What do bounce, user, session and other Google Analytics terms mean?

24 March 2017 by

Anyone using Google Analytics will probably see terms such as session, bounce, conversion rate and user. But do you really know what they mean? This is a Google Analytics glossary to define all these terms once and for all.

It’s easy to get confused with Google Analytics terms. Some of them are industry-standard terms, some have their Google-specific meaning and some – I’m looking at you, conversions! – are even defined differently in AdWords and Google Analytics.

At the same time it’s very important to know what different concepts really mean. Otherwise you might be measuring something that doesn’t even mean what you think it means. In this post we try to have key Analytics terms explained.

So without further ado, here’s The Google Analytics Vocabulary or “What Do Different Terms in Google Analytics Mean”.

Google Analytics terms and meanings

A dictionary focused on word focus

Index

Account:

Your top-level folder in Google Analytics. Your Account can have permissions to access several Properties and Properties can contain several Views. A Google user (like user@gmail.com) can have many Accounts on Google Analytics. Accounts are used to separate completely different projects. Inside Accounts you can have different Properties for Android app, website and an iPhone app.

Affinity Category:

Groups of visitors that share lifestyles or interests. Examples of Affinity Categories include Technophiles or Foodies. Affinity Categories are a part of Google Analytics Interests and Demographics and are the “widest” scope of interests and are furthest in the purchase funnel. Closer in the purchase funnel are In-Market Audiences and Other Categories.

Average Session Duration:

(see Session) Average session duration is calculated by dividing total time spent on site by total amount of users. If Average Session Duration is 0:04:23 it means that on average an user spends 4 minutes and 23 seconds on your site before closing the browser or navigating elsewhere.

Assisted Conversion:

(see Conversion) In Multi-Channel Funnels report you can see different channels same user have used to lead to conversion. For example if someone first clicks on your social media posts and later on searches for you on Google and converst, that’s an Assisted conversion for your social channel.


Behavior Flow:

Behavior Flow is a Google Analytics feature that shows users visit path from landing page to exit page in a visual presentation. Behavior Flow includes Events and is most useful when you are using Events.

Bounce:

Bounce is a visitor who only sees one page before leaving your page. Bounces are thought to indicate a bad visitors but it’s not always the case. For example if a visitor types “leadfeeder pricing” to Google, ends up to our pricing page, finds the information and leaves, it’s a bounce but it can still be a quality visit.

Bounce is defined as a Session that only has one Interaction. You can decrease the amount of Bounces by adding Events that cause Interactions. For example you can send an Event when user scrolls the page and that way remove visitors who scroll your page from Bounce rate.


Custom Dimensions:

(see Dimension)

Channels:

Channels are groups of sources of traffic. For example all referral traffic coming from all kinds of pages are grouped under Channel Referral and all social traffic is grouped under Social. You can edit your Channel groupings from your Google Analytics View settings.

Clicks:

AdWords clicks visible in your Google Analytics report. Note that there are often a lot more Clicks than Sessions.

Client ID:

Client ID is a representation of a device or cookie. It consists of a random number and a timestamp. Client ID is used to recognize returning users. You can see Client IDs in Audience - User Explorer report.

Conversion:

An activity that website visitor does that serves a clear business goal. For example if you are collecting email subscription list that generates a lot of sales an email subscription is clearly a conversion. If you allow sign ups, sign up is a conversion. Conversions are setup in Goals in Google Analytics.

Conversions are often divided into macro and micro conversions. Macro conversions are actual business goals (a purchase, a sign up) and micro conversions are actions that lead to those conversions (adding a product to cart, email subscription). Note that AdWords and Analytics calculate Conversions differently.


Dimension:

Google Analytics reports consists of Metrics and Dimensions. Dimensions are attributes of your data, such as Page, Source or Country. You can build Custom Dimensions for your own data, too. Dimensions are defined on hit, session, user or product-level.

Direct Traffic:

Direct Traffic means traffic that doesn’t have another source. It’s often misunderstood as meaning “typing the url into address bar” and while that is also Direct traffic, nowadays most of the Direct traffic comes from mobile apps (Facebook, Twitter, email apps) and non-tagged links and if you are not using SSL, from SSL-site referrals.

