They're coming!!! No not the scary green men from outer-space - Website visitors, also referred to as 'visits' represent a series of page requests made by a single user during a period. As long as the user continues to make page requests without exceeding a given timeout period the requests all fall under the same visit. (When initially configuring a web server the administrator can configure a "visit timeout" period, which is normally set at 30 minutes.) If the same user makes a request after the time out period the request will initiate a new visit.
For example – the most recent request from 'user X' occurs @ 12:25 PM. If 'user X' makes another request to the same website sometime before 12:55 PM the visit continues, the countdown timer is reset. If the user waits until 12:56 PM to make their next request the webserver registers a new visitor. (This action will be seamless to the user.)
There are some inherent problems with 'counting' visitors with this method.
- Let's say a user begins a visit and then they get up and walk away to take a break. They come back and continue their research but because their next request is past the 30 minute mark they get assigned a new visit.
- Let's say there is a page on a site that is rather lengthy and in depth. If it takes the user longer than the default 30 minutes to make another request because they are carefully reviewing the content, their one visit will be counted as more than one.
- Tabbed browsing, it makes it so easy to quickly open multiple pages and then refer between the tabs comparing and researching the various content. The problem with this is a user may open a half dozen tabs and read through them all before making another request from one of the sites – if the user exceeds the default timeout period a new visit is recorded and one visit becomes multiple visits.
- It is standard for off site links to generate a new window, preserving the referring site for future reference. This can obviously become an issue if you site is still open in the background while the user surfs a different site.