Google Analytics is an expansive, informative, and enlightening tool that can provide invaluable insights into your website – and unfortunately, it can be a bit intimidating. If you haven’t explored your website’s data in Google Analytics, or if you haven’t even installed the program on your website, you’re not alone – but you are seriously missing out. Have you ever wondered how many people visit your website? Where those people come from? Which websites send the most traffic your way? Which of your marketing tactics is the most beneficial? Google Analytics can help you answer all of these questions if you know where to look. To get started, review our simple Google Analytics glossary below.
Whether you have a blog, a website, or an extravagant e-commerce platform, you need to take advantage of Google Analytics. Once you’ve created an account and signed up your website, you can begin exploring the wealth of information available. And very quickly, you’ll notice a lot of unique terms are being used to convey this information. Some terms may be familiar to you – perhaps user, session, or conversion will ring a bell – but others may leave you scratching your head. Our Google Analytics Glossary isn’t comprehensive, but it will help you better understand what you’re working with.
After reviewing this quick terminology guide, you should be ready to start exploring all of the facts and figures provided by this indispensable program. If you feel we’ve forgotten a critical term, let us know and we’ll add it to our Google Analytics glossary.
Our Google Analytics Glossary
A conversion is essentially satisfying a goal, and those goals vary from website to website. For example, perhaps you want your users to do one of the following:
- Make a purchase
- Complete a contact form requesting a quote
- Subscribe to an e-mail newsletter
- Register as a member
- Write a review
- Share something on social media
These are all examples of goals. Each time a user completes one of your goals, it will be recorded as a conversion. Note that Google only records one conversion per session, so if a user completes your goal multiple times in a session, it will only be counted once.
With cost-per-click (CPC) marketing, you pay each time a user clicks on one of your ads. Using your Acquisition reports, you can evaluate how well your CPC ads are faring.
One of two essential building blocks in Google Analytics (along with metrics), dimensions are attributes or characteristics of your users’ interactions with your website. The program includes some default dimensions, like Browser, City, and Landing Page, but you can also create custom dimensions for additional data you add to your Google Analytics.
If someone types your URL into their browser or clicks on your URL in an e-mail, they are considered direct traffic. They have arrived at your website directly, not through a search engine, a social media page, or any other source. When Google Analytics can’t identify how a user arrived, they are also considered direct traffic.
An event is a specific type of user behavior. For example, these are all events if completed by the user: downloading a file, scrolling down a page, viewing a video, abandoning a form field, logging into an account, and sharing an article. This broad term encapsulates many different types of interactions.
Google Ads is a paid advertising program that allows you to display ads online. You can link your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics account for helpful insights regarding your ads. For example, Analytics can help you determine how users interact with your website after arriving through one of your ads. It can also help you see how many of those users convert after clicking on an ad.
A medium tells you the general category of a source. Some common mediums are organic (free search traffic), CPC (cost-per-click), and referral (inbound links from other websites).
Along with dimensions, metrics are one of the two essential building blocks of Google Analytics. Metrics are typically numbers, such as counts or percentages. For example, your default metrics will include pageviews (the total number of pages viewed) and users (how many people viewed your website).
When used in this context, the term organic has nothing to do with farming methods or living matter. Instead, it refers to users who click on a free link on a search engine results page to arrive at your website. When considered as a group, these users are called organic traffic. They were not referred to your website by another website, and they didn’t click on a paid ad. They arrived organically.
A property is the website or mobile app you wish to track.
Think of a referral like a recommendation from one website to another. If another website includes an outbound link to your website and people click that link and arrive at your site, they are known as “referral traffic.” Exploring your website’s referrals will help you understand how people arrive at your website, which external sources provide valuable referral traffic, and whether certain social media endeavors (like maintaining a Facebook page) are worth your time.
A self-referral comes from your own website and occurs if a page on your website doesn’t have the Google Analytics tracking code installed. Typically it’s best to correct this error, reducing self-referrals, so that Google Analytics doesn’t create a new session every time someone clicks on the referring page.
