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Google Analytics - A Simple Glossary

For beginners and experienced users alike, Google analytics can become a minefield of confusing terms. What’s the difference between a session and a page view? How does a bounce rate differ from an exit rate? Google’s official help pages can be a useful resource, but sometimes you just need a quick answer in simple terms. Here is our no-nonsense, regularly updated glossary of the key terms you need to know.

Sessions:

The number of times that users have had a browsing session on your site. For example, a user could visit your website at 4:00pm and view five different pages then leave, but this would be recorded as one session. A session has a time limit of four hours, and automatically expires at midnight. This means that even if a user browsed your site from 11:55 pm - 12:05 am, it will be counted as two sessions. If a user visits your site, views five different pages, leaves the site completely and returns later in the same day (even within four hours), this is counted as two sessions.

A session can also end after 30 minutes of inactivity, for example if a user still has your website open in a tab but hasn’t interacted with it for that period of time. This number can be changed to a custom amount, which could come in handy if, for example, you have a video on your website which lasts longer than 30 minutes.

Users:

The number of users who have had browsing sessions on your website. If the number is lower than the number of sessions, this means that some users have had more than one browsing session on your website.

Page views:

The amount of pages which have been viewed on your website. This may well be much higher than the number of sessions, as it counts every single page view from every user - even multiple views of the same page. Pages/Session:The average amount of pages which users visit during a browsing session on your website. For example, if this number is 5, it means that on average users tend to view around 5 pages before leaving your site.

Avg. Session Duration:

The amount of time each user spends browsing your site is recorded, and then an average amount of time is determined. For example, if your Avg. Session Duration is 1 minute 50 seconds, this means that on average, users spend around that amount of time browsing your website.

Bounce rate:

A bounce is when a user only visits one page on your website, then exits immediately afterwards. The bounce rate, therefore is the percentage of sessions which were single page visits. A high bounce rate could be good or bad, depending on how your site is designed and what you wish to achieve.

New Visitor:

A user who has visited your site for the first time. To be taken with a pinch of salt as each time a user deletes their browsing history, they will be recorded as a new visitor.

Returning Visitor:

A user who has returned to your site after visiting previously.

Language:

The language of the users who have visited your site. Not 100% reliable as it is based on the language of the device being used to browse the website, and some UK users may have their computer language set to US.

Organic Search:

The number of sessions which have been carried out on the site due to a referral from a search engine. For example, if a user searches for keywords which bring up your website in a search engine, then they click on that link to visit your website and have a browsing session, it is classed as an organic search session. These results exclude search engine referrals from paid appearances (such as Google's PPC AdWords campaigns).

Social:

The number of sessions which have initiated on your site due to a referral from a social media platform. For example, if a user sees a link to your website shared by anyone on social media (not necessarily your business) and clicks on it to begin a browsing session on your website, it is classed as a social session. Google has a large list, ranging from the mainstream to the obscure, of websites which are classed in the ‘social’ category.

Referral:

The number of sessions which have been initiated on your site due to a referral from any other website not classed in the ‘social’ category. For example, if a user is browsing the website of a local newspaper and there is a news story which includes a link to your website, they click on it and begin a browsing session on your website, it is classed as a referral session.

Direct:

The number of sessions which have been initiated on your site by a user either typing the URL directly into their browser, or from the user clicking a link somewhere untrackable such as a personal email.

Other:

The number of sessions which have been initiated on your site from miscellaneous sources that did not fit into any of the other categories. This number is not usually very high, but Google Analytics can give you a breakdown of the traffic sources so you can determine why they are not being classes elsewhere.

Unique page views:

This is the same definition as “Page Views” above, however the key difference here is that multiple views of the same page by one user are not counted. For example, if a user visited the same page on your website five times, it would be counted as five page views but only one unique page view.

% Exit:

Whereas a bounce is defined by a user visiting a single page before exiting your site, an exit does not take into account the number of pages visited during a session before exiting your site. An exit rate of a page can help you to find out which pages of your site are the most popular, and where problems lie.

The exit percentage tells you how many users decided to leave your site after a selected page.


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