Dictionary of ‘Basic Concepts in Google Analytics’

Dictionary of ‘Basic Concepts in Google Analytics’

When you’re first confronted with Google Analytics, it’s quite common to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of new concepts to grasp.

Views, visitors, bounce rates … these are just some of the terms you’ll need to familiarize yourself with.

And although you shouldn’t dedicate all your time to website analytics, you’ll have to understand what each of these words mean because they are the best indicators as to whether your web strategy is working.

Let’s look at some of the basic terms used in Google Analytics.

Tracking Code

This is a piece of JavaScript code that collects and sends data from a website to Google Analytics.  Installing the tracking code is one of the first steps in getting started on Google Analytics.


This is a small text file that’s installed onto a User’s computer to provide anonymous information about the visitor.  Google Analytics generates several cookies.


This is the activity undertaken by the User to show interest in the company or in the individual that is managing the website.  Some typical examples of ‘conversions’ include registering for a newsletter, downloading a file, or making a purchase.

Traffic Source

This refers to the source of traffic to our website.  Our website traffic can come from many places: a Google search, social networking, a shortcut in a browser, a newsletter …

Page Views

This is the total number of pages viewed on a website, including those that are re-visited.  If a User visits page A, moves onto page B and then returns page A, this counts as 3 page views.

Unique Page Views

This is the number of different pages viewed in a website.  Referring to the above example, the number of unique page views would only be two.

Average Pages Per Visit

This is the average number of pages our Users visit when they surf our website.

Bounce Rate

This rate represents the percentage of Users who have visited a page on our website and have exited the site without visiting any further pages.

It’s common to think that a high bounce rate is negative; the reality is that there are several factors to consider when analyzing this data.  If you regularly read a blog, it’s normal to go to the site, read the latest posting and then leave without visiting elsewhere. This is a bounce, but it does not always mean that it’s negative.


These are also known as ‘visits’, and refer to the browsing sessions on our website.  A visit can last from seconds to hours.  However, it’s important to remember that in Google Analytics a good browsing session lasts 30 minutes, by default.

So what does this mean in practice?  If a visitor enters your site, becomes idle for more than 30 minutes, but then returns to the activity, this will be counted as two visits.


When we speak of Users or Visitors, in fact we’re not talking about people, but ‘devices’ that visit a particular website.

If you surf the same web page from the computer in your office, in your home and from your tablet, three visitors or users are actually logged.

New vs. Returning Users

The New Visitor is someone who comes to our website for the first time, while the Returning User has already visited us more than once.