back to article ASA rules against citing 'hits' in ads

An advert that claimed a website received over five million 'hits' every month has been banned because the metric is likely to mislead readers. The UK's advertising watchdog said that 'hits' is an unreliable measure of website popularity. The national press advert for London-based diamond dealer stated: "With …


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  1. Matthew Joyce


    Thirteen images, three stylesheets and the index page itself for seventeen 'hits' just to see the front page. And they'll be counting a hit per advert image viewed too, will they?

  2. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up

    Sudden outbreak of common sense

    Hurrah - I might even use this news article as evidence in the future when a simple minded boss dumps a press release by a competitor on my desk asking why they've announced that they've had seven squillion hits in an unspecified time period, when we 'only' get ten thousand unique visitors a week.

    My favourite news release was some website or other being terribly pleased that they had a 'worldwide' visitor base - because their log file analysis had showed server IP addresses from Brazil, Finland, Antigua, Azerbaijan, etc...

  3. Jolyon Ralph

    'orrible website

    I do hate websites that decide they want to resize your browser window for you.

    Cut that right out please!


    ps. No I'm not going to disable Javascript when disabling the web designers in question is a far more attractive proposal.

  4. Stef
    Paris Hilton

    Alternate title...

    An alternate title for this article could be:

    "Company advertising displays facts and gets slammed by the advertising standards nazis."

    Paris, because more than 5 million guys have [i]hit that[/i].

  5. John Robson Silver badge
    Dead Vulture


    Who cares what metric they use, educate the public, don't ban the use of numbers.



    ... I welcome our brainwashing overlords ...

    Thinking is bad, war is peace...

  6. Rhyd

    I get loads of hits

    mostly from Googlebot!

  7. Steve

    Marketeers lie????

    Well there's a surprise given that "marketing" is simply a marketing term for "lying". I once had to explain to one of our marketeers that her "market research" showing that the consumer preferred the name "XXXXX" to the name "YYYYY" didn't mean that you could just label product "YYYYY" as being "XXXXX" and stick it on the shelves.

    She honestly didn't seem to understand the concept of a lie.

  8. Garry Mills
    Thumb Up

    About time...

    This is going straight onto the wall somewhere to remind people that "hits" and "visitors" are not the same thing.

    Our local evening newspaper a few years ago was boasting that their's was the most popular site for inforation, as it received over 50K hits a month. Mine, at the time, was hitting 40K+ visitors a month

    Of course I had all my advertisiers on me asking why I wasn't doing enough. Lies, damn lies and statistics...

  9. Liam


    @ "I do hate websites that decide they want to resize your browser window for you" - didnt do that for me... and im using ie7!

    ive seen much worse websites than that. as someone who uses a high resolution (1920x1200) im always seeing dodgy websites. mainly due to idiot designers who dont realise what happens with tiling above their poxy 1024x768 resolution. or idiots using percentage widths for everything (oops hehe reg)

    when looking at websites you shouldnt its nice to be able to squeeze in the sides to just read the text - hint hint reg :) all i get for that is massive adverts on some pages! (not comments oddly)

    surely if a website gets 5millions hits its popular? isnt it? ok, so people might not buy a diamond. if 5 million people walk into a shop its still popular? im confused lol

  10. gothicform
    Paris Hilton

    Hit and miss

    Thank god we finally have some sanity. Time and time again I try to explain to potential advertisers that the 3 million hits of a rival website does NOT mean they get 3 million viewers. Most websites use the hits figures it seems, they also count robots and so on in their figures too thus massively inflating them. We need a reality check where people realise a hit does not mean a visit but until then the simple minded and stupid will continue to be misled about the relative popularity of websites.

    Paris because she gets more hits than anyone.

  11. Pete

    @ Kphn Robson

    Great, so let's educate the public, but in the meantime, because it takes some people a fair bit of effort to learn, let's allow advertisers to mislead them. Nice one.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Bloody "Marketeers" (sic)

    For God's sake (okay, my sake) stop using that hideous excuse for a word, "Marketeer". Unless they're all called Athos, Porthos, Aramis or Dogtanian they don’t deserve such a grandiose term. And while I'm on a job title inspired rant anyway, HR Professional, isn’t the "Professional" bit akin to the "Democratic" in Democratic Republic of Congo?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how many of those from AVG?

    ...title says it all.