If you select a large date range when requesting data from your reports, sampling will occur. Sampling is a technique in which a portion of data is used to estimate the complete set of data, and it accelerates data processing. If there are more than 500,000 sessions in the property for your selected date range, sampling will occur. To prevent sampling, simply reduce the date range.
A user is an individual person browsing your website. When a single user visits your website multiple times, they create multiple sessions. However, if a single user visits your website using multiple devices (which each have a unique browser cookie), they will be counted as a unique user on each device.
Wondering how people find your website? Check out the Acquisition reports, which reveal your users’ sources (where they found your website, i.e. the origin of your traffic) and mediums (the general categories of the sources). For example, a common source is a search engine like Google. Common mediums include organic search, cost-per-click paid search, and web referrals.
When a user goes through another channel or multiple channels before converting (Not sure what “conversion’ means? Scroll down!), it’s called an Assisted Conversion. For example, if someone clicked a link on Twitter to arrive at your website, that would be an Assisted Conversion. You can find these under the “Multi-Channel Funnels” reports.
The Cost Analysis report reveals the session, cost, and revenue performance of any paid non-Google marketing you use. You can import this data into Google Analytics. Using the report, you can quickly assess how your marketing efforts are faring by comparing their costs and associated revenues.
To get a firmer grasp on how users navigate your website and interact with it, check out the Users Flow report. This is a visual representation of how people move through your website after making their entrance.
Active Users/Active Pages
Located under the “Real Time and Home” reports, you can see how many people are currently looking at your website (Active Users) as well as viewer data for the past 30 minutes. In addition, you can see what pages those current users are looking at (Active Pages).
Average Session Duration
The Average Session Duration tells you how long users are spending on your website on average. Keep in mind that because Google Analytics doesn’t count how long people spend on the last page they view during a session, the Average Session Duration is typically lower than the actual average. And if a user views only one page, the Average Session Duration will be 0 minutes no matter how much time they spent viewing that page.
If someone arrives at your website, views a single page, and then closes the browser or navigates to another domain, they “bounced.” Each time this happens, Google records a bounce. The bounce rate tells you the percentage of sessions that contain only a single page view. If a user only views one page, the bounce rate will be 100 percent, which may be startling if you’re new to Google Analytics.
Pages Per Session
To better understand user engagement, check out this metric, which reveals the average number of page views in each session.
Which pages on your website contribute the most to your revenue? To find out, review the Page Value, which is the average value for a page the user visited before landing on the goal page or making a purchase. This number is calculated by adding the e-commerce revenue and total goal value (you assign a value to each goal when you create it) and dividing that sum by the number of unique pageviews.
Quite simply, a pageview refers to each time a user views a page. By default, Google Analytics shows you which of your website’s pages are most popular based on pageviews.
A session is a visit to your website, and it may consist of one or multiple pageviews. A session may also include a purchase or the completion of another goal. By default, sessions typically end at 30 minutes if the user is inactive. After the timeout, a new session can begin if the user interacts with the website again (if they visit another page on the website, for example).
Let’s say someone clicks around your website a lot during a session, perhaps navigating back to the homepage five times. Despite being seen several times, the homepage will have only one unique pageview. Looking at this number can help you better understand your traffic, as it filters out page refreshes and quick clicking back and forth.
To arrive at your website via Google, users type a term or phrase into the search engine and click on a result. While many people use the terms “keyword” and “search query” interchangeably, there are key differences. A search query is literally the words a user types into a search engine. A keyword, on the other hand, is a targeted search query. It’s what we focus on with our marketing campaigns, and it’s what advertisers bid on.
The entrance is the first page that a user views on your website during a session. Google Analytics shows you how many times each page has been used as an entrance.
To learn how users find your website, check their source. This tells you where people saw the message that led them to your website. For example, a very common source is Google. To better understand your sources, check the medium of sessions.
We tried to keep this Google Analytics glossary focused and concise, so please forgive us if it doesn’t contain a particular term that’s troubling you.
Once you’ve got the terms in our Google Analytics glossary under your belt, you’ll find it exceedingly simple to explore the program, learn new things about your users, and harness the potential of your website.
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