What is a visit?

The last time I wrote in this occasional series about Internet jargon it about [visitors](http://heisel.org/blog/2008/11/18/what-is-a-visitor/).

The next most logical question is:

**What’s a visit?**

At a high level, it’s easy, it’s one session by a [visitor](http://heisel.org/blog/2008/11/18/what-is-a-visitor/) to your Web site.

If you dive a little deeper though, it turns out to be less easy to define.

Is it when you enter the site and the subsequently leave it? Can you count page views in one visit if the user comes to your site, goes away, and then comes back? If so, how long can they be away before you start a new visit?

There are a host of [groups](http://www.webanalyticsassociation.org/) and vendors who set standards for these sorts of things. For example, [Google Analytics](http://analytics.google.com) counts page views [within a 30 minute window](http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=57164) if a user leaves the site.

Another complicating factor when tracking visits, are cookies. Not the [delicious tasty kind](http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/the-chewy-recipe/index.html), but the small files of data that sites can drop in your browser.

If a user clears their cookies in the middle of a visit, most [analytics](http://omniture.com) [packages](http://analytics.google.com) will start counting a new visit.

If a user is reading your site at work, and then goes home and logs into your site, that’s probably a new visit.

If a user is reading your site and then opens a new browser (say they normally use [Firefox](http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/) but they open [Safari](http://www.apple.com/safari/)) that’ll be a new visit.

So the length of visits is, like most metrics, not perfectly exact. But [some knowledge is better than no knowledge](http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Half+a+loaf+is+better+than+none).

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
This entry was posted in Journalism, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What is a visit?

  1. Pingback: heisel.org > National Blog Posting Month Wrap-up

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