When it comes to site traffic measurement, there are two undeniable truths:
1. Analytics are important.
2. Analytics can be confusing.
From bounce rates to pageviews to session durations, learning the ins and outs of Google Analytics (GA) is not unlike learning a second language. If tricky terminology is holding you back from maximizing measurement for your brand or business, we have you covered with the top terms you need to understand to get started with GA and get on your way to tracking your company’s metrics.
With a seemingly endless number of stats to peruse, a good place to start when diving into your Google Analytics dashboard to avoid overwhelming yourself is the audience overview. Here you can start to understand the basic, but important metrics for your site:
If your head is spinning already, keep breathing. It’s simpler than it seems. First, some definitions.
Audience Overview: GA Terms to Know
A session is the group of interactions performed by one user within a given timeframe.
Pro tip: Google Analytics defines a session as a 30-minute interval. So no matter what a user does on your website during that time, it still only counts as 1 session.
A pageview is recorded each time a user visits a different page on your site. The same user can be the cause of multiple pageviews.
The average session duration is the average amount of time each visitor’s session lasts.
The percentage new sessions is an estimate of first-time visits to your site. The higher this number is, the more new users are finding your site.
Users is an easy one. This is simply the number of people that enter your site.
Pages/session is the average number of pages visitors travel to when they visit your site.
The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who come to your site, view one page, and then leave. If your bounce rate is high, people aren’t exploring beyond the page they arrive on (that’s not a good thing). A good spot to aim for is 50% for your site, 75% for your blog.
Pageviews vs. Sessions
Now before you go off to measure your site audience and inform your content strategy accordingly, a quick distinction which has been known to boggle GA beginners—What’s the difference between a pageview and a session? The seemingly similar terms are closely related, but the distinction between the two is very important:
Distinguishing between a session and a pageview has stumped more than a few would be metric mavens. Here’s an analogy to clear things up: Imagine you’re taking a trip to the library. That single visit = one session.
But while you’re there you’re probably going to look at more than one book. Each of those books that you consider = one pageview (or pages visited on a site).
However, no matter how many books (pageviews) you look at while you’re there unless you leave the library, it still only counts as single trip to the library (one session).
Although pageview numbers are typically higher than sessions, it doesn’t mean you should discount the latter. Pageviews can answer some valuable questions:
- Is the same user looking at multiple pages and spending quality time on your site?
- Is a user looking at one page and bouncing?
The value of understanding even these few quick terms can give you a huge leg up in understanding who is coming to your site and how much time they’re spending there, but it is still just a beginning. There’s still a lot to understand about what content they’re spending the most time with and where how they’re finding your site and content. For more on those metric details come back for further installments of Google Analytics FAQs.