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How does your current site distinguish your unique visitors?

Quite possibly the best feature of Newton IP's Internet Management System, it allows you to know everything thats going on at your site all the time. IMS tracks users three different ways for the most accurate count you can get. Despite what anyone may tell you, there is no way to know for sure exactly how many different people come to your site. We'll explain...

Most systems or servers count according to pagehits, or pageviews. The problem with this is that it counts each time the page was reloaded. So if a user hits 'refresh' it counts as another hit. Or if a company has employee computers internet homepages set to load their own site then each time they open the browser it counts as another hit, or count. Therefore the possiblity is there for incredibly skewed numbers. If you want an accurate count of how many different people, or unique users, are coming to your site, just as you want to know how many different people come to your lot, then this way is not going to give you the results you desire. However, as mentioned, this is the most common way of counting how successful. The reason being is that most sites charge people who want to advertise on their sites according to how popular their page is. How many times it is loaded, not by how many unique users will visit the page. In the automotive industry this will not prove effective.The next way to count is by unique IP address. This creates a more accurate count since it counts the address a computer is accessing the site from. If that address has already been logged then it will not be counted again. However a problem remains. Some internet service providers rotate their IP addresses. If you are targeting a particular market, or town and the ISP there rotates through their assigned IP addresses each time a user gets on the internet then your count will again be skewed, or inaccurate. AOL is an example of an ISP who rotates their IP addresses. If John Doe gets on the internet at 10:00am and logs off at 1:00pm then Mary Smith logging online at 1:01pm could be assigned that same address. If she then visits your site she will not be counted as a unique users. Or if two people use the same computer they will not be counted as two people but rather as one IP address. While counting pagehits can give you an inflated count, coutning IP addresses can give you a deflated count.

The third, and most effective way, is to count using cookies. Each time a user visits the site a cookie is set. The server reads them as user number X. Each time user X enter more information about themselves it is stored on the server as being user X's information. On the users computer a cookie is placed assign them a number. So next time that user comes to the site immedialy the site checks their system for a cookie. If found the site knows they are user X. Therefore allowing us to let you know user X has returned and depending on how much information they had previously left, how much we know about them. The only down side to cookies is that they have a bad reputation. Only since people don't understand their purpose and capabilies. Generally speaking, most people believe cookies are a way for their information to be invaded on the internet. Realistically, a cookie is simply a tag that lets the server know you are user number 3930438 (or whichever number assigned) and that you have been here before. Only if you have previously left information will the server know who you are. Even then a cookie is just an identifying mark to know which user you were, not a means of privacy invasion. So how can this be an inaccurate count? Some people reguarly delete their cookies. when they then return they will be counted again as a new user. Other people have cookies disabled on their computers, preventing cookies from being set. Even though it is the most effective means of counting it is still not 100% accurate.

Pages can be reloaded, IP addresses rotated, and cookies deleted. Therefore no count can be 100% effective. So what does IMS do? It employs all three systems available. At the end of each day, a person, or human brain, examines the results. Since most people do not delete their cookies more than once a day, we therefore daily look at the results. First examining the cookies lets us see the realistic ballpark figure. Second, we check the day's IP address count and total hits. If everything matches up then we have a more realistic figure. If not, then we consider the activity on the site for that day until coming to the most accurate, and reasonable, number available. By utilizing all three ways in an effective manner we are able to provide our clients with the most accurate count of unique users that we can.

Throughout the site IMS tracks a users progress. Depending on how they can to the site they will access a gateway page. A gateway page is merely a duplicate of your frontpage. By ensuring that each form of online marketing points to a gateway page then the only way someone will enter straight through the frontpage is by typing the domain name in the address bar. Upon entering a gateway page, or the frontpage as well, the site checks for a cookie to see if they are a returning customer. If so we begin to monitor their progress, if not they are register as a new user on the server. As they tell us more information through trade appraisal forms or credit applications the site continually registers this information to the users id number. The reason: if they return at a later point it will be known who they are, and what we know about them. Its all part of effective tracking.

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