Direct traffic is most probably a huge amount of your website traffic and you should try and decrease it as much as possible by tagging your links with UTM-tags and by using SSL.


Ecommerce:

Ecommerce is a collection of reports applicable to online shops. Using Ecommerce reports require you to enable Ecommerce Tracking.

Engagement:

Engagement measures how much time a group of visitors spend on a site or the depth of pages visited while on the site by a group of visitors. Engagement Report segments your visitors into groups based on their Engagement. Note that you can’t apply secondary dimensions nor review goals and e-commerce conversions in Engagement Report.

Entrances:

Number of times the page has served as the Landing Page, the first page of the Session. If page A is six times a Landing Page, it’ll have six Entrances, too.

Event:

An interaction on the site that is triggered by user behaviour (but not always by the user themselves!). Often Events are used to track clicks on buttons and links, scrolling and downloads of files. Events can be set to either non-interaction or interaction events. Former do not affect Bounce rate while the latter does.

Exit:

(See Entrances) The last page of a Session before closing the browser or leaving the page.


Frequency:

The number of times the page was visited by an user on a given time period. It’s calculated by dividing the amount of Sessions by the amount of Users.


Goals

(See [Conversions(#conversions)]) Goals are Google Analytics’ way of defining conversions on your page. Your Goal can be visiting a certain page, certain amount of Pageviews, Visit Duration.

Google Tag Manager:

Tag Manager is a tool that helps you manage your different marketing snippets and other tags on your website. Because it integrates well with Analytics, it can help you increase the quality of your data by collecting more data.

Google Optimize:

Google Optimize is Googles new A/B testing tool. It’s free to use and you can have 3 tests running with it. There’s also a paid-for version called Optimize 360 with fewer limitations.


Hit:

Hit is a request sent to Google Analytics with the Measurement Protocol for data collection and handling. Every Pageview causes a Hit.


Impression:

The number of times an ad was visible on an user’s display. Impression is the Page view of ad world.

In-Market Segment:

(see Affinity Categories) Groups of visitors who are actively researching or comparing products and services. They are closer to purchase than Affinity Categories and the names the segments reflect this. Google uses previous user behaviour on the internet to define In-Market Segments and Affinity Categories. For example if someone searches for gardening hose, this user could be segmented into Home Gardening/Home Improvement.

Google Analytics uses previous user behavior on the Internet to define Demographics and Interests.


Landing Page:

(see Entrance) Landing page is the first page an user visits on a website. Landing page is the URL of the first Pageview of a Session.


Medium

(see [Source(#source)]) In Acquisition reports Medium denotes the way the aquisition was made. Different mediums include email, social, cpc, referral or none.

Metrics

Every report has Metrics and Dimensions. Metrics are calculations and measurements based on your data, such as Sessions, Conversions or Time on Page. You can build Custom Metrics to measure something that’s not available directly in Google Analytics, too.


(Not set)

(Not set) in your various Google Analytics reports means that Analytics could not collect any data for that particular Dimension. It is often seen in Acquisition reports for campaign parameters that were not set, such as keyword or ad content. Sometimes even Landing Page can be (not set) if, for example the session has an Event.


Organic Traffic

Traffic originating from organic results of search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.


Pages/session

Average number of Pageviews occured during a Session. If the website visitors sees three pages on their first visit and only one page on their second page, their Pages/Session is two. Calculated simply Pageviews/Sessions.

Page Depth

The number of pages visited during a Session.

Pageviews

The number of times a user has loaded any page on the website. If the user refreshes the page, it will count as a new Pageview. For example if an user lands on the front page, refreshes the page and sees another page, they will have 3 Pageviews.

A default Channel for paid traffic. Includes traffic with medium cpc.

Percent of New Sessions

Percent of Sessions made by Users on their first Session on the website. Calculated by substracting Returning Users from all Users and divided by the total amount of Users.


