but I still appreciate all you guys out there, silent readers or not~
All right, I'm sorry that you guys have to read such a long entry and I hope that it's at least useful to some of you!(: