There are so many reports and so much data inside Google Analytics, but what does it all mean? Well, I’m going to help you understand the most important terminology you’ll find inside Google Analytics. Think of this as your Google Analytics dictionary. This is your quick-reference to the stuff that matters when you’re using reports and analyzing performance.
You can also download my Google Analytics Glossary PDF to keep on your hard drive or print out as a handy reference.
Your account is where everything lives inside Google Analytics. Think of it as the top-level folder that you access using your login details. In most cases you’ll have access to a single account that’s storing data for your website, but if you’re managing multiple websites that aren’t directly related, then these should be stored in separate accounts. For example if you're managing your company website and your personal blog. Accounts (and their assets) can be shared with multiple users.
You can understand how people find your website using the Acquisition reports. The reports present data based on the source and medium of your users, along with other acquisition dimensions. There are dedicated reports for your paid traffic from Google AdWords, organic traffic from Google (if you have linked your Google Search Console account), traffic from social networks and traffic from custom campaign tags.
The Real Time and Home reports show you how many people are currently viewing content on your website. Data is processed within a few seconds into the Real Time reports and you can view data for the previous 30 minutes. While the Active Users report (under ‘Audience’) tells you the number of unique users who performed sessions on your website within a certain number of days.
When viewing the Real Time reports, Active Pages shows you the pages people are currently viewing on your website. When someone navigates to another page or closes their browser the page that was shown as active will be removed from the Real Time reports.
Google’s machine learning identifies trends and changes in your data. For example, if there is a sudden increase in traffic to your website this will be highlighted by Analytics Intelligence. The feature also allows you to ask questions, like ‘What is my best landing page?’ to quickly find answers.
There are a number of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that you can use to access data from Google Analytics. They can be used to access your data outside the Google Analytics interface, including in Google Sheets and your own custom applications. APIs include the Core Reporting API to access data from the standard reports, the Real Time Reporting API to access live data, the Multi-Channel Funnels API to access attribution data, plus the Embed API, the Metadata API and the Management API.
Inside the 'Multi-Channel Funnels' reports you will find assisted conversions which show you the channels which later led to a conversion. For example, if a user came to the website from Twitter and then later from Google AdWords, Twitter would be counted as an ‘assisted conversion’. The reports also allow you to view assisted conversions based on other dimensions, including campaign, source, medium, landing page and more.
Attribution allows you to control how credit for a particular conversion is given to the marketing channels that led to the action taking place. Google Analytics provides a variety of attribution models in the ‘Multi-Channel Funnels’ and ‘Attribution’ reports. Attribution takes into account the channels (and traffic sources) used across multiple sessions for a user. You can set the amount of historical data included in the reports using the lookback window. See also first interaction and last interaction.
You can configure custom audiences to see more granular metrics inside your reports. For example, if you’re considering running a remarketing campaign you can create an audience to monitor current performance before you begin advertising. You can find the Audiences report under ‘Audience’.
Average Session Duration
Provides a top-level view of how long users are spending on your website. For example, if you had two users, one that spent 3 minutes on your website and another that spent 1 minute, then you would have an average session duration of 2 minutes. Google Analytics does not count time for the last page viewed during a session. This means that average session duration will tend to be skewed lower than the actual amount of time people are spending on your website.
A bounce is reported when a user’s session only contains a single pageview. The idea is that someone comes to your website and they ‘bounce’ away and leave after only viewing a single page.
Bounce rate is the percentage of sessions with a single pageview. Bounce rate can provide top-level insights about the performance of your content. For example, if you want people to travel on to view a subsequent page on your website, then you can aim to lower your bounce rate. It’s also important to apply context when analyzing bounce rate, since some pages will deliver all of the information somebody is looking for on a single page, for example, a store locator or a blog post.
Calculated metrics allow you to create your own metrics that are based on the default metrics available within your reports. For example, you can create your own calculated metric that divides goal completions by users to create a user goal conversion rate which is not the same as the default session-based goal conversion rate. Learn more about calculated metrics. See also metric.
Campaign name is one of the four main dimensions (along with source, medium and channel) for reporting and analyzing marketing campaigns. The campaign name is provided when you use a campaign tagged URL for your inbound marketing or from your Google AdWords campaigns (when Google AdWords is linked to Google Analytics).
Inbound marketing can be tracked and reported by Google Analytics using campaign tags. Extra details (query parameters) are added to the ends of URLs which are then included in the Acquisition reports. Campaign tags include campaign name, source, medium, term and content. Learn more about campaign tags.