  14. Sampler

    So if I craft a website that requires 5 million file calls per page load

    Can I claim Hits in the billions?

    Simply because I've checked it from home, work, in-laws etc..

  15. Paul Taylor

    Objective measure?

    I was hoping that one of the comments might point us to some objective study of how to count non-robot visitors to a website, or even an algorithm for doing so.

  16. Steven Raith

    hits/shop analogy


    "surely if a website gets 5millions hits its popular? isnt it? ok, so people might not buy a diamond. if 5 million people walk into a shop its still popular? im confused lol"

    but they aren't walking into the shop - a hit is the equivalent of looking in the shop window as you pass...

    Steven R

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How did the advertiser "mislead" potential customers ? They mentioned hits and made no attempt to confuse that term with visitors. Just because the average person doesn't know what the term means there is no reason to prevent the usage of that term.

    How about the ludicrous claims made by anti-aging cream vendors, or the outrageous lies told by companies such as RED (driving instructor training) and Cerco (IT training). "YOU could be earning up to £30k a year", and "the average salary of IT professionals is £38k" respectively. The first example doesn't mention that you must pay for the car, and the fuel and associated servicing plus commission to RED all out of that "up to £30k". The second example forgets that some IT "professionals" are earning £1000 per day while most workers in IT are on much less than £25k .

    If they want truth in advertising, deal with those first, not the ones who actually tell it like it is.

  18. Al Jones
    Thumb Down

    What was untruthful about the ad?

    "The advert was found to be in breach of the requirement for truthfulness"

    If they get 5 million hit's a month, they get 5 million hits a month.

    The point of the ad was that the site had "revolutionized the way they do business". It hardly matters whether the ad referred to 1 million or 5 million hits - if they now do a substantial fraction of their business over the web, rather than however they did it before the website was deployed, then the ad is clearly true.

    I presume the people who made these decisions for the ASA have marketing backgrounds, because they're clearly gobshites of the highest order.

  19. Ideala2

    @HITS/shop analogy

    Actually, it's the equivalent having the shop assistant tallying every item that a customer sees when they are inside.

    so if a customer looks at a display case of 50 rings it would register their view from outside, everything on their way to the case, and then each and every ring. it's more likely that customer will atleast look all around the shop once... so for each and every customer you tally every item and details, then the wallpaper, the architecture, the shop assistant etc.

    you can see how misleading it is then. hundreds of hits, as a result of one single visit. and not even one item bought.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Welcome to the world of hi res. Design and marketing have had hi res forever, except 90% of them don't think with the web in mind, as they're normally all about printed, physical marketing. When they do 'the online stuff', they fire up dreamweaver, set the display port to 1280x1024.... by the time it gets to the people who write the damn site, its 'not acceptable to change the design now'.

    Also, reread the article. It clearly explains why 5 million hits doesnt actually mean fuck all. The only really good metric is unique visitors, along with graphs of initial visit activity (users vs duration) and repeat visit activity.

    Yes, I work for a market research company. We're insidious.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @steven raith

    Actually, it would be more analogous to counting how many pairs of shoes are looked at in your window each day. A boutique with a few select items tastefully displayed would maybe count a dozen or so per visitor, a stack-em-high sports shoe emporium might multiply by hundreds each time you glance in.

    Hits = files = one per image, stylesheet, unnecessary java script and other tiny bit of non-information some sites ram down your throat.

    Like those who make the bizarre design choice that every single thing that can be clicked on must be an image with an alternative version for rollover, active and visited. And they are all just poor quality gif files of over-anti-aliased text with no alt tags or titles to help anyone but the sharpest eyed.

    And those you use blank (white or transparent) image files for padding layouts. Grrr....

    Go buy a book on how to design vaguely standards compliant, accessible websites. I'll give you a clue - XHTML 1.1 and CSS 2 will be a good start. And leave MS Paint closed for once.

    Paris, because I'll bet she gets more than one hit per visitor

  22. Claire Rand


    guess if they said they had 'unlimited' hits they would have been fine

  23. Rhyd

    @Paul Taylor

    Every stats / analytics program and log analyser I've ever used has automatically filtered out bots. Most log analysers I've used actually have a separate section showing what bots have visitied etc. They generally work using UA checks but obviously that can be faked, and IPs can be used to some extent too.

