If you want to know where your website visitors come from, what pages they spend the most time on and when they leave your site, this blog—What is Google Analytics: Google Analytics Definitions—is for you.
Using the analytics that Google Analytics houses, you can build a picture of what your audience’s user journey is like. You can then use this picture to make improvements such as:
- Getting users to visit more pages on your website (rather than leaving after just one)
- Increasing the number of actions taken on your website (such as a content download or newsletter signup)
- Tailoring the website copy so it specifically speaks to the people who are visiting that page
In this blog, I will demystify some of the most important (and commonly used) Google Analytics jargon—so you know what to look out for when you next load the platform.
Next month, I’ll discuss 3 reports that are worth keeping track of and what each of them can tell you about your user’s journey.
Google Analytics Definitions: The Basics
Session: A visit to your website that consists of one or more ‘Pageviews’ (see below).
Note: If a user is inactive on your site for more than 30 minutes, the session will end and be counted as 1 session. If that same user then becomes active again, it will be counted as a new session.
Landing page: The first page that someone views in a session.
Note: Tracking the most popular landing pages on your site can give you great insight into what people are actually interested in learning more about.
New user: Someone who visits your site for the first time in the selected date range.
Note: Since this is based on the Google Analytics tracking code and browser cookies, remember that if someone is using a different device, or has cleared their cookies, they will be counted as a new user next time they visit your site.
Not set: This message may display in a number of different reports, and simply indicates that Google Analytics does not know/ have/ will not give the information.
E.g. If Google Analytics doesn’t know the exact location of someone when they visit your site, then in the location report they will be categorized under ‘not set’.
Organic: Refers to someone entering your site from a free link (one you have not paid to advertise) on a search result page.
E.g. If someone clicks on a link to your site on Google that is not an ad.
Pageview: A pageview will be reported when a page has been viewed by a user on your site.
E.g. If a user lands on your homepage, then visits your ‘meet the team page’ then each of those pages will report 1-page view in that session.
Note: If that user then returns back to the home page, it will be counted as a new page view.
Referral: When a user clicks through to your site from a third-party website, they will be classed as ‘referral’ traffic.
E.g. If someone clicks a link to a blog you’ve posted on Facebook, they will be counted as a referral.
Note: Remember that this isn’t necessarily the case for all traffic—for example, if a URL shortener has been used then it will be classed as ‘direct’ rather than ‘referral’.
Unique Pageview: A page viewed by a user will be counted only once, regardless of how many times the user views it in a session.
E.g. If a user checks out the services you offer on your site, then goes on to read a blog, then clicks back to see your services again, the unique page views for the services page (in that session) will be counted as 1.
User: An individual who views your website.
Google Analytics Definitions: Level Up
Average Session Duration: This metric gives you the average amount of time your users are spending on your website.
E.g. If one user spends 3 minutes on your site and another spends 1 minute then your average session duration will be 2 minutes.
Note: All bounces are counted as 0 seconds. Read our explanation of Bounces to understand why this may skew your Avg. Session Duration. Also, Google Analytics cannot track how long a user spends on the last page the user viewed before exiting, so your Avg. Session Duration isn’t a completely accurate representation of how long people are spending on your website.
Average Time on Page: This refers to the average amount of time users spend on a specific page or screen on your site.
E.g. If one user spends 10 minutes on a page and another spends 2 minutes on that page, the average time on page will be 6 minutes.
Note: The avg. time on a page only takes into account non-bounces and non-exits.
Bounce: A visitor is counted as a bounce when they only visit one page on your site. This is normally viewed as a negative—that it indicates a bad experience for the visitor—however, this is not always the case.
E.g. A visitor may land on your blog, read all the way to the end and then decide that they have got all of the information they need. While ideally, you’d like them to have continued further on your site, someone reading a whole blog would still be a win in terms of getting traffic to your content.
Bounce rate: The percentage of sessions that only had a 1-page view before exiting. This percentage gives you a top-level insight into how well your content is doing, but it’s important to contextualise it since some pages are expected to have a higher bounce rate than others (like the blog example I gave above).
E.g. If you have a high bounce rate, it indicates that people are not exploring much past the page they land on when they reach your site. If you’re trying to change that, then it’s your bounce rate that will indicate when whatever actions you’re taking to change it are actually working.
Direct: Traffic is classed as ‘direct’ when someone has either typed your URL straight into their browser, clicked a link (in an email, or from a bookmark) or when Google Analytics doesn’t know where that traffic has come from.
E.g. If someone clicks on a link that has been shortened (using a URL shortener for example), Google Analytics doesn’t know what to class that as, so it buckets that user into ‘direct’ traffic. This is one of the many shortfalls of the platform. The best way around it is to use Google’s URL builder so you can properly track (by tagging where each link is going to be shared) exactly where the traffic is coming from.
In the 2nd part of this feature, I’ll discuss the 3 reports you should be regularly downloading, what conclusions you can draw from each of them and improvements you can make to your website based on your findings.
If you’ve got questions about your Google Analytics dashboard and what it means for your firm, email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our digital specialists will get back to you. Alternatively, if you’d like to sign up to our mailing list to hear when the next part of the feature—Google Analytics: The 3 Reports You Need To Understand—is released, you can do so here: SIGN UP.