Channels provide top-level groupings of your inbound marketing. Each channel combines source and medium so you can understand overall performance. For example, the default channel grouping includes ‘Organic Search’, ‘Paid Search’, ‘Social’ and ‘Email’ which automatically combines pre-defined sources and mediums. You can also configure your own custom channel groupings.
Google Analytics uses a unique identifier, called ‘Client ID’ to report and analyze the behavior of individuals on your website. By default, the identifier is randomly assigned and is stored in a browser cookie on the users’ device. See also User Explorer.
The Cohort Analysis report shows you users segmented by date. For example, you can use the report to see when users are acquired and when they return to your website.
You can configure content groups to classify each page of your website into a particular category. This allows you to perform top-level reporting and analysis on your pages based on your own content classifications. You can create content groups by modifying your tracking code, by extracting details from your pages or by creating rules.
After uploading third-party advertising data (see Data Import) you can then compare the performance of your advertising based on a range of metrics including; click-through rate, cost-per-click, revenue-per-click, and return on advertising spend.
Cost-per-click or CPC can be seen in the Acquisition reports and typically refers to people clicking through to your website from paid ads. This includes traffic from linked Google AdWords accounts and campaign tagged URLs where the medium has been defined as ‘cpc’ or ‘paid’.
Custom Dimension / Custom Metric
In addition to the default dimensions and metrics, Google Analytics can be configured to collect additional data and make it available in your reports. For example, you could configure a custom dimension to report the authors of each page on your website, to understand performance based on who is creating content.
Apart from the default (or system) segments, you can also create custom segments to filter the data that is (or is not) included in your reports. Segments can be configured to focus on particular sections of your traffic based on users and sessions. For example, you can create a custom segment to perform more detailed analysis on your top-performing customers to understand how they’re engaging with your website.
You can import additional data into Google Analytics to supplement and extend the standard dimensions and metrics. You can import a range of data including Cost Data from advertising campaigns, Refund Data for ecommerce transactions, User Data, Campaign Data, Geography Data, Content Data, Product Data and Custom Data.
In order to comply with privacy regulations, you can set a data retention period in Google Analytics. By default, data that can identify unique individuals, like Client ID, will be removed after 26 months. The data retention period can be set to 14, 26, 38, or 50 months, and you also have the option of keeping the data by selecting ‘do not expire automatically’. Aggregated data will continue to be available in your reports even after the data retention period.
Google Analytics can be configured to include user demographics, like age and gender. In order to collect demographic data into your reports you need to enable the ‘Advertising Features’ by navigating to ‘Admin’, then ‘Tracking Info’ and selecting ‘Data Collection’.
Device category allows you to view performance based on the different devices people are using to experience your website. You can see sessions occurring on desktop (which also includes laptop devices), tablet and mobile.
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 website. Dimensions are typically presented as a row of information within your reports. Examples of dimensions include page path, which provides information about the pages people have viewed and marketing channel which provide information about how people found your website. You’ll find the dimension presented in the first column inside the standard Google Analytics reports. See also metric.
Direct traffic includes people who typed your website’s URL into their browser or clicked a link in an email application (that didn’t include campaign tags). Direct sessions will also include other cases where Google Analytics is unable to identify the source of the click. Google Analytics will only assign 'direct' as a last resort when a known source is used, that source will be attributed to the session.
An ecommerce conversion occurs when someone successfully purchases during a session. Google Analytics has a range of ecommerce dimensions and metrics to report on your website’s ecommerce activity. See also transaction.
The first page that someone views during a session is known as an entrance. You can see the number of times a page was viewed first using the ‘entrance’ metric. This metric is similar to sessions but can vary when multiple hit types are sent to Google Analytics.
A custom interaction (or attribute) that is tracked from your website into Google Analytics, for example, tracking plays of an embedded video. Each event can include up to three dimensions (the event ‘category’, ‘action’ and optional ‘label’) and a metric (the optional event ‘value’). Events require custom implementation to be tracked and are then reported inside the standard ‘Behavior’ reports. Events can also be used to configure event-based goals.
Filters can be applied to reporting views inside Google Analytics to include a subset of data (for example, only include data for particular parts of the website) or exclude a subset of data (for example, excluding your own sessions on the website) or to transform the data (for example, to modify the reported page path to include the hostname).
First Interaction (or First-Click)
First interaction gives credit for a conversion to the first method that somebody used to find your website. The ‘Model Comparison Tool’ allows you to apply the first interaction (and other attribution models to your conversions). It’s important to know that there is a limit to the amount of historical data included in the attribution reports (see lookback window). There will also be other impacts on first interaction data, for example, people clearing their cookies or using multiple devices. See also attribution.
