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


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


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


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.


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! 😉


  1. Thanks for making the concept clear to all. However, an important part of how to control this is missing. I’m certain that it may be somewhat confusing to newbys but if one is tracking their website stats here, they are not a newby.

    point is that a unique visitor mayy be counted twice as unique visitors if the maximum length as explained inquotes below is exceeded. I l left your recommendations as is.

    “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.”

  2. Thanks for all your help. We use this service for Big Value Depot & Big Ticket Depot as well as Vortex Marketing Group.


    Brad Harris
    Big Value Depot
    Vice President

  3. Would appreciate if someone had a look at my call center blog and suggested if there is something I can do to improve it.

  4. Hi Curious

    Cookies are tied to a unique computer. Any time that computer accesses our site the cookie is read. The IP can change at any time, daily, weekly or even with each page load. AOL users most often get a new IP with each page load. That doesn’t affect the cookies.

  5. Is there any way to display total unique visitors for all projetcs? Or say total pageviews for all projects? We have like 50 + sites and it would be nice to know the total uniques/pageloads to ALL our sites.

  6. is the cookie of the unique visitor tied to his/her unique IP address? And because IP address change fequently how does that affect the cookie?

  7. Hi!

    I would like to ask you something. Essentially I have been working always with GA, a few weeks ago I heart about Stat Counter, but until now I’m not sure of what are the advantages of Stat Counter vs. GA. If you could help me to know more about this, I’ll be grateful.


    StatCounter Team Response:

    Hi Nicolas,

    Some of the advantages of using StatCounter include:

    1. StatCounter is realtime i.e. stats are available instantly – stats are “lagged” for several hours with GA

    2. StatCounter tracks BOTH javascript and non-javascript visitors. GA only tracks javascript visitors, so generally StatCounter tracks at least as many visitors (if not more) than GA.

    3. StatCounter provides you with individual visitor detail down to IP address level -not available with GA

    4. StatCounter offers full customer support for help with installation and queries – not available with GA

    PLUS it’s perfectly possible to use StatCounter and GA on the same site if you wish.

    Thanks for your question!

  8. We have found that so many people must block the statcounter cookie that the unique visitor count is rarely accurate unfortunately, as can easily be seen by 10 unique visitors with 10 pageviews from the same IP in the same 3 minute period. I realize this is a limitation all hit trackers must face, so we just deal with it.

  9. I have been using Statcounter from last 3 years for my sports sites and since then they have improved a lot. Thanks for sharing information about unique visitors.

  10. Based on the ideas and suggestion on statcounter blog, I have written my own blog. Would appreciate if one of the team member in here, has a look at my blog and suggest ways to improve so that I have better ranking.

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