When it comes to understanding your website traffic, Google Analytics is the must-have tool. The free web analytics service allows website owners to track a range of metrics and through that data better understand the behaviour of their users. Here are five Google Analytics metric terms you need to be familiar with.
Google Analytics once gathered figures on the number of visitors and visits. When they changed their terminology from visits to sessions there was huge uproar. But actually the two are very similar. A session is a behind-the-scenes look at a website visit. It catalogues the interactions that take place during a visit within a given time frame. For example, during a single session a visitor might look at a series of pages, respond to a survey on one page and make a purchase on another. All of this would be recorded as one session. By default, a session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity but these parameters can be altered if you wish.
The Users metric shows how many users have viewed or interacted with your site/app during a selected date range. This figure combines new and returning visitors. You can also find stats for Active users, ie people who have visited your site during the last 1, 7, 14 or 30 days. The numbers for new (unique) visitors are also available but these can be contentious. They should represent when a user visits your site for the first time, but they also record a return visitor as new if they change device or use a new browser to access your site so use with care .
Page views represent the total number of pages that visitors have viewed on a website. Ideally you want each visitor to look at as many pages on your site as possible. If your page views are low then you need to think about how you’re (deep) linking across your site. Every page should lead somewhere else, never leave your users stranded. You want your site to be as ‘sticky’ as possibly, ie, to keep your users engaged.
The Bounce rate is given as a percentage, and represents the number of visits when users leave your site after just one page. A high bounce rate might mean that visitors are arriving at your site, turned off by your design/layout/content and leaving, or that a search engine is sending visitors to your website in error because of their search terms. Or equally, a high bounce rate might mean visitors are finding exactly what they want on your first page and not needing to proceed further. It’s always useful to investigate this number further.
Average session duration
This is the average length of time a user spends on a page. It is calculated by dividing all sessions (in seconds) by the number of sessions. It is useful for checking whether users are actually reading the content on your pages or simply dipping in then out.
If you don’t have Google Analytics installed, it’s very straightforward. Visit Google.com/analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/), click the Sign in to Google Analytics button (top right), and follow the on-screen instructions