Goals are used to track desired actions on your website. For example, subscribing to your email newsletter, submitting an inquiry or registering as a member. Goals can be configured inside Google Analytics and can be based on people traveling to a particular page (or pages), triggering an event, sessions of a certain duration or viewing a certain number of pages.
Destination (or page-based) goals can be configured to include additional pages leading to a conversion (funnel steps). If somebody views at least one of the funnel steps without converting, they will be considered as abandoning the goal and be included in the goal abandonment metric.
When a user converts for a particular goal during a session they’ll be counted as a goal completion. If a goal is completed multiple times during a user’s session, it will only be counted as a single conversion.
Goal Completion Location
This dimension reports the particular page where a conversion occurred for a destination (or page-based) goal. This is especially useful if you’re including multiple conversion pages for a goal. The goal completion location will also show you the page that was viewed when an event-based or engagement-based (duration and pages per session) goal was triggered.
An optional dollar value can be set for each goal inside Google Analytics. The goal value can be used to report on an actual dollar value, a calculated value or a symbolic value for each conversion. The event-based goal allows you to pull the event’s ‘value’, the other goal types use a fixed (or static) value for each conversion.
Google's paid advertising platform, allowing you to display ads to people searching on Google, third-party search sites (Google Search Partners) and browsing websites and using mobile apps (Google Display Network). Check out our accompanying Google Ads Glossary as a reference for your paid campaigns.
See Google Ads.
Ummm… Yeah, Google’s digital analytics tool that provides insights into user behavior on websites and mobile apps.
Google Data Studio
Google's reporting and dashboarding tool allows you to present and visualize data from Google Analytics, Google Sheets and other data sources.
Google's A/B and multivariate testing tool, allows you to test different variations of content to increase conversions and improve conversion rate.
When signals are enabled in Google Analytics aggregated data will be used to populate the Cross Device reports.
Google Tag Manager
A system for managing the deployment of tracking and other tags on your website. Google Tag Manager allows tags to be tested on your website before being deployed live and is designed to reduce the dependence on IT for managing tracking tags.
Is the way data is sent to Google Analytics before it’s processed into your reports. The most common type of hit occurs when a page is viewed on your website. Hits are also sent to Google Analytics for other types of interactions, including events.
You can view your audience’s areas of interest by enabling ‘Advertising Features’ (navigate to ‘Admin’, then ‘Tracking Info’ and selecting ‘Data Collection’). The categories within the Interests reports align to the Interest targeting options available in Google Ads.
Google Analytics provide details about the keywords people use to find your website. The organic keywords report shows you the terms people used to find your website when clicking on a free result from a search engine. A lot of organic keyword traffic is shown as ‘not provided’ which means that the individual keyword was hidden by the search engine (see also not provided). The paid keywords report shows you keywords from linked Google AdWords accounts and campaign tagged URLs using the ‘term’ parameter.
Lifetime Value (LTV)
The lifetime value metrics, including lifetime revenue per user and lifetime revenue, show you the total value based on users, instead of sessions.
The part of your website’s URL that identifies where the Google Analytics tracking code was loaded. For example, if someone viewed https://www.example.com/contact then Google Analytics would report on www.example.com as the hostname. Viewing the hostnames in Google Analytics can be especially useful if you’ve installed the tracking code on multiple domains (or subdomains).
The landing page is the first page viewed during a session, or in other words, the entrance page. It can be useful to review your landing pages to understand the most popular pages people view as they navigate to your website. This can be used to identify potential opportunities to cross-promote or feature other content from your website. See also entrance.
Last Interaction (or Last-Click)
When a user converts on your website, the last method they used to find your website is reported as the last interaction leading to the conversion. The ‘Model Comparison Tool’ allows you to attribute conversions to the last interaction to understand the channels that are better as closing (or completing) conversions. See also attribution.
Local Product Revenue
The product revenue in the local currency of the transaction.
The lookback window allows you to control the amount of historical data that is included when using the attribution reports. For example, setting a lookback window of 14 days will include touchpoints up to 14 days before the conversion occurred. Any touchpoint outside of the lookback window won't be included in the report. The default lookback window is 30 day, but it can be set between 1 and 90 days. See also attribution.
The Measurement Protocol allows hits to be sent directly to Google Analytics without needing to use the Google Analytics tracking code or Google Tag Manager. This can be used to send data from any internet-enabled device to Google Analytics. For example, the Measurement Protocol can be used to send data from a point of sale terminal in a store, a self-service kiosk or gaming console.
