This article will present you with the glossary of key metrics that a user must know when using Google Analytics. This article will provide the most up-to-date definitions for Google Analytics terms in 2019. This will also provide a great starting point for the uninitiated who wants to embark on the journey to learn Google Analytics. Moreover, just using these terms alone will earn you a higher reputation from a group of analysts 😛


1. Hit:

Any pageview or an interaction that results in data being sent to Google Server for reporting is called a hit. There are 4 major hit types: a) Pageview Tracking hit, b) Event Tracking hit, c) Ecommerce Tracking hit, and d) Social Interaction hit.


2. Pageview hit / Event hit (hit types):

As a part of data collection, Google Analytics provides two ways we can track customer journey on websites.

Pageview Tracking is used to track visitors’ movement on website from page to page. It requires minimal implementation to get started, and only GA tracking code must be pasted on all pages of website. Once this tracking code is on every page, as a user visits these pages, this code gets executed and a hit is sent to GA server upon page load. Tons of factors, like location, devices, URL, etc, get tracked easily through this method. The only limitation is that this hit type can only be sent to GA upon page load and there are many interactions which a visitor can make, but doesn’t cause the page to load.

Event tracking is used for all on page interactions/clicks which do not cause a page to load, but need to be tracked. This tracking requires custom implementation and some thought and planning. It gives us a flexibility of using eventCategoryeventActioneventLabel, and eventValue as placeholders to populate reports that not only tell us what a user did, but a lot more information around it as well.

Pageview Tracking is used to track pageviews by visitors & Event Tracking is used to track clicks by visitors.


3. Session:

Much can be said to explain sessions, but I will try to do it in the fewest lines. Sessions tell us how many times our visitors have visited our website. It also groups all hits/actions/interactions of a visitor while he/she was there on the website. By grouping hits/interactions of a visitor, we can see the user journey clearly and find patterns.

HEADS UP ! There are 3 triggers which end sessions: 30 Minutes of InactivityChange in Campaign, and Midnight (12 AM according to reporting time zone).


4. User (Visitor):

Users metric in Google Analytics measures individual visitors accessing your website within selected calendar days in reporting.

Each visitor is identified by a unique ID saved in the cookie that GA creates on their computer. This unique ID is called “Client ID”. This is a part of data collection and this cookie helps identifying every visitor accessing a website using their Client ID.

Even though cookies are a great way to track users (this method is used by almost all analytics tools in the world!), it comes with its own limitations, like cookies can be deleted. In case a cookie is deleted, a new one will be created for that user upon his next arrival. However, this new cookie will have a new ID, and this visitor would be considered a new user. Once any visitor identification cookie is deleted, the unique ID stored in it will never be reassigned to anyone in the world– not even the same user.


5. Referrer:

Referrers are websites leading traffic/sessions on our website. If visitor follows an adwords campaign from google to reach your website, Google would be the referrer.


While traffic is synonymous with sessions, Paid Traffic and Organic Traffic are its bifurcation depending on whether or not are you spending to acquire that session.

If you are payable to an external source for acquisition of a session, then such a session is a part of Paid Traffic, example – Adwords. If you are not payable to an external source for acquisition of a session, then such a session is a part of Organic Traffic, example – SEO traffic from search.

Direct Traffic includes all the sessions where a visitor directly lands on your website by entering your URL in browser’s address bar, or through a bookmark. Direct Traffic is a part of Organic Traffic, however it enjoys special status because it is an indicator of brand recall.

PRO TIP : Technically, Direct Traffic is identified by a JavaScript property: “document.referrer”. When this property is blank upon entry on site, it is considered to be Direct Traffic.


7. Entrance:

Entrance is similar to a session and often thought of as the same metric, however confusion arises after there is difference between the count of two metrics. This is because of one small difference between the two: Entrance begins on the first pageview hit, however Session begins on the first hit, regardless of hit type.

