Part of a series of where I try to discourage using a particular design element or practice that if you care anything about me (or more realistically your website) you won’t do. Here I tackle using website visitor counters.
Website Visitor Counters
Please avoid using visitors counters on your website. From a design point of view, it’s just not done anymore. It’s very 1995. Graphics such as blinking buttons or hit counters can lead a visitor to think the website is of questionable quality and not trustworthy.
There are also practical reasons not to use them. Hit counters (as they’re more commonly known by) would be offered free by spammers who would embed links into the counter’s image, usually by utilizing the “alt text attribute” on the image. These hidden elements would signal to Google what keyword relevancy they wanted the link to have. Often this link would go back to the entity that provided the counter, or spam websites, or even to adult sites as an attempt to manipulate rankings. Many times this caused Google to view innocent websites as spam. Which resulted in many sites being devalued (losing their ranking) or being banned from the search engines results. Yikes!
In another tactic, spammers would “hide” a link that was positioned off the page and was not visible to anyone visiting the site but was visible to search engines. Search engines do not take too kindly to elements that try to fool them. The website owner is not aware of this hidden link, which would often cause sites to get flagged for hidden links and could result in sites being devalued or banned from the search engines for those black hat tactics.
In short, website visitor counters rise to the level of a web design crime. They are not a good design element and can cause major headaches potentially damaging your site’s ranking. If you want to know how many visitors your site is getting, start checking your stats or use analytics.