The Ultimate Google Analytics Glossary

If you’re new to the world of digital analytics, we know that getting to grips with the terminology can be daunting. To help you understand what it all means, and let you better get stuck into reporting on and analysing your data, we've put together this glossary of common terms. Add to your bookmarks and share with your friends - we hope you find this useful. We've also created a PDF version of this glossary to print, frame or leave on your desktop. 

If you like this glossary and our accompanying AdWords glossary, you'll love our book 'Learning Google AdWords and Google Analytics'. Written by Google expert Benjamin Mangold, the book covers everything you need to understand these popular Google products and learn how to become an expert with them.

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Account

The highest level in the management of a Google Analytics setup. To make use of Google Analytics, it is necessary to create an account with the product and then to grant individuals access to the account or subcomponents within the account.

Advanced segment

Filtering the data displayed in a report, a segment can be configured to include data for only a particular set of users and/or user sessions. Creating segments and applying them to report in Google Analytics allows for more detailed analysis of particular types of user interaction.

Assisted conversion

Visible in the 'Multi-channel funnel' reports in Google Analytics, assisted conversions show where each acquisition channel or medium was may have helped generate a conversion at a later time or date. If a user was acquired to the website through channel A and later as acquired again through channel B and converted, an 'assisted conversion' will be counted for channel A. Other dimensions, apart from channel and medium, can also be used for assisted analysis.

Attribution

The process of assigning due credit for your conversions to particular marketing channels or traffic sources, even though a user may have converted in a subsequent session. Google Analytics provides some tools to help with this tricky problem, including sets of reports in the 'multi-channel funnel' section of the standard reporting interface.

Average session duration

An approximation for how long users spend on your site, on average, per session. Google Analytics cannot know when a user left or stopped engaging with your site, so can only use the last time in a session that it recorded any pageview or other interaction, so this measure will tend to undercount to some extent.

Bounce

A user session in which only one pageview is recorded. The term 'bounce' is derived from the conclusion that, in many cases, this indicates that the user came to your site and then 'bounced' away, although it may also mean that they spent so long on one page that Google Analytics decided that the session had ended.

Bounce rate

The percentage of sessions which were bounces.

Calculated metric

In addition to the dozens of built-in metrics, Google Analytics lets you create more meaningful reports and dashboards by defining your own metrics derived from the built-in metrics by simple calculations. Find out more in this blog.

Campaign name

Along with source and medium, one of the three main dimensions for reporting and analysing what brought users to your website. The campaign name is typically the name of an AdWords campaign you are running or the name of a general marketing campaign you are running which you have embedded in links to your website.

Channel

Similar to medium in identifying at a top level where your traffic has come from, channels are groups of similar types of traffic that can be aligned with your marketing activities.

Content group

Google Analytics can be set to assign each page of your site to a particular group such as "blog pages", "product reviews". This allows you to roll-up your reporting and analysis in a way that reflects the content you have on your particular site.

Conversion

Google Analytics records a conversion whenever a user completes one of your defined goals during a session or makes an ecommerce purchase that is recorded in Google Analytics. See also goal completion and ecommerce conversion.

Custom dimension / metric

In addition to the dozens of built-in dimensions and metrics, some of which are explained in this glossary, Google Analytics can be configured to receive additional bits of data and make them available in reports. For example, you could send a custom dimension recording the authors of each page viewed by users so you can investigate who in your team is authoring the most effective content.

Device category

A dimension in Google Analytics that assigns each traffic session to either desktop (including laptop), tablet or mobile. Useful for analysing any differences in your website's performance for these three types of devices used by your users.

Dimension

One of two types of data that Google Analytics collects, a dimension is an attribute or characteristic of your users and their interactions with your site or app. Generally, when summarising data, you will break down the numbers by one or more 'what' or 'who' attributes, such as page path or marketing channel - these are dimensions. In Google Analytics standard reports, the dimension(s) are in the left-most column(s). See also metric.

Direct

Traffic to your website that Google Analytics has not identified as being from any particular source. This could include where users type your site's address directly into their browser, open a browser bookmark or click on a link in an email app that doesn't identify an email as a source. Google Analytics will only fall back to 'direct' as a last resort, attributing traffic to another source if recently used to acquire a user.