For most businesses, the difference might not be present, but if your implementation allows user to enter with event hit type, the difference may arise.


8. Bounce Rate:

A Bounce session is a type of session where one visitor enters your website and then leaves without even a single interaction. It is critical as it suggests that your website failed to meet the expectations of your visitor. 

Bounce Rate is a percentage measure of total sessions that were bounce sessions.
Bounce Rate = (Total Bounces / Total Sessions) * 100

Even though bounce rate varies greatly depending on marketing strategies, businesses must find ways to lower this number.

A Bounce Session is a type of session where one visitor enters your website & then leaves without even a single interaction.


9. Average Session Duration:

Driving higher engagement on site remains a big focus for most businesses, and this is one strong indicator of engagement that tells us how much time people spend in one session on our website.

Google Analytics calculates a visitor’s Session Duration by subtracting time between visitor’s last pageview, or interaction, of the session and the first pageview, or interaction, of same session, and Average Session Duration is simply an average of all session duration(s).
Session Duration = (Last Timestamp – First Timestamp)

HEADS UP ! Session Duration for a bounced session is 0 (zero) in Google Analytics. This is because there is only one pageview and no interaction there, and hence subtraction of time is not possible.


10. Exit Rate:

This metric is indicative of pages’ performance on your website. For all the pageviews to that page, Exit Rate tells us how many times that page was viewed as the last page in the session.


11. Goals:

There are important milestones for all businesses depending on business type. For an ecommerce platform, a sale might be a milestone, however for an NGO, a volunteer signup may be a milestone.

Goals let us track all these milestones in meaningful reports and let us analyse factors affecting these milestones to grow our business.

PRO TIP : There is a limit of 20 goals under each view. Once the limit exhausts, you can create another view for more goals .


12. Landing Page:

You must have heard a saying, “The first impression is the last impression.” With growing competition, it holds true for all online businesses.

Landing Page is the very first page of each session. Each session will have only one landing page. Optimizing landing pages will positively affect bounce rate and engagement at the very least.

HEADS UP ! Visitors can enter your website from any page, so Landing Page may not always be your Home Page


13. New User / Returning User:

A New User is a visitor who comes to your website the first time. Every visitor is a New User in their first session on site. The same visitor becomes a Returning User for all her/his subsequent sessions after the first.

Most beginners & startups overlook this metric, however this is a very important metric as New Users metric is a function of Customer Acquisition and Returning User is a function of Customer Loyalty / Retention. Also, these metrics uncover amazing trends when used in Google Analytics Segments.

New Visitors is a function of Customer Acquisition & Returning User is a function of Customer Loyalty / Retention.


14. Pageviews:

Pageviews offer us a count of times visitors view individual pages/screens on website. Page reloads/refresh or revisiting same pages also increment this metric.

Technically speaking, Pageview metric increments by one each time Google Analytics receives Pageview Tracking against that URL. So, essentially, Pageviews are a count of total Pageview Tracking hits. Due to this, if you have pasted your GA code more than once, your Pageviews will be inflated.


15. Segments:

A Customer Segment is a grouping of people based on some commonality, like 24-year-old females living in Paris. It is a popular concept of marketing.

We can use Segments in GA to construct customer segments by specifying rules that make up their commonality. For eg., a customer segment of  24 year old females living in Paris have Age = 24, Gender = Females, and Location(city) = Paris.

A Customer Segment is a grouping of customers based on some common feature.

Once a segment is created, we can isolate this segment, and we can view multiple reports related to the same segment of users. We can also compare this segment with all visitors and even with another segment. This is an amazing utility that lets us understand our target market and build better marketing and products.


PRO TIP : Behavior based segments are the most popular in Google Analytics. This means grouping users based on their user behavior & actions.

Conclusion & Summary

I hope this article helps you on your journey to learn Google Analytics by introducing you to basic terminology and concepts. This is just a starting point, so keep learning & keep coming back for more awesome content.

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