Google Analytics Definitions
This article attempts to clarify definitions for common terms used in Google Analytics.
- With Google Analytics, a hit is ANY request sent to the GA data collection system. This includes pageviews, events, custom variables, measurement protocol uploads, etc.
You can backup your Google Analytics data by keeping a copy of the hits sent to Google. There are many good reasons to do this, as explained here: backup your Google Analytics data
- A pageview is recorded every time a page is viewed. Or, more technically, a pageview is recorded every time the Google Analytics pageview tracking method is executed. When a visitor hits the back button, a pageview is recorded. When a visitor hits refresh, a pageview is recorded. Every time a page is opened in the browser, regardless of whether it has been cached, a pageview is recorded. (Of course this assumes the tracking code is on the page in question.)
- A visit consists of a series of pageviews that a single visitor makes during a period of activity. A visit ends after the visitor either closes the browser, clears cookies, or is inactive for 30 minutes. (The timeout length is customizable in the tracking code settings)
- Visitors are defined by a unique ID - this ID is usually stored in a visitor's cookies. Whenever the tracking code is executed, it looks for cookies on the browser set by the current domain. If they can't be found, new cookies with a new ID are set. Google Analytics emphasizes visits over visitors because of the inherent inaccuracies of trying to track individual users. For example, a visitor who deletes their cookies, uses multiple browsers or shares their computer will show up inaccurately.
- A visit with one pageview. It doesn't matter how long the visitor was on the page or how they left. Technically, it's a visit with only one interaction.
- Time on Page
- Time on page is measured by subtracting the time a visitor hit a page from the time they hit the next page. (e.g. If they hit Page 1 at 12:00 and hit Page 2 at 12:03, time on Page 1 is three minutes.) This means that the time on page for the last page in a visit is always zero because Google Analytics doesn't track pages being closed.
- Time on Site
- This is the sum of the time on page for all pageviews in a visit. Or, more accurately, it is the difference between the time they viewed the first page and last page in a visit. Note that viewing pages in different tabs doesn't affect this. Google Analytics simply sees a string of pages being viewed in chronological order, without any reference to multiple tabs or windows.
- New Visitor
- A visitor who did not have Google Analytics cookies when they hit the first page in this visit. 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 cookies from a previous visit.
- Dollar Index
- A measurement of how influential a page is to conversion. The higher the number, the more frequently it was viewed prior to a purchase or conversion. It's calculated by taking the goal conversion value or transaction value of a visit and applying it evenly to all the pages prior to that conversion. Seen in aggregate, it just attempts to correlate pages to conversions.
- Pageviews divided by visits. This metric shows the average number of pages viewed per visit.
- Direct Traffic
- Ideally, this is the traffic that came to a site via bookmarks or by directly typing in the URL. In reality, it is the traffic for which the code couldn't determine a source. Depending on the site and the browser, some links may not show a referrer and instead would be categorized as direct. Using campaign variables will get around this misrepresentation every time.
- Referring Sites
- This is traffic for which (1) a referrer was identified, (2) the referrer is not a search engine and (3) there are no campaign variables. The referring URL (a.k.a. the page that contains the link to your website) is also stored for referrals.
- Search Engine Traffic
- Google Analytics automatically categorizes traffic as coming from a search engine if the referring URL is from its list of known search engines and there is a search term identified in that URL. Both organic and paid search engine traffic is put into this group.
- Event Tracking
- A feature that allows you to track visitor activities separately from pageviews. This is commonly used to track interaction with AJAX or Flash content.
- Google Analytics API
- The API extracts data from Google Analytics accounts. It allows customers to programmatically extract Google Analytics data and incorporate it with 3rd party applications and/or databases.
Google Analytics for Intranets
Does your company use Google Analytics to track Intranet websites? If so, there's a slight problem:Google Analytics isn't designed for Intranets