Ecommerce conversion

An online purchase transaction from your website during a session. Google Analytics has substantial built-in features to collate and report on your website's ecommerce activity, much more than just the number of transactions (or conversions). Contrary to goal completions, Google Analytics can record more than one transaction (and so conversion) per session. The number of transactions recorded per session is the 'ecommerce conversion rate'.

Entrance

The first pageview during a session is known as an entrance, and the number of these first pageviews is recorded in Google Analytics by this metric. This metric is similar to sessions but can vary in cases such as where there are hits other than pageviews.

Event

An arbitrary action, occurrence or other interaction with your website that you wish to track, for instance playing an embedded video. These interactions can be sent to Google Analytics as events, with up to three dimensions (the 'category', 'action' and, optionally, 'label') and an optional metric, the event 'value'. Events can be monitored in standard reports in Google Analytics and can also be used to define goals.

Filter

A Google Analytics view can have filters configured to limit it to including only a subset of data collected (such as only data for particular parts of the website) or to transforming the data (for example, to modify the reported page path to include the hostname).

First-click

Referring to the marketing channel or source that first brought a user to your site. Although the user may have ended up converting on a subsequent visit, the initial acquisition (known as the 'first click') can be useful for sales attribution and decision-making on refining marketing activities.

Goal

Something that your users do or achieve on your website or app that you regard as some kind of success, such as making a purchase, subscribing to your e-newsletter, submitting an enquiry or registering as a member. Goals can be configured and tracked in Google Analytics.

Goal abandonment

Some goals can be configured with a series of pages that the user is expected to progress through to achieve the goals, such as the various stages of a purchase funnel. The number of times users abandon this process without going to completion is recorded in this metric.

Goal completion

The completion by a user of a goal during a session. If a user achieves a particular goal more than once in a session, this is still only counted as a single conversion which affects the interpretation of this figure and of 'conversion rate' - the issue is only whether a user did or did not achieve each goal within a session.

Goal completion location

For goals that are defined as reaching particular pages on your site, this dimension records the page on which the goal completion occurred. Useful for breaking down goal completions by page in cases where one of a number of pages meets the goal definition.

Goal value

A dollar value that can be specified in Google Analytics when creating a goal; in the case of goals based on events, the value can be picked up from the 'event value' metric. Although expressed in dollars, the interpretation of value is down to you, so it can be useful to set comparative values for each of your goals so you can compare in a single figure how well different user segments or parts of your site are working.

Google AdWords

Google's online advertising service that presents adverts to users on Google's own and third-party websites and mobile devices.

Google Analytics

Google’s digital analytics tool that provides insights into user behaviour on websites and mobile apps.

Hit

The basic unit of data collection in Google Analytics, a hit is sent to your website each time you want Google Analytics to record the data. Pageviews are the most well-known type of hit, but you can also send others such as ecommerce transactions and events.

Hostname

The part of a website URL that identifies the site (or, more specifically, a host device on the network) rather than the page on the site. If you have a website hosted across multiple domains or subdomains, it can be useful to see the hostname in Google Analytics as well as the page path to avoid confusion where you have content hosted at the same path on more than one domain.

Landing Page

The first page viewed in a session, i.e., the page on which the entrance occurred. It is often useful to analyse the performance of landing pages as these are the first, and sometimes only, pages that users see.

Last-click

When a conversion occurs, this may be attributed to the marketing channel or medium that brought the user to your website or app in that session, i.e., on the 'last click'. It can be more powerful to consider attributing the conversion to the success of other channels or media that previously brought your users to your site in the run-up to the conversion.

Local product revenue

The product revenue in the currency of the transaction (the 'local' currency).

Medium

Along with source and campaign name, one of the three main dimensions for reporting and analysing what brought users to your website. The medium is the broadest of the dimensions and identifies the type of source for your website traffic, such as paid search, organic search, a referral from a third-party website, and so on.

Metric

One of two types of data that Google Analytics collects, a metric shows a count, percentage or another number. Metrics are the primary means of summarising the data collected in GA, but they can be broken down into one or more dimensions. In Google Analytics stranded reports, the metric(s) being shown run across the top of the table. See also dimension.

Organic Search

In the context of website traffic acquisition, refers to users following naturally occurring (not paid) links in search results pages on Google and other search engines. May also be referred to as 'SEO' (Search Engine Optimisation) in recognition of work done to improve the visibility of your site in search engine results pages.

Page

A web page on your site and, in Google Analytics standard reports, the path of that page, i.e., the part of the URL after the hostname. If your site is hosted across multiple domains or subdomains, it is helpful to create a filter on your view to alter the reported page to include the hostname.

