Learn Google Analytics Key Terms and What They Track
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If you can manage a household budget, put together a 1000 piece puzzle, or craft the perfect burger, then there’s no reason you can’t use Google Analytics to get the most out of your website. This primer will teach you the terms you need to know to make sense of the tools.
To make sure everyone is on the same page, here are some definitions of the building blocks of Google Analytics jargon:
Metrics and Dimensions
Both are measurements of your website’s performance. Technically, metrics are numbers and dimensions are other types of data, but “metrics” generally refers to both in common usage.
Each piece of your website with a unique URL is a page.
A pageview is any view of a page, ignoring the user, frequency, and other metrics.
A visit is an entire interaction between a site and a user, ending after 30 minutes of inactivity. They are sometimes called a “session”.
A unique IP connection. You’ll frequently see this shortened to “visitor” or “user”.
A user does what you want them to do on your website, whether that means they purchased a product, signed up for the newsletter, or spent a minimum amount of time on your site.
Traffic Flow Terms
Direct versus Referred Traffic
When a user directly inputs a URL to one of your pages in their browser, they were direct traffic to your website. If they clicked a link anywhere else, then they are referred traffic.
Organic versus Paid Traffic
When a user visits your website from a paid advertisement like a Google or Facebook ad, that counts as paid traffic. All other traffic, whether direct or referred, is organic traffic.
A channel is any source of referred traffic. Google Analytics’ tools automatically divide channels into a number of useful categories like social media and paid traffic. And you can set custom channels to keep an eye on separate marketing campaigns.
When a user converts on an e-commerce transaction or a goal with an assigned value, each page is awarded points that allow them to be ranked according to the page value relative to other pages.
User Behavior Metrics
Cost per Click (CPC)
Since Google Analytics knows every time a paid ad generates traffic and the cost of your ad campaigns, it can provide a cost-per-click analysis for a single campaign or your entire marketing budget.
The landing page is the webpage where each unique visitor’s visit begins. Since both organic and paid traffic typically refer deeper into a website like a blog post, the most common landing page may not be your homepage. In some portions of the tool, it is referred to as the entrance.
The exit page is the opposite of the landing page. It is where the user ended their visit and left the site from.
The bounce rate refers specifically to the rate at which users visit one page on your website then immediately leave.
While fairly self-explanatory, the importance of the return visit metric merits mentioning it anyway. Users returning to your website repeatedly indicates a healthy and attractive website, while a drop in the return visit rate may highlight unpopular changes in your website.
While this primer is an excellent crash course in Google Analytics, the best way to learn is to use the tool. Check out the custom metrics and goals, and if something seems confusing, consult the manual. Soon, you’ll be an expert website analyst!