See Who’s Visiting Your Website with Urchin

You built a website. You gave it a smart design and included informative content. You uploaded it to the internet. Now what? You built a website because you had something to share with the world: information about your company, a politician, your favorite hobby, or your resume. You built a website with the intention that people would visit it. How do you know if anyone has stopped by?

The answer is web statistics. Web statistics tell you detailed information about how many people are visiting your website, what they are viewing, and for how long. Web statistics contain data and graphs that might seem confusing. How do you know what data is important? What does the data mean?

This article covers how to interpret some important statistics from Urchin, Google’s web statistics software that you install on your own server. It is possible that your web host already has Urchin installed. The House of Representatives uses Urchin for statistics on many of their websites. While this article only covers Urchin,many of the terms are similar to those used with other web statistics monitors, such as Google’s Analytics, and AWstats.

The table below is the most basic summary of your web statistics. In Urchin, you can specify what dates you want to view statistics from. In this example, we have chosen a date range to display statistics for 2009.

Terms and Definitions:

Hit – Any time anyone loads one item up from your webpage it counts as a hit. The main page of a website has a items on it that when viewed as part of the whole page count as a hit. For instance, each image counts as 1 hit when loaded, so if you have 20 images on one page that will add 20 hits to your total when someone views that page. Hits do not provide much information as far as how many people are viewing a website. Focus should be more on pageviews and sessions. In the sample table below, the website had 8,000,000 total hits in 2009.

Pageview – A pageview is counted any time anyone views an individual page. For example, if John Doe went to a website and looked at the main page, the about page, and the contact page that would count as 3 pageviews. In 2009 the website in the sample table below had 1,500,000 total pageviews.

Session – Sessions shows how many individual visits you get to your webpage as a whole. For example, if John Doe went to a website and looked at the main page, the about page, and the contact page that would count as 1 session. If Jane Smith went to a website and only looked at the main page, that would still count as 1 session, and the website would have a total of 2 sessions. The website in the sample table below had 400,000 total individual visits in 2009.

The next section tells you how many hits, pageviews, and sessions you had per day. The sessions per day is the most important one to look at here because it tells you how many people per average day visit your website. In 2009 the website in the sample table below had 1096 people visit your website per day.

Average pageviews per session is also an important statistic. It tells you that in 2009 when a person visited the webpage in the sample table below, they usually looked at about 4 different pages. If the number is too high, that might mean that your webpage was hard to navigate and people were having difficulty finding the pages they wanted.

Average length per session tells you how long the average person spent looking at your webpage. In 2009, the average person spent about 20 minutes looking at the sample website.


The Requested Pages graph shows what the most popular pages are on a website. The main page is usually popular page on your website, and is usually identified as index.html or index.shtml. It may also be identified by a containing folder separated by slashes. For example if your blog was the most popular page on your website and it was in a folder called “blog” it would appear as “/blog”.

The RSS feed is commonly a popular page as well. This means that many people subscribed to your RSS feed in 2009. (If you aren’t familiar with RSS feeds, this is an entirely different subject. If you are curious, we have a blog entry about ithere)

Remember that this list only shows the top 10 pages viewed. It does not mean that other pages were not viewed in 2009.

The Downloads graph is similar to the Requested Pages graph, but instead of showing pages it is showing downloads. In other words, this graph tells you what PDFs and Word DOCs people are downloading the most. The “hit” for each download shows you how many times that file was downloaded.

Another interesting piece of information that Urchin provides is where your visitors are located, which Urchin displays visually in the map below:


The darker shades of green represent areas of the globe where more people have visited the sample website. The circles point out areas were large amounts of visitors are coming from. Notice in the sample that many visitors have come from the DC area.

For more detailed information on generating Urchin reports and interpreting more data, read the article from, Analyzing Web Traffic.

There are other graphs and statistics on Urchin, but the ones we discussed are the most informative and easy to understand.

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