Last updated: October 2020
Lost in the jungle of sessions, impressions and bounce rates? As the terminology in web analytics and digital marketing is constantly evolving, here’s a glossary of the most important terms, dimensions and metrics that you might have to know.
The terms are listed in alphabetical order and especially suitable for analytics in Google’s tools (Google Analytics, Ads etc.).
Hint: use this glossary as a last training session before doing your Google Analytics certificate (GAIQ). By fully understanding these concepts and terms you will be a true analytics hero!
Is something here completely missing or want to send us feedback? We’re happy to hear it.
Web Analytics: general
Most common terms used Google Analytics. Check out also Google Support Glossary for analytics.
% Exit is a metric in analytics, calculated as number of exits / number of pageviews.
In Google Analytics, account usually refers to a company/organization that owns an analytics account. All sites of the account owner are usually measured to the same account in Google Analytics.
App + Web
App + Web is a new property type and way to measure in Google Analytics: enables effective app & web measurement. Still in beta, but will be the new standard in the future. Read our blog post about App + Web here (in Finnish).
An assisted conversion is assigned to a source that did not directly lead to the conversion but contributed to its generation during the user path. Assisted conversion analysis gives more comprehensive view on how different channels affect on conversions indirectly. Assisted conversions can be analysed in Multi-channel funnels report in Google Analytics.
Also: first interaction, last interaction, linear, position based (U-curve), time decay
An attribution model is the rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for conversions is assigned to different touch points in conversion paths.
In Google Analytics, it is possible to compare different attribute models with each other in the model comparison tool.
A few attribute models are listed below. Learn more about the different attribute models here.
- First interaction: the sale/conversion is given for the first known source of traffic. No credits are given to the other sources of traffic.
- Last interaction: the sale/conversion is given for the traffic source from which the converted traffic came. Also in this model: no credit is given to other sources.
- Linear: each touchpoint gets an equal value in the conversion path.
- Position based (“U” curve): the conversion value is assigned to the first and last touch point on the conversion path, and the remaining values are assigned evenly to the channels in the middle of the conversion path.
- Time Decay: touch points closest to the conversion get the most conversion value.
Also: bounce rate, adjusted bounce rate
Bounce is a single-page session on your site. In GA, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session. Usually a big number of bounces tells us about low quality traffic.
Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.
Campaign is a dimension in analytics: which campaign was the source of traffic related to?
Also: default channel grouping
Channels are used for categorization of traffic sources in GA. Default channel grouping is a ready-made channel categorization made by Google, defined by using existing variables in traffic sources. Read more about channel grouping here.
Content is a dimension in analytics: what kind of content was the source of traffic related to? Content can be an ad type or message used in advertising. Content is usually marked with UTM parameters to the URL.
Also: conversion rate %, goal conversion rate, eCommerce conversion rate
Conversion is any kind of event that is set as a target by site owner. In eCommerce sites, this is usually a purchase event (transaction). Sites can have other conversion events too, which are usually set as goals in Google Analytics.
Conversion rate tells you the percentage of visits that include conversion, i.e., “converts”.
Goal conversion rate means the conversion rate of goals. eCommerce conversion rate means the conversion rate of e-commerce purchases (transactions).
Also: device category
Device is a dimension in analytics, categorized as mobile, tablet, and desktop.
Also: custom dimension
A dimension is a feature that allows metrics to be viewed and categorized. Value is usually text, for example: browser (Chrome, Firefox, IE, etc.), device type (Desktop, Mobile, Tablet), or traffic source (organic search, specific campaign, etc.).
A custom dimension is information that does not exist by default in GA, such as the author of the article or the login status. Custom dimension is created from GA’s admin settings and tagging (read the definition below).
Entrances is a metric in analytics: the number of times user started a session through a specific page.
Also: unique events, event category, event action, event label
Event is an analytics term for different site interactions (other than page loads), such as video watches, outbound link clicks or social shares. Events tells you how many times a specific event hit was sent. Unique events tells you how many sessions included this event.
For each event hit, 3 variables are defined: category (e.g. outbound links), action (click) and label (URL to which the link leads).
With Google’s tools, events are usually created in Google Tag Manager. Events can be seen in GA in a report Behavior – Events.
Filters are tools for analyzing data.
Filters can be used to decide which part of the data is included in the analytics (include). These can also be used to decide which part of the data to exclude (exclude). Filters can also be used to change how the data looks in the report (search & replace). Filters are always run in the order in which they are listed.
GAIQ (Google Analytics Individual Qualification)
GAIQ is a Google certificate that requires basic knowledge of Google Analytics use. Certificate should be updated yearly. Can be made in Google Skillshop.
Also: goal conversion, smart goal, goal funnel, goal value
Goal is a target that a site owner hopes to reach (other than transaction). Goals are often defined on the basis of a KPI plan. Other names for goals can be used, such as target or conversion point. Examples of goals: newsletter sign-ups, offer requests or contact request (leads).
