Google analytics is possibly the best free tool available on the web today. Offering an in depth analysis of your site and its performance, the data that Google analytics can provide you is invaluable. Although it’s a great tool it is sometimes confusing and some terms and phrases that are used may confuse you. This is why I have decided to write a guide on exactly what each term means and how works out each factor.

The Dashboard

When signing into Google analytics and clicking on your sites profile you will land on the dashboard. On your dashboard there are various facts and figures that are explained below.

Visits

One visit is made up from a number of pageviews (see above) that a single visitor makes. A visit ends when the user closes the browser or is idle for a period of time (the default is 30 minutes).

With this in mind don’t be tempted to report that your site has x visitors whilst reporting the Pageview figure, always use Visits!

Pageviews

A pageview is recorded every time a page on your site is viewed. So if a visitor clicks the back button, refreshes the page or visits a new page, a pageview is created. This is every time the _trackPageview method is executed.

Pages/Visit

This is a sum of the above figures. It is the average page views per visitor so will always be Pageviews ÷ Visits

Bounce Rate

This is when a visitor views a single page on your site. For example someone may come in to a page after doing a search on Google then go to another site or close their browser without visiting any of your other pages.

Time on Page

Google Analytics works this out by subtracting the time that a visitor hits a page to the time they hit the next page. For example if a visitor hits a page at 10:45 and then hits the next page at 10:50 then they spent five minutes on the page. However there is a flaw! The time on the last page will always be 0 as the tracking code cannot work when a user closes a page

Avg. Time on Site

This is an easy one; it’s the average time that a user spends on your pages without leaving your site. Again if the user is idle for more than 30 minutes without changing page the counter will end.

Visitors

Not to be confused with Visits. Whenever the Analytics tracking code is executed it looks for a cookie with a unique ID on the computer, if a cookie cannot be found then a new ID is set and another visitor added. Users can delete cookies or use a different browser to access your site on the same computer, so don’t overly rely on these figures.

% New Visits

Out of all your visitors, this is the percentage of people that have never viewed your site before.

Time on Site

Analytics works this out by calculating the difference between the time they viewed the first and last pages in a visit.

New Visitor

If a visitor does not have any analytics cookies on their machine when hitting your site then they will be counted as a new visitor. Unfortunately we cannot rely on this as users can delete Cookies and use different browsers on a machine (see Visitors).

Returning Visitor

A visitor that has a cookie on their machine from the domain however as above this cannot be relied upon as users can delete cookies.

Direct Traffic

This is traffic that has come from people typing the URL of your site straight into their browser window or using a bookmark, as opposed to coming from a search engine or link.

Now and again direct traffic figures may include traffic that the analytics code couldn’t work out where the visitor came from.

Referring Sites

Shows the visitors that have reached your site from another, most likely via a link from another site or email. Two points to consider here though…

  1. A referrer must have been identified by the analytics code
  2. Referrers do not include search engines (Analytics has a separate area for this.)

Search Engine Traffic

Traffic that has reached your site from search queries. It is worth noting that both organic searches and searches from paid campaigns (Google Ad-Words for example) will appear here.