Medium is one of the four main dimensions (along with source, campaign and channel) for reporting and analyzing how people found your website. Medium tells you how the message was communicated. For example, ‘organic’ for free search traffic, ‘cpc’ for cost-per-click and ‘referral’ for inbound links from other websites.
One of two types of data that Google Analytics collects, a metric is typically a number, like a count or a percentage. Metrics are typically presented as columns of data within your reports. Examples of metrics include pageviews, which tells you the total number of pages that were viewed and users which tell you how many people viewed your website. See also dimension.
People that visit your website for the first time in the selected date range. Since users are based on the Google Analytics tracking code and browser cookies, it’s important to highlight that people who cleared their cookies or access your website using a different device will be reported as a new user. See also user.
In the organic keywords report, not provided indicates that a search engine prevented the individual keyword from being reported. The majority of not provided organic keywords come from Google search results, where anybody performing a search on the secure version of Google (e.g. https://www.google.com) will have their individual organic keyword withheld from analytics tools, including Google Analytics.
Not set can be seen in a number of different reports and indicates that a particular piece of information is not available within the report. For example, in the Location report, not set indicates that Google Analytics was unable to determine someone’s exact geographic location when they accessed your website. While not set in the Source/Medium report occurs when a campaign tagged URL hasn’t been fully constructed (for example, if ‘source’ isn’t defined it will be displayed as not set within the report).
Organic refers to people clicking on a free link from a search results page. For example, people clicking through to your website from a free result on a Google search results page.
The page shows the part of the URL after your domain name (path) when someone has viewed content on your website. For example, if someone views https://www.example.com/contact then /contact will be reported as the page inside the Behavior reports.
Allows you to understand the impact of your website’s pages in driving value based on ecommerce transactions and goal conversions (where a goal value has been set). Each page that led to a conversion shares the value that was generated by the conversion.
Pages Per Session
A top-level metric for user engagement showing the average number of pageviews in each session.
A pageview is reported when a page has been viewed by a user on your website. In the Google Analytics pages report, by default, your pages are ordered by popularity based on pageviews. This allows you to see which content is being viewed most often.
PII (Personally Identifiable Information)
According to the Google Analytics Terms of Service, you are prevented from collecting PII (personally identifiable information) into your reports. This includes email addresses, full names and other personal details. However, according to the Terms of Service you are able to collect IDs that can then be linked to individuals outside of Google Analytics.
Percentage of New Sessions
Shows the percentage of sessions for people who have not previously been to your website. The metric is calculated by dividing the number of new users by the total number of sessions. For example, if 100 people visited your website for the first time out of a total of 200 sessions, then the percentage of new sessions would be reported as 50%. See also new user.
Previous Page Path
Previous page path is a dimension that allows you to see the page viewed immediately before another page within a session. Previous page path can be useful for reviewing navigation paths people are using between individual pages on your website.
The revenue from item(s) included in an ecommerce transaction.
Properties are created within a Google Analytics account. Each property represents an instance of the tracking ID used to collect data from a website, group of websites, a mobile app or the Measurement Protocol. Each property will include data sent to the associated tracking ID. Once data has been collected it is processed in the reporting view (or views) created under the property. See also tracking ID.
The number of products purchased in an ecommerce transaction.
A referral is reported when a user clicks through to your website from another third-party website. The referrals report allows you to see all of the websites (by domain) that are sending you traffic. You can also drill-down into the referrals report to view the ‘Referral Path’ which allows you to see the individual pages linking to your website.
Regular Expression (or Regex)
An advanced method of pattern matching in text strings. Regular expressions can be used in various places inside Google Analytics including view filters, goals, segments, table filters and more. Learn more about regular expressions.
Sales revenue reported from transactions that have been tracked by Google Analytics. The revenue figures can include shipping and tax depending on the ecommerce tracking code that has been implemented.
Revenue Per User
Total revenue divided by the number of users shows the average amount generated for each user.
In order to speed up the processing of reports, a portion of data is used to extrapolate (or estimate) the complete set of data for the report. Sampling occurs when you request specific data in your reports when there are more than 500,000 sessions in the property for the selected date range. The easiest way to reduce sampling is to reduce the selected date range.
The actual term somebody used in a search engine before clicking through to your website. Depending on the report, the terms can be from paid ads (inside the AdWords reports), or from Google organic search results (inside the Search Console reports).
If your website has an internal search function you can configure the Site Search reports to show the particular terms people are using as they search your website. See also site search.