Goal Conversion means a completed goal (other than transaction). Goal Conversion only happens once per visit, no matter how many times the goal is met.
Smart Goal is a goal type used to optimize Google Ads for sites that don’t have other conversion points defined. The Smart Goals tries to distinguish good sessions from bad sessions, e.g. based on the length of the visit, the location of the device and the visitor by using machine learning.
Goal funnel refers to pages that lead to a conversion.
Goal Value means the monetary value defined in a goal in analytics.
Google Analytics API
Also: reporting API v4, management API
Google Analytics API (application programming interface) can be used when you want to access settings or results past the GA interface.
Reporting API v4: Access results without an interface, e.g., results directly into Excel, or GA results automatically for another tool’s use.
Management API: A tool for editing GA settings for large enterprises with a lot of views. Filters, goals, user rights, Ads-links, etc.
Google Data Studio
Google Data Studio is a free data visualisation tool for reporting and making better insights from data. Google Tools data can be exported directly to Data Studio, e.g.
- Google Analytics
- Google Ads
- Google Sheets
With the help of separate (paid) connectors, other data sources can also be imported into Data Studio, e.g.
- Social media
Google Tag Manager (GTM)
GTM is Google’s tool for creating and managing site tracking (i.e. tag management). With GTM, tags are in one place in their own tool and interface – otherwise, tags should be managed directly in site’s source code. In GTM, tags can be combined and rules created to build events. GTM data is imported into Google Analytics which analyzes the data collected by the tag manager.
Interaction (hit) is any kind of interaction on webpage which sends data to analytics (often Google Analytics). Hit is the measurement “molecule”: all Google Analytics data is basically made up of hits. Important hit types include e.g. pageview, event or purchase from an online store (transaction).
Keyword is a dimension in analytics: with what keyword did the visitor come to the site? Organic keywords from Google search engine can be followed effectively from Google Search Console tool, which can be linked to Google Analytics.
Landing page is the first page of the session, i.e. the start page where user “lands”.
Last-non-direct-model is an attribution model used by GA. It gives the conversion value to the traffic source through which user made a conversion, excluding direct traffic. In other words: the last non-direct source of traffic earns the conversion. Read more about the channel definitions below.
Manual tagging, auto-tagging
Manual tagging is often done for campaign traffic that would not otherwise be identified in analytics (email, social media). This is made by adding UTM parameters to the target links. Read more about UTMs below
Auto-tagging is used for Google Ads campaigns by linking an Ads account to a Google Analytics account. When Auto-tagging is turned on, Ads automatically sends campaign information using the gclid parameter in the destination link. When this is done, there is no need for manual tagging.
Medium is a dimension in analytics; how did the visitor come to the site? E.g. Organic, cpc, email. Medium’s purpose is to tell the traffic type in general, not specific page names (source). Often shown as a dimension pair “source / medium” in GA.
Also: custom metric
Metric always has a numeric value, such as: visits, page views, or conversion rate.
A custom metric is a metric that does not exist by default in GA, such as the number of comments posted or the number of videos viewed. Custom metric is created in GA’s admin settings and tagging.
Multi channel funnels
Multi Channel Funnels reports tell you what different traffic sources have been in the purchase path before the purchase/conversion. The conversion value is given to the source through which user came on the purchase session. An assisted conversion value is assigned to each pre-purchase source. Read more about the assisted conversions above.
Pages / Session
Pages/Session is the average number of pages viewed during one session. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
Also: unique pageview, time on page
A pageview (or pageview hit, page tracking hit) is an instance of a page being loaded (or reloaded) in a browser. Pageviews is a metric defined as the total number of pages viewed. A pageview is defined as a view of a page on your site – if a user clicks reload after reaching the page, this is counted as an additional pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview is recorded as well.
Unique pageview aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session. A unique pageview represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times.
Time on page: average time between two pageviews.
PII (Personally Identifiable Information)
PII means information that makes possible to identify an individual. Google’s definition:
“Google interprets PII as information that could be used on its own to directly identify, contact, or precisely locate an individual.”
The kind of information in analytics is prohibited. PII may contain email addresses, personal identification numbers or name information.
Property usually refers to a single site that has been added to a GA analytics account. This site has its own unique UA code (analytics ID) that is used for site measurement and tag management.
Remarketing means reaching (advertising to) those who have visited your site or app content before. Messages can be personalized based on purchase behavior (shopping cart abandonders) or engagement (video watchers) for example. Usually this increases the performance of advertising.
Implementation without GA: A snippet of code (a “remarketing tag”) should be placed on pages you wish to reach later on elsewhere in the Google Network for remarketing.
Implementation with GA: no additional tags are needed. Audiences can be created with GA segments.