  24. Trix Bronze badge

    @ those who think it's up to the punters to educate themselves

    So are you going to bother going to each site and enumerating each and every element on a page to figure out how many how many "hits" equate to unique views for a specific site. Let's compare apples with apples, not a polo team (4 players) with a kilikiti (Samoan cricket) team (unlimited players) - hey, they're both "teams". What do you mean it makes a difference how many players are on the field?

  25. Charles Manning

    Coke is Life

    You can say "Coke is Life" yes Coke is just water + CO2 + caffeine + sugar (all bad stuff - not at all life giving, except maybe the water)

    You can also show a smiling person doing their laundry (who's ever happy doing the laundry).

    You can show a car doing things that a real car can't do.

    But you can't say you got a few million hits?

  26. Mark W

    All sales is lying..

    There's lies, damned lies and statistics.

    These are just statistics :)

    @Trix - you don't need to. If you know how to parse logs you can easily see how many unique visitors you get as their IP address is consistent with one session.

    Even that isn't a fair representation as you may get the same visitor twice a day. but his broadband or dialup connection has resynced and got a new DHCP IP address, which is where cookies come in as you can see that they've revisited. Except nowadays that isn't a great method of tracking either, due to the fact that increased security means some people auto-delete their cookies on exit from the browser. Then take into account that a fair chunk of your traffic each day is spiders from Google or Yahoo too.

    Using something like Webtrends allows you to take account of all this and give you closer to realistic statistics - albeit not guaranteed figures.

    However, I bet the guy who runs the site is rubbing his hands with glee. Because all these 'high-ranking' news sites have printed his URL along with a small precis of what the site contains, his Google Ranking and therefore his search position will shoot through the roof! Talk about cheap SEO!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Marketeers Lie????

    >didn't mean that you could just label product "YYYYY" as being "XXXXX"

    Er, yes you can, could you explain why not?

    Arthur Anderson (discredited) -> Accenture (who are they?)

    Marathon -> Snickers -> Marathon

    AskJeeves -> Ask

    Then there are name changes so that the same product has the same name in different locales, all over Europe for example.

    I believe that most "new products" on the market are simple rebranded or improved versions of existing products.

  28. Liam


    @ "Also, reread the article. It clearly explains why 5 million hits doesnt actually mean fuck all. The only really good metric is unique visitors, along with graphs of initial visit activity (users vs duration) and repeat visit activity."

    - wtf? so im not counted as a tesco customer as ive been there before? arguably it should use transactions over hits but the fact is that 5million people viewed their web pages. the fact that some might visit more doesnt mean they have less customers... i agree it should be used in conjunction with other methods such as length of page views etc

    ive been in plenty of shops and not bought things before... it doesnt mean im not a customer nor should it mean im ignored from visitor figures.

    it is a hard one i accept. the web isnt a shop and cant be treated as such

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The point is that 5million hits doesn't equate to 5million visitors or even 5million visits by <5million unique visitors.

    Re-read the article and you will see that one person visiting one page of the site once will generate more than one hit (as each image/file etc that is loaded when viewing that one page counts as a hit).

  30. Sooty


    "- wtf? so im not counted as a tesco customer as ive been there before?"

    a rough comparison but If tesco were saying they got 3000 customers in April, you would assume 3000 unique people, not the same 100 people going in every single day of the month. It all depends on the definition of a customer.

    How about if you go on to define a customer as someone who buys an item from you (not an unreasonable definition). I go in for my weekly shop and am counted as 200 customers as i bought 200 items.

    Usually there's some sort of micro print at the bottom of the screen to define this whenever wild claims are made by marketing. They must have overlooked adding the small print saying that the number of hits bears no relation to the actual number of visitors to the site.

  31. Mo


    The term “hits” means a different number of people viewing a different number of pages on each site.

    Hell, it means a different thing depending upon which page you’re viewing, how aggressive your cache is, whether you've got images/JavaScript turned on or off, and what browser you’ve got.

    As a metric for anything except a server administrator to manage web server processes, it's utterly useless. People commonly misinterpret “hits” to mean “visits”, though, and so it's either a meaningless statistic or a misleading one.

    The ASA's ruling was spot on, for once.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Most ASA rulings are based on lies like this. The problem is not to do with public education, its saying to advertisers "you know full well that you are using a word the public don't understand. Stop it". They genraly accept that most of the public do not think there car will turn in to a skating robot.

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