Unique Visitors – Explained

On the support desk at StatCounter, we receive a lot of queries about Unique Visitors. This concept can be a little difficult to understand, particularly if you are new to web stats, so we’re going to try explain it here in very simple terms.

What is a Unique Visitor?
A Unique Visitor is a separate/individual/distinct visitor.

Each Unique Visitor to your site will be EITHER a first time OR a returning visitor.

How are Unique Visitors and Pageloads related?
Firstly let’s be clear on what we mean by a pageload. A pageload is a “hit” or “page view” on a site.

When one page of your site is loaded into a browser, one pageload is generated. Clicking the refresh button generates another pageload. Visiting another page on the site will generate a further pageload.

All the pageloads on your site are generated by your Unique Visitors.

Let’s imagine you have 10 pageloads on your site. This could be the result of:

    >> 10 Unique Visitors – each one visited your site once

    pageloads

    >> OR 1 Unique Visitor – who visited your site 10 times

    pageloads3

    >> OR 5 Unique Visitors – each one visited your site twice

    pageloads2


Can you explain Unique Visitors in the Summary Stats?

Let’s look at the Summary Stats below.

On Wednesday, there were 21 pageloads. This means there were 21 hits on the site. In other words, pages on the site were loaded in browsers 21 times.

These 21 pageloads were generated by 5 Unique Visitors. This means 5 distinct/separate individuals e.g. Mark, Paul, Tom, Joe and Simon.

Of the 5 Unique Visitors who viewed the site, three of them are Returning Visitors. This means that three of the five visitors have visited the site before and returned to view it again. The remaining two Unique Visitors are therefore First Time Visitors.

summary_stats

How are Unique Visitors in the Summary Stats calculated?
In the Summary Stats, Unique Visitors are calculated by the use of a “cookie”. A “cookie” is a small text file that we use at StatCounter to determine whether a visitor has been to your site in the recent past.

When a visitor first looks at a page on your site, a StatCounter cookie is placed in their browser (if allowed). Then, as the visitor browses your site, the cookie tells us that this is NOT a new/distinct/separate visitor visiting your site. Instead, it’s the same visitor looking at several different pages.

You should note that it IS possible for a visitor to disable all cookies in their browser.

When a visitor has cookies disabled, cookies cannot be used to determine whether the they are a Unique Visitor or not. If a visitor has cookies disabled, then each page of your site that he views will be considered to be a pageload by a Unique Visitor. Obviously, this is not strictly correct, so the Unique Visitor count is an imperfect measure. It does, however, give you a reasonably accurate overview of your Unique Visitors.

We hope this post is helpful – if anyone has any further queries or comments, please post below! Thanks! 😉

105 comments on “Unique Visitors – Explained

  1. I have noticed that some ISPs (notably AOL) send visitors via a different route for each page that they visit. So the same (“unique”) visitor gets listed as a new visitor for each page that they visit, because StatCounter sees them as coming from a different IP address. Presumably there’s nothing that StatCounter can do about that?

  2. Thanks for the information, it clears up many doubts. I wish everyone explained computing stuff in a simple way and with graphics and examples, like you have done.

  3. Thanks for explaining Unique Visitors, I knew what it was but some may not.

    In my stats, I see “No Referring Link” a lot. I for one would like more information on why we see it.

    Otherwise keep up the good work!

  4. Thank you. Indeed, that was a big help.

    Next, if time allows, I would like to see a similar detailed explanation of what “No Referring Link” means – as well as a way to combat it (if one exists).

  5. I have wanted to know this information for sometime now. Just never got around to looking it up. Thank so much for explaining it. Knowing more about stats and your site gives me more info as to whether I should upgrade or not.

  6. Depends on your Maximum Visit Length setting for the site/project.

    Maximum Visit Length
    Used to calculate your unique and returning visitors from a cookie. If this amount of time or more has elapsed since a visitor last visited a page on your website, then that visitor is considered unique. We recommend setting it between 1 and 6 hours. We don’t recommend setting it to 24 hours and above.

  7. Does it mean if a particular visitor has viewed my site for 10 times within a day will have the same statistic if he/she has viewed it for 10 times within a month? I believe Google Adsense only counts the page views of one particular viewer (with the same IP address) once in a day regardless of how many hits. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Your answer will really be much appreciated.

    Thank you very much.

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