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A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding Google Analytics Glossary

Working with clients, one of the most challenging details is data. Everyone needs data to understand their customer journey, understand their website traffic and know what marketing is (or isn’t) working. That’s why we created this Google Analytics Glossary for you.

Google Analytics (GA) is Google’s powerful web tool that can provide some really useful insights to help you understand how your business is performing online. It can also help you figure out how to improve your business’s online presence. GA also lets you know how people interact with your website or app, which allows you to make data-driven decisions to enhance your online performance.

So, before you turn your nose up to “data” and how boring it can be, remember that data will help you make informed decisions about everything.

What Google Analytics Can Inform You About

  • Google analytics will help you quantify the value of your blog pages and your landing pages.
  • GA also tells you your traffic sources and marketing channels (social media, SEO, newsletters etc).
  • GA tells you how many people visit your website multiple times versus just once.
  • GA gives you the geographic location of your visitors as well as the device they came in on (phone, computer or tablet).
  • And more.

Best off, Google Analytics is free. So you don’t have to hire someone like me to explain your data to you (unless, of course, you want to!)

But, to get good at analyzing data, you have to know what you’re looking at and that’s where this little cheat sheet comes in. This is our Google Analytics Glossary. It’s full of the terms you’ll encounter as you make your way through the tool.

Below are the most common google analytics terms that you’ll see inside of the tool. You’ll see these terms in both the older version and the new G4 version that’s coming to everyone this July 2023.

Google Analytics Glossary

Below are the terms plus a simple explanation for each one in alphabetical order, from acquisition to users.

Acquisition

This is the process of gaining new visitors or users to your website. Acquisition metrics help you understand how people find your website, such as through search engines, social media, or referral links.

Analytics Intelligence

Analytics Intelligence refers to the machine learning capabilities in Google Analytics that provide automated insights, alerts, and recommendations based on the data collected. Some people refer to this as the other type of AI– artificial intelligence– but it’s machine learning, not a true intelligence.

API

API is short for Application Programming Interface. It’s the set of rules and protocols that allows different software applications to communicate and exchange data with each other. In the context of Google Analytics, the API enables developers to extract and integrate analytics data into other applications or systems. Realistically, you probably won’t need to deal with this much unless you’re planning on web development yourself. But it’s useful to know what it is!

Bounce Rate

This is an important term that describes the percentage of visitors who leave your website after viewing only one page. You don’t want a high bounce rate. This can indicate that visitors didn’t find what they were looking for, or that your website has usability issues.

Bounce rates are often higher than 50% and this is often normal. That said, you also have to consider where your audience came from and it’s often predictable that bounce rates will be higher from social media because people are interacting with your brand during their “Facebook time” or “Instagram time.” After interacting, they want to go back to what they were originally doing. This is not a hard rule, but in our experience it’s true.

Channels

Channels are the different sources that bring people to your website. Channels include things like organic search (from search engines), direct (typing the URL directly), referral (from other websites), social media, or email campaigns.

Conversion Rate

When visitors come to your website, you should have a specific goal in mind. This could be making a purchase, signing up for your email list, or filling out a form. The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who complete these goals. It measures the effectiveness of your website in driving desired actions. Percentage of sessions or users that converted into a goal (subscribed to your newsletter etc)

A cookie is a small text file that is stored on a user’s device when they visit a website. In Google Analytics, cookies are used to track user interactions, such as page views and conversions, and provide data for analysis. Cookies are one of the ways that users are counted.

Dashboard

Your dashboard is your customizable display in Google Analytics. It allows you to see and monitor key metrics and site performance reports. This is the first page or “home page” of Google Analytics.

Goals

Goals are the specific actions or outcomes you want visitors to complete on your website. Examples include completing a purchase, subscribing to a service, or spending a certain amount of time on a page. Your goals will vary depending on what your business is and what role you want your website to play; not everybody has the same goals.

Keyword

A keyword is a word or phrase that users enter into search engines. In Google Analytics, keyword data provides information about the search terms that users use to find and access your website. Including specific and long-tail keywords on your website is a good way to help people find your information and rise higher in google’s search results.

It’s important to note that Google Analytics will not give you SEO keyword data. It doesn’t speak about the popularity of a particular keyword or phrase. You need SEO tools like SEMRush for that.

Mobile Traffic

The number of visitors accessing your website from mobile devices. It helps you understand the importance of optimizing your site for mobile users. You can also see types of phones if that’s of interest to your business.

Visitors can come to your website through several different channels (see above). When a visitor finds your website through a search engine, this is called organic search or organic traffic. This measure indicates the effectiveness of your website’s visibility in search results.

Page Load Time

This metric tracks how long it takes for a web page to fully load. It affects user experience and can impact bounce rates, as visitors may leave if a page takes too long to load. About 40% of visitors will simply leave if your page takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Pageviews

Pageviews are the number of times a specific page on your website is viewed. It indicates the popularity or relevance of a particular page, and can be an indicator of how well your search engine optimization (SEO) is performing. Ideally, you are getting more than one pageview per customer visit. Seeing your pageviews grow over time is a common SEO goal and one we work hard on for most clients.

Referral Traffic

Referral traffic (backlink traffic) is another channel that can bring people to your website. Referral traffic tracks visitors who come to your website through links on other websites. It helps you identify which external sources are sending traffic to your site. This is not the same thing as sponsored traffic or advertising traffic! Rather, it’s tracked through other websites linking to your content.

Session

A session represents a period of time a user actively engages with your website or app. It starts when a user arrives and ends after a period of inactivity or when they leave your site.

Users

This tracks the number of unique individuals who visit your website or app, whether or not they have an account or log in to your website. It provides insights into the size of your audience.

Google Analytics Glossary & Use FAQs

How can I learn Google Analytics fast?

My best advice is pick a term from the list above and then set a timer for 30 minutes so you don’t get too overwhelmed with it all. Then, watch a few videos to get familiar with how an expert thinks about the term. After watching the video (or at the same time if it’s not too overwhelming for you) go into your Analytics account and see if you can follow along.

Do that over a handful of days and you’ll feel significantly more comfortable with the process.

Here are a few Youtubers we love:

https://www.youtube.com/@LovesData

https://www.youtube.com/@AnalyticsMania

How often should I look at my Google Analytics data?

I suggest once a month with a plan. Pick the top 4-6 terms/topics from above that you want to know about each month and go visit your report looking at the past 30 day window. Each month, be sure to explore anything new that you did on your website or any advertising you ran. How did it go? What results did you see? I also always look at my acquisition report because I’m terribly curious about how people found me. But, you do you and make it your own!

Google analytics terms can feel like a doozie to get through, but once you really start using the reports, it can become familiar. It’s also essential if you ever advertise your business or services. You have to know if your ads are returning visitors to your site and what people do once they land on your pages.

Google Analytics will give you all of this and more.

There are so many GA terms here, which ones should I start with?

In my book, understanding a “user,” “session,” “acquisition,” and “referral traffic” are the top 4 to start with. But, an equally great answer is to start with your own curiosity. What do you want to know about your website? Data can feel less overwhelming if you’re interested in what you’re learning.

Want more information about your business’s web performance, but aren’t sure where to start? Crownsville Media can help you with your business’s SEO, web performance, and more! Contact us today for a free SEO audit or business consultation.

author avatar
Melanie Gorman
Melanie Gorman is the owner and operator of Crownsville Media. She holds a masters in counseling psychology and has been in the fields of web development, SEO optimization and content creation for more than 20 years.

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