Lost in the jungle of sessions, conversions, and events? 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 (now GA4)
App + Web (now renamed as GA4) is is an update to Google Analytics and a completely new property type that provides a better representation of user behavior with the help of machine learning while maintaining privacy. The updated version offers improved ad-hoc reports and event-based tracking.
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 that explains what campaign the source of traffic was attributed to. If the campaign is (not set) there was no information about the campaign traffic. This might be the case in, for example, wrongly tagged campaigns.
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. Please note, that the default channel groupings can be changed and new custom channel groupings can be created.
Content is a dimension in analytics that explains what kind of content the source of traffic was related to. Content can be, for example, 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
A conversion is any kind of event that is set as a target by the site owner. The targets are named goals in GA, and they can be for example pageviews, form submissions, or button clicks. 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 these goal conversiona, i.e., “converts”. Goal conversion rate means the conversion rate of goals. For example, the goal conversion rate for form submission would tell how many users (of all sessions) have submitted the form. Goal conversion rates for specific goals can be seen from the Aqcuisition > All traffic > Channels report.
eCommerce conversion rate means the conversion rate of e-commerce purchases (transactions).
Also: device category
A device is a dimension in analytics, which explains what device the user has entered the website with. Different devices are 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 can be created from GA’s admin settings and tagging.
Entrances is a metric in analytics that explains the number of times a user started a session through a specific page (“entrances to the 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 (e.g. “click”), and label (e.g. 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 (GA4: Events report).
First interaction model
An attribution model, where the sale/conversion is given for the first known source of traffic. No credits are given to the other sources of traffic.
Filters are tools for more detailed data analysis.
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. A good companion to filters is RegEx (regular expressions), a search pattern used to identify one or more characters within a string.
GA4 (App + Web)
GA4 (previously: App + Web) is an update to Google Analytics and a completely new property type that provides a better representation of user behavior with the help of machine learning while maintaining privacy. The updated version offers improved ad-hoc reports and event-based tracking.
GAIQ (Google Analytics Individual Qualification)
GAIQ is a Google certificate that requires basic knowledge of Google Analytics use. Certificate should be updated yearly and it can be made in Google Skillshop. We at Quru also offer a GAIQ certification training.
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 an automatic 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. Setting goal values makes it easier to analyze the effectiveness of different goals.
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 visualization tool for reporting and making better insights from data. Data from tools belonging to the Google family 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
- CRM and databases
- Other search engines
- Advertising platforms
Google Tag Manager (GTM)
Google Tag Manager or 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 the site’s source code. With Tag Manager, tags can be combined and rules created to build events. Google Tag Manager acts as a layer between the website and Google Analytics which helps to structure and analyze the data in the correct format.
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).
A keyword is a dimension in analytics that explains what keyword the visitor used in organic or paid search to come to the website. 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”. Landing pages are especially important when reviewing the effectiveness of paid advertising campaigns.
Last-non-direct-model is an attribution model used by GA. It gives (attributes) the conversion value to the last traffic source through which the 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 and attribution models here.
An attribution model where each touchpoint gets an equal value in the conversion path.
Manual tagging, auto-tagging
Manual tagging is often done for campaign traffic that would not otherwise be identified in analytics (e.g. email, social media). This is made by adding UTM parameters to the target links. Read more about UTMs below
Auto-tagging is used for example in 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.
Please note, that it’s possible to further specify the tagging by adding manual tags into Google Ads. In this case, one must understand and follow the best practices of Ads tracking standards.
Medium is a dimension in analytics that explains how the visitor came to the site. E.g. Organic, cpc, email. Medium’s purpose is to tell the medium of the traffic type in general, not specific page names (source). Often shown as a dimension paired as “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 reports give information on 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, Avg. 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.
Avg. Time on page: average time between two pageviews.
PII (Personally Identifiable Information)
PII means information that makes possible to identify an individual with Google Analytics. . 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 strictly prohibited. PII may contain email addresses, personal identification numbers or name information.
Position-based (“U” curve) model
An attribution model where the conversion value is assigned to the first and last touchpoint on the conversion path, and the remaining values are assigned evenly to the channels in the middle of the conversion path.
Property usually refers to a single site that has been added to a GA analytics account. This site has its own unique UA code (also Tracking ID, or Property ID in GA4) that is used for site measurement and tag management.
RegEx (or regular expression) is a search pattern used to identify one or more characters within a string. It can match specific characters, wildcards, and ranges of characters. RegEx can be utilized in many Google Analytics reports and enables including or excluding specific sets of data.
Remarketing means reaching (advertising to) the users who have visited your site or app content before. Messages can be personalized based on purchase behavior (shopping cart abandoners) or engagement (video watchers) for example. Usually, this increases the performance of advertising.
- Implementation without Google Analytics: 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 Google Analytics: 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.
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 visited the site?), Acquisition (where did the traffic come from?), Behavior (what did the users do?), and Conversions (did the users convert or reach the goals, how valuable they were?).
Custom reports mean self-created reports in GA. Custom reports can be used when you want to cross-table results or display only part of the data. Please note, Google Data Studio is the more robust tool to visualize 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 conditions. Segments are often used for user research or building remarketing audiences. Segments never edit the data in GA, they only separate part of it for more focused viewing.
Segments can be session or user-based. In those cases, segment data is calculated per session or per user.
Please note, that segments are slightly different than filters, for example in a way that segments are only valid at the time being (segments never edit the actual data) but filters can be permanent. Segments can also be brought outside of Google Analytics reports and utilized in other reports or visualizations (e.g. in Google Data Studio).
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 that explains what domain sent traffic to the site. For example, a search engine (Google), a blog that links to a site (exampleblog.com), or a social media platform (facebook). The 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 and installed in the source code of a site to collect data. The term “tagging” often refers to the creation and management of tags. A tagging plan, usually called a measurement plan, is used to help to implement tags on a site. Measurement plan documents what elements are measured and how.
An attribution model where the touchpoints closest to the conversion get the most conversion value.
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. A new user is a visitor that has never been to your site before (they have removed cookies from their browser since the last visit or the cookie has expired). Returning user is a user that is recognized with the existing cookie data.
If the site uses a login, User ID measurement can be 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.
A view is a sort of “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)
- An alternative version of the data (e.g. useless parameters removed from page names)
- All website data (e.g. Raw data view)
- Test or Development view (e.g. containing only test site data).
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.
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.|