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We get it. Google Analytics can be overwhelming, but it’s packed full of strategy-building-traffic-insight goodness if you give it a chance.
Today, we’re starting off a series devoted to Google Analytics with a super-handy glossary of all the Google Analytics terms you need to know. We know reading a glossary can be drier than dirt in a Texas summer, so remember that cup of comfort? Fill it up and settle in, love, because we’ve made this helpful and fun.
Because nothing is worse than a glossary full of “see xyz above” addendums, we organized this glossary by purpose rather than alphabetically. No Google Analytics metric stands on its own, so this organization illustrates potential pairings, AKA, how to use 2+ metrics together to really understand what’s happening on your site.
Who are your visitors, how did they find you, and how quickly do they leave?
Referral: Where was your visitor just before coming to your site? Google, Instagram, another website? Seeing where most of your visitors come from (and where they don’t) will tell you a lot about what channels are working. For example, if you have great SEO, most of your visitors will likely come from Google. If you have a popular guest post on another site, you’ll probably get a lot of people coming from that site.
Source: This takes referral to the next level and tells you exactly where people came from. For example, the referral might be Instagram, and the source might be a specific user on Instagram, like yours truly. 😉
Entrance: Even though your homepage is the front door of your website, people might come in through the back door or windows. House analogies aside, you never know where a visitor is going to first land on your site, so this metric tells you where people start out on your site. It’s helpful for giving you a clue about pages that people are finding via Google search or other referrals.
Exit: The same thing as the Entrance metric, on Opposite Day. What is the last page visitors view before leaving? Are lots of people leaving on the same page? If so, perhaps it needs more information, a better call to action, or links to other pages on your website. Is is most often a ‘thank you’ page? If so, that’s good news because it likely means you converted a visitor into a customer!
Bounce: Ever walked into the wrong meeting? You duck out with a big ‘Whoops!”, right? That’s a real-life bounce. In web speak a bounce is when someone visits just one page and leaves without visiting any other pages on your site (it’s doesn’t always mean a bad thing though…read on!).
Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of people who bounce on your site. It can be calculated per page or for the whole site. If a single page has a high bounce rate, this is a good clue that page needs some work. Either it’s misleading, poorly designed, has an irrelevant referral source, or some other problem that causes people to say a big digital “Whoops!” and leave.
If your whole website has a high bounce rate, it could be any of the above issues, or it could be that your site is getting found on Google for something totally unrelated to what you do. This is a good clue you might need some SEO expertise on your side to get the right people to visit your site, and to stay.
For example, people who type in “GMA” in hopes of finding the day’s celebrity gossip might mistakenly find themselves on the homepage of the “Grocery Manufacturers Association”. Cue high bounce rate.
Although you can never completely eliminate it, a bounce rate of more than 40% typically indicates you need to change something.
PS–Are you wondering if a high bounce rate is bad? Not necessarily.
Organic Search: If people are finding you via organic search this means you have great SEO. The higher this number is, the higher number of keywords you likely have.
If you have high rate of referral from organic search and you have a low bounce rate this is good news. Getting found via organic search means that people are finding you when they search for a relevant term on Google. If they then also stay on your site, it means they meant to find the kind of content you provide. Yay you!
What do you want your visitors to do?
Goal: Whatever you want your visitors to do on your site. This might be something big, like making a purchase, or little things like signing up for an email list, reading your blog, submitting a form, clicking through to social media.
You can set up goals to track in your Google Analytics account so you can see how often people are doing what you hope they do on your site. We have a whole post in this series abou this coming up, so stay tuned!
Events: Any way a visitor interacts with your website. This might be watching a video, clicking a link, filling out a form. Kind sounds similar to goals, right? Well, it is, but the difference is that an event is the things someone is already doing on your site. It becomes a goal when you decide to track it. For example, an event is someone watching your video. A goal you might set could be: “10 people to watch video”.
What do they actually do?