For remarketing, you must turn on Advertiser Features in GA’s Property settings. Make sure that your privacy settings are in place – in other words, you are marketing and collecting data only from those who give it permission. Read more here.
Also: standard reports, custom reports
A report presents the data in the desired format. Standard reports in Google Analytics are Real-time (what’s happening on the site right now?), Audience (what kind of audience?), Acquisition (where did the traffic come from?), Behavior (what did they do?) and Conversions (how valuable were they – did they reach the goal?).
Custom reports means self-created reports in GA. Custom reports can be used when you want to cross-table results or display only part of the data.
Scope means the level of dimension or metric at which these are measured. Scope levels are user, session, hit, or product. Example: traffic sources are calculated in analytics per session and pageviews are calculated per hits.
Dimensions and metrics are can be cross-tabulated only when they have the same scope. Example: the number of sessions sorted by page names produces misleading data because page names are counted per hit (pageview), not per session.
Segmenting means splitting GA data into session-based or user-based groups based on certain terms. Segments are often used for user research or building remarketing audiences. Segments never edit the data in GA – only separate part of it for special viewing.
Segments can be session or user-based. In those cases, segment data is calculated per session or per user.
Also: average session duration
A session (old term: visit) is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. A single session can contain multiple page views, events, social interactions and ecommerce transactions. By default, if a user is inactive for 30 minutes or more, any future activity is attributed to a new session. Users that leave your site and return within 30 minutes are counted as part of the original session.
Average session duration: total duration of all sessions (in seconds) / number of sessions.
A source is a dimension in analytics: where (from what site) did the user come to the site? For example: a search engine (Google), a blog that links to a site (exampleblog.com). Source’s purpose is to show exactly where the traffic comes from with page names, not the general traffic type (medium). Often shown as a dimension pair “Source / Medium” in GA.
A tag is a piece of code created for site measurement. Tag is installed in the source code of a site to collect data. Tagging often refers to the creation and management of tags. A tagging plan (measurement plan) is usually a plan for implementing tags on a site: what elements are measured and how?
Transaction is a fulfilled goal in e-commerce: sometimes “eCommerce conversion”. There can be multiple transactions during a single session.
Also: new user, returning user, user ID
A user is a visitor who has initiated a session on your website. The moment a person lands on any page of your site, they are identified as either a new or returning user.
Google Analytics differentiates between new and returning users based on visitors’ browser cookies. New user is a visitor has never been to your site before (or he/she has removed all the cookies since the last visit or the cookie has expired). Returning user is user recognized with the old cookie data.
If the site uses login, User ID measurement is used to measure users. In this case, the visitor is identified by login, not by cookies. The same visitor can then be identified across different devices and browsers with an anonymous user ID.
UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters are tools in manual tagging to separate traffic data in analytics. UTM parameters are snippets of information added to campaign links that GA identifies and categorizes in analytics. Campaign measurement with UTMs provides information on how different marketing campaigns work compared to other traffic sources.
The UTM parameters are as follows:
- Utm_source: where do visitors come from? (Eg YouTube, Facebook, newsletter)
- Utm_medium: how do visitors come? (Eg email, social, display, partner site)
- Utm_campaign: which campaign is in question? (E.g. Christmas campaign 2020)
- Utm_content: ad details (e.g. which call-to-action copy used)
- Utm_term: what search term is used in the ad?
It is recommended to use at least the source, medium, and campaign parameters. UTM parameters can be easily added to links using the Google Campaign URL Builder or self-made Excel.
View is a “result folder” in Google Analytics. It often refers to a portion of site traffic or content for which you want to create your own view in analytics. Examples:
- Part of site traffic (e.g. specific language, subsection, audience)
- Alternative version of the data (e.g. useless parameters removed from page names)
It is often a good idea to keep at least one view with no filters added for backup.
Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of user data on web properties. It’s goal is to understand and optimize web usage and customer experience.
Web Analytics: default traffic channels (default channel grouping)
Read more about technical channel definitions in Google Analytics here.
|Traffic from affiliate marketing.|
Traffic directly to the site such as typing URL to the browser or clicking to the page via bookmarks. Refers also to unrecognized traffic sources in Google Analytics (e.g emails without campaign tracking, traffic from unknown sources).
|Traffic from display ad campaigns (run in Google Ads, Adform or similar).|
||Traffic from email; newsletters, messages etc. Traffic from email has to be tagged with UTM-parameters (check the definition above) in order to get the right channel definition in analytics.|
|Traffic coming from organic, i.e. non-paid search engine traffic. For example Google, Bing or Yandex.|
|Traffic coming from paid search engine ads, for example Google or Bing Ads.|
|Traffic from other sites (without campaign parameters) to the webpage. This can include news media, traffic from partner sites etc.|
|Traffic from social media.|
|Traffic from channel that doesn’t include in any other default channel groupings.|