Page value

Measures the extent to which each page contributed towards goal completions and ecommerce conversions allowing for the contributory value of pages to be compared. Calculated as the average goal value + ecommerce revenue generated in sessions in which each page was viewed.

Pages per session

The average number of pageviews in each session. A crude measure of user engagement.

Pageview

A page on your site having been viewed by a user. In Google Analytics reports, this metric shows the total number of times each page was viewed, showing which content is heavily viewed and which is rarely viewed.

Paid Search

In the context of website traffic acquisition, refers to users following links to your site in sponsored advertising copy such as Google AdWords.

Previous page path

A dimension available for reporting in Google Analytics showing the page viewed by a user immediately before the page being reported on. Useful for reviewing the internal navigation of users around your site.

Product revenue

The total revenue from purchased items reported to Google Analytics for an ecommerce transaction. This is translated into the global currency defined in the view settings.

Property

Created within a Google Analytics account, a property represents a website (or group of websites) or a mobile app. Data about website visits and app usage gets sent to a property and can be accessed through one or more 'views' (see View) which are created under the property.

Quantity

The number of products purchased in an ecommerce transaction, as reported by your site to Google Analytics.

Referral

In the context of website traffic acquisition, where a user has come to your site by clicking on a link on a third-party website (other than paid links, such as in an advert), this is known as a referral.

RegEx

See Regular expression

Regular expression

A powerful method of pattern matching in text strings, regular expressions can be used in many places in Google Analytics including view filters. These filter displayed results in reports, in segments, and elsewhere. Find out more in our RegExp blog.

Revenue

Sales revenue reported to Google Analytics in your ecommerce transactions. Note that figures shown for this metric in Google Analytics reports exclude any shipping and tax amounts.

Revenue per user

Total revenue divided by the number of users shows the average amount of money each user on your site is generating.

Segment

See advanced segment.

Self-referral

A referral that appears in a Google Analytics report as coming from your own website. This often occurs where your site is hosted across multiple domains. As Google Analytics will start a fresh session where it identifies traffic as being a referral, this is undesirable.

Session

A single visit to your website, which could consist of a number of pageviews along with associated events, ecommerce transactions and more. Identifying the boundary between sessions for users who return to your site is not trivial and may sometimes seem arbitrary; Google Analytics applies substantial logic to the task.

Site search

The use of the search function built into your website (if any) rather than a search of your content conducted on a public search engine such as Google. There are several standard reports on the use of site search built into Google Analytics to help you monitor and analyse the effectiveness of your search functionality. Find out more about the feature in this blogpost.

Social

In the context of website traffic acquisition, refers to users following links to your site from social media services such as Twitter and Facebook, whether this traffic is being generated organically or is being cultivated by you deliberately.

Source

Along with medium and campaign name, one of the three main dimensions for reporting and analysing what brought users to your website. The source is subordinate to the medium and identifies more precisely where your traffic came from. For instance, for a medium of referral, the source identifies which website the referral came from.

Transaction

A single ecommerce purchase on your website reported to Google Analytics. A single transaction may cover just a single item or a large shopping cart with many items. The number of transactions and the per-user and per-session transaction rates are often primary measures of success for ecommerce sites.

Transactions per user

The number of transactions divided by the number of users. Reporting on this metric broken down by type of user, products or other dimensions can help you identify where your site is performing well and where you have scope for improvement.

Unique pageview

A count of sessions in which a particular page was viewed; compared to pageviews, this metric is either 0 or 1 for each page in a session but is never more than 1 even if the page was viewed many times in that session.

User

A distinct individual browser to your website. One user can have visited your site in more than one session, each of which may have had several pageviews and other hits. Without User ID (see separate entry), distinct users can only be identified by their first-party browser cookie set by the Google Analytics code, which means that a single individual visiting your site from more than one browser or device will be recorded as more than one user.

User ID

A per-person unique identifier (such as a customer number in your CRM system) that can be sent by your site to Google Analytics to allow the service to associate sessions as being from the same user even on different browsers and devices. Using User ID allows for more accurate user counts and better analysis of the ways users interact with your site across different devices.

View

Within a Google Analytics property, there are one or more 'views' of the data in the property. A property can have different views showing all the data or filtered to just some of the data collected by the property, and can have different goals, ecommerce and other settings.