Conversion: The rate that people ‘convert’ from being just a visitor to completing a goal. You might have 10 visitors, and 5 of them complete a goal. Then that goal has a 50% conversion rate, which is awesome. Knowing this rate helps you track how often people are actually doing what you want them to do on your site. The higher this rate this, the more likely you are to have higher sales.
Pageview: The total number of times a page is viewed, no matter who is viewing it.
1 person viewing a page 100 times = 100 page views
100 People viewing a page 1 time each = 100 page views
Unique Pageview: Unique pageviews is, you guessed it, the number of times a page was viewed by a unique person. Both this and the page view metric tells you how popular your content on a certain page is. Lots of people viewing your site (unique views) tells you your content is appealing to a broad audience, lots of page views can tell you your content is highly interesting to a more niched audience, both of which are good, depending on your goals.
So, to riff off our fun math above:
1 person viewing a page 100 time = 1 unique pageview
100 people viewing a page 1 time each = 100 unique pageviews
Pages per Visit: The number of pages a single person visits during one visit to your site. If they visit 5 pages in the morning, and in the afternoon come back and visit 5 more, the pages per visit is…drumroll….5.
Return Visits: How often people come back during a certain time period. You can set a time period such as the past 24 hours, the last week, month, or set a custom time period and get an idea of how often people come back. This can be especially helpful when you’re doing a big launch and want to get a good idea of how often people are visiting your site. More return visits in general means that people like your content, and lots of return visits during a launch period is a sign that people are really interested in your product.
How long did they spend with you?
Session: Any single visit to your website by a single person. A person might do any number of things during this visit: an ‘event’, achieve one or more goals, or visit any number of pages. It all counts as one page visit.
If a person comes back another time during the day to your site, this counts as another visit, regardless of anything they may or may not do on your site.
Pages per Session: This is about as simple as it gets: how many pages did a person visit during one session on your site? Higher number of pages indicates higher levels of interest, curiosity, and attachment to your brand. However, it can also indicate that someone isn’t finding what they are looking for, and that your site might need to be reorganized. Just think: how many pages did you visit the last time you were on Bloguettes.com vs the DMV? Probably lots on each, and our money is on Bloguettes for being a much more pleasant experience.
Like so many stats, this one gives you the being info when it’s combined with another metric, like time spent on page, or number of events, to give you a full picture of what your users are thinking and doing.
Average Session Duration: Just getting all kinds of complicated, aren’t we?? This just means how long, on average, people spend on your site during one session. Are all their visits lengthy, indicating high interest and curiosity, or are they short sessions, indicating that you might not have much information on your site. If you have a lot of sessions, but people aren’t spending long, consider adding more content to give your people something to read/watch/do.
Percent of New Sessions: Is your website a revolving door of fresh interest, or is it the same folks visiting your site over and over? Find out if your marketing efforts are working to attract new people or not. But bear in mind, getting new people isn’t always the goal, although for most people it probably will be. This metric paired with other that measure engagement and conversions will show you if your marketing and sales efforts are working to meet your business goals.
Tracking Code: Your analytics are nothing without this code. This handy-dandy code snippet is the link between your website and the analytics. Here’s how to find it and get it set up. It’s not hard, and you only have to do this once, and it’s done forever.
Handy Features of Google Analytics
Segment: Do you ever wonder if women interact with your site differently from men? Or how about people in their 20s vs 40s? Or what about visitors to your site that have purchased from you before vs those who haven’t? Do your returning customers interact differently with your site? You can learn a lot from segmenting your Audience. Stay tuned, we’ll show you how in an upcoming post in this 7 part series.
Did you make it through? Google Analytics is a hearty tool, and we’re here to help you make the most of it, (and to make the most you can, in general!).
Have there been other terms you’ve heard of, but just don’t quite get yet? What are your go-to metrics in Google Analytics? Let us know in the comments–there’s someone reading who can learn from what you know, friend.
Wanna learn even more about Google Analytics? Check out our other posts in the series:
- How to Set Up Google Analytics on Your Site
- How to Set Up Goals in Google Analytics
- 5 Google Analytics Metrics You Need to Watch
- How to Interpret Google Analytics Reports