Google Analytics Glossary

How Visitors Find Your Website

Traffic Sources: Direct vs. Referral
Traffic sources show you how users got to your site, and in Google Analytics are split into direct and referral traffic.

Direct Traffic is made up of visitors that type a URL directly into the address bar, select an auto-complete option when typing the URL, or click on a bookmark to get to your site

Referral Traffic is when a user has landed on your site by clicking on a link from somewhere else; this could be another site, a social media profile, or a search engine.

Organic Search shows the users who came to your site by clicking on the organic links on the search engine results page.

Paid Search show the users who arrived at your page through clicking paid or “sponsored” content on the search engine results page.

Keyword: The word or phrase a user entered into the search box that led them to click on one of your links.

Landing Page: The page your user begins their visit to your site on; quite simply, how they ‘land’ on your site.

How Visitors Interact with Your Website

Visitor: Visitors are defined by a unique ID – this ID is usually stored in a visitor’s cookies. Google Analytics cannot accurately track users who delete their cookies, use multiple browsers, or share their computer.

Unique Visitor: When a user visits your site for the first time, a new visit and unique visitor are both recorded. If the same user returns to the site after their initial visit, only a visit is added.

New Visitor: A visitor without an existing Google Analytics ID (usually stored in a visitor’s cookies) when they start a session on your site. If a visitor deletes their cookies and comes back to the site, the visitor will be counted as a new visitor.

Returning Visitor: A visitor with existing Google Analytics ID from a previous visit.

Visit vs. Session: ‘Visits’ and ‘Sessions’ have the same meaning in Google Analytics. There may be a specific context in which one term is used over the other, but they are broadly interchangeable.

Session: A session is a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example a single visit can contain multiple pageviews, events, and interactions. A single user can have multiple sessions. A visit ends after the visitor closes their browser, clears their cookies, is inactive for 30 minutes, or at midnight. When a session ends, a user can create a new session.

Pageviews: A pageview is recorded every time a page is viewed. When a visitor opens a page in their browser, hits the back button, or hits refresh, a pageview is recorded. Users can trigger multiple pageviews of the same page in a single session.

Unique Pageviews: Unique pageviews represent the number of visitors to a page, rather than the number of visits to that page. Whether a visitor views the page once during their visit or multiple times, the number of unique pageviews will be recorded as just one.

How Visitors Leave Your Website

Bounce Rate: The percentage of visits in which a user left your site from the same page they landed on, without visiting or interacting with other pages (single-page visits).

Exit Rate: The percentage of pageviews for which this was the last page of the visit. This percentage includes both single- and multiple-page visits (visits included in the bounce rate are also included in the exit rate).

Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate:
Visit 1: Page B > Page A
Visit 2: Page B > Exit
Visit 3: Page A > Page B

Bounce Rate:
Page A: 0%
Page B: 33%

Exit Rate:
Page A: 50%
Page B: 66%

Visit Duration: Every time you visit a web page your browser records a timestamp. Visit Duration is calculated based on the timestamp difference between the first and final pageviews that occurred during a visit.

Average Visit Duration: The amount of time that the average visitor spends on your site.


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