Referrals coming from your own website are called ‘self-referrals’. This can occur if there is a page (or pages) on your website that doesn’t have the Google Analytics tracking code installed. For example, if a page is missing the tracking code or if your website spans multiple domains. In most cases, you will want to correct the tracking issue to remove (or reduce) the self-referrals. This is because a new session is created when someone clicks from the page (or pages) causing the self-referral.
A single visit to your website, consisting of one or more pageviews, along with events, ecommerce transactions and other interactions. The default session timeout is 30 minutes, which means that if someone is inactive on your website for over 30 minutes, then a new session will be reported if they perform another interaction, for example, viewing another page. See also average session duration and percentage of new sessions.
Google Analytics can be configured to track people using your website’s internal search function. The site search reports allow you to see the search terms people are using, repeat searches, search categories, the pages people begin searching from and the percentage of sessions that included a search. Learn more about configuring site search.
If you’re unable to manually configure your own goals, then you can make use of Google’s machine learning to identify sessions that are most likely to result in a conversion. See also goal.
Social appears as a marketing channel (in the default channel grouping) in the Acquisition reports which automatically includes traffic coming from social media, including Twitter and Facebook. The Acquisition reports also include a dedicated set of social reports to further analyze and report on the performance of your inbound social traffic.
Google Analytics can be configured to track people engaging with social sharing widgets embedded within your website. The social plugins report then allows you to report on the pages people are on when they use your social sharing widgets, the social networks they use and the actions they’ve taken.
Source is one of the four main dimensions (along with medium, campaign and channel) for reporting and analyzing how people found your website. Source tells you where the message was seen. For example, a source of ‘google’ would indicate that someone found your website after performing a search on Google. Source can be used in combination with medium for more granular insights, for example, a source of ‘google’ and a medium of ‘cpc’ would be reported for paid clicks from your AdWords campaigns. See also medium.
A single purchase on your website reported inside Google Analytics. Each transaction can include one or more items that were purchased during checkout and each transaction is associated with a transaction ID which is sent to Google Analytics from your ecommerce system using special ecommerce tracking code. The number of transactions, along with total revenue and ecommerce conversion rate are generally the primary measures of success for an ecommerce website. Each ecommerce transaction can include details about the total transaction value, items purchased, shipping details and more.
In order to send hits to the appropriate property inside Google Analytics, a tracking ID is included in the tracking code (or Google Tag Manager tag). The tracking ID starts with ‘UA’, followed by a series of numbers, for example, UA-123456-1. The number between the dashes is a unique identifier for the Google Analytics account and the number at the end identifies a property within the account. See also property.
Transactions Per User
The number of transactions divided by the number of users. This metric can provide insights into how well your website is performing based on ecommerce transactions.
Counts a page once even if it was viewed multiple times within a single session. For example, if someone landed on your homepage, then viewed the ‘about us’ page and then navigated back to your homepage, the homepage would have 1 unique pageview (even though the page was viewed twice during the session).
An individual person browsing your website (technically, a unique browser cookie). Each user can visit your website multiple times, for example, 1 user could create 3 sessions on your website, with each session containing multiple pageviews. By default, each unique browser cookie will be counted as a separate user which means someone visiting your website on multiple devices (each with their own browser cookie) will mean more than 1 user is reported. The User ID feature allows you to track unique individuals that identify themselves on multiple devices.
The User Explorer report allows you to view the cookie IDs that have been created in people’s browsers. This allows you to see how people interact with your website across multiple sessions.
The Users Flow report is a visual representation of how users navigate and interact with your website. For example, you can see the paths people take as they view the content on your website after they land.
A unique identifier used to combine sessions from a known person on your website. When you can identify someone (for example, using a ID from your CRM or another system) you can send an ID to Google Analytics to enable a special set of cross-device reports. While this provides a more accurate user count, since someone needs to be identified (for example, by logging into your website), only a portion of your users will be included in these reports.
UTM tags are the individual query parameters used to make up a campaign tagged URL. The UTM tags include utm_name, utm_source, utm_medium, utm_term, utm_content and the lesser known utm_id. UTM stands for 'Urchin Traffic Monitor' (Urchin was the precursor to Google Analytics). See also campaign tags.
Within each Google Analytics property, there are one or more reporting views which contain data from your website. Views can contain a complete set of data from the tracking code or a subset of data (using filters). Each reporting view has its own goals and other configurations.
Get the Google Analytics Glossary PDF
You can also download our Google Analytics Glossary PDF to keep in on your hard drive or print out for a quick and handy desk reference.
And check out our accompanying Google Ads Glossary as a quick reference for your paid campaigns.
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