Queries

After integrating Google Webmaster Tools you can see the actual search queries your visitors used when searching your website.


Recency

The average time between visits to website by a certain user. Calculated by dividing the time between first and last Session by the total amount of Sessions by user.

Referrals

(see Channels) A type of Channel that groups all traffic originating from links on other pages that are not some other traffic (for example Social, Paid Traffic or Organic). For example if you click (this)[https://www.google.com] your traffic would be shown as Referral traffic in Google’s analytics (I’m pretty sure they won’t even notice).

Referring Sites

External websites that are sending traffic to your site. Usually Referring Sites have a backlink to your site.


Self referral

Referrals that originate from your own site are called self-referrals. Self-referrals happen because of a misconfiguration, often due to no Google Analytics script installed on every page or issues with auto-linking.

Session

A Session is a group of interactions that happen on your site during the time Session persists. A Session in Google Analytics begins when a visitor arrives on the site and ends when one of the following happens: 1 User is inactive for 30 minutes 2 User arrives on the site with another Campaign Source 3 At midnight

For example if an user lands on your front page, reads a few pages and opens a new tab and clicks on your ad and lands on another page on your website, this visit will be counted as two Sessions. Likewise, if user lands on your page at 23:59 and reads a few pages and leaves at 00:08 it will be counted as two Sessions, too.

However, if the user lands on your website, reads a few pages and opens a new tab, types in your website URL to the address bar and lands on another page on your website, it’s still counted as one Session. Direct is not a Campaign Source.

It’s important to note that Sessions are different from Clicks in AdWords or Facebook Ads. The amount of Sessions accumulated from a certain campaign is almost guaranteed to be lower than the reported amount of clicks in the same campaign. For example if someone clicks on your ad but closes the browser before the Analytics script has time to load, a Click but not a Session is recorded.

Segments

Segments allow you to slice your traffic into smaller pieces based on a mutual property. For example you can build a segment out of your mobile users, users who view more than 5 pages or users from a certain source. You can combine filters as much as you like. This allows you to compare different groups of visitors.

Site Speed

Site Speed report tells you how quickly your website loads on average. Site speed has SEO implications and even Facebook prefers quick-to-load pages in Newsfeed, so you should spend some time optimizing your website and making sure it loads up as quickly as possible, especially in mobile.

Source

(see Channels) Source is a dimension that tells you the origin of the visit. Sources are grouped into channels. Common sources include google/organic for organic Google resultsr, facebook/cpc for paid Facebook traffic or quora.com/referral for referral traffic.


Time on page

Time spent on page. Google Analytics times time on page by starting a timer when the page loads and stopping it on the next Interaction. Because last page doesn’t have a next Interaction, Time on Page is always 0 seconds for the last page (Exit page).


Unique visitors (see Client ID)

Number of unique Client IDs on your website on a given time period.

Users

(see Client ID) Unique users on your website. User is one of the most hardest to understand metrics, because it doesn’t actually represent users but cookies or devices. User groups together Sessions made with the same device. User is represented in Google Analytics by a Client ID and is set by _ga cookie.

Users can be divided into New Users and Returning Users by the amount of Sessions an User has, but note that you can only see metrics for New Users in Analytics.

User Flow

User Flow is a visualization of the pages user visited on your website during one Session from Source, through all the pages they visited until the Exit page.


View

In each of your Google Analytics Properties you can have one or more views which contain data from your website. Views can contain a complete set of data from the tracking code or a subset of data by using filters. The best practice is to have at least 3 views for any of your Properties; master view, production and testing. Goals and some other configurations are defined on View level.

Visits

(see Session Visit is not used in Google Analytics anymore and all references have been replaced with Session.

Visit Duration

Visit Duration is the time a Visit (=Session) lasted. It is calculated by adding together Time on Page for all the pages user visited during their visit.

Visitor (see User)

Visitor in Google Analytics is almost the same than User. However, Visitor is a dimension while User is a metric.

Visitors Flow

Visitors Flow is a report that shows how Users have interacted with your site in a chronological order, from Landing Page to Exit Page.

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