Google Analytics: A Bonfire Guide to Terminology

Data Analytics

To the uninitiated, Google Analytics terminology can be daunting. Which measurements are dimensions, and which are metrics? Heck, what’s the difference between a dimension and a metric in the first place? Let this ongoing glossary be your path to Analytics clarity.

Advanced segment: A temporary filter that highlights subsets of users or sessions. Make advanced segments as granular or broad as you want, from simply segmenting AdWords users, to segmenting users who arrived via Yahoo organic search at a specific e-commerce landing page where they abandoned their cart.

Attribution: Assigning credit to the correct traffic sources and marketing channels.

Bounce rate: A bounce is a session that ends with only one pageview recorded. The bounce rate is the percentage of total sessions that end with a bounce.

Channel: Rule-based groupings of site traffic sources. Channels are grouped into similar types of traffic, with the default channels set as direct, referral, organic, and social traffic.

Dimension: One of two types of data in Google Analytics, along with metrics. Dimensions are characteristics. A dimension may be the user’s city, the device used to access the site, or the landing page used to enter the site.

Direct: Traffic that arrives directly to your site via no other source, typically by inputting the URL into a browser or using a bookmark. Additionally, any traffic not identified as being from a particular source is lumped in as direct. This traffic, called “dark traffic,” commonly results from data stripping in redirects from Facebook and email links.

Entrance: The first page viewed during a brand new session on your site.

Event: An action or interaction on your site to better measure visitor behavior. Events can be measured as link clicks, video views, specific page visits, etc.

Exit: The last page viewed prior to a user ending a session and leaving your site.

Goal: A measurement defining a successful action on your site. Typically, e-commerce purchases or form submissions are recorded as goals. However, other goals measuring engagement, like number of pages viewed or time visiting the site, may also be recorded.

Landing Page: Similar to entrance, a landing page is the first page viewed in a session — the page where the entrance occurred. This dimension is ideal for measuring the success of SEO and SEM performance and optimization.

Medium: The general categories of inbound traffic sources, e.g., organic traffic, referral traffic, paid traffic, direct traffic, and email traffic.

Metric: Quantitative measurements of data in Analytics (as opposed to dimensions, which define characteristics). Think numbers, e.g., the total number of sessions, average time on page, etc.

Organic: Traffic that arrives at your site via naturally occurring links in search engine results pages on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. Prominent organic rankings for keywords with high search volume align with higher organic traffic.

Pageview: A metric that defines total number of pages on a website.

Pageviews per session: The average number of pages users viewed per sessions.

Referral: Traffic that arrives at your site by clicking on a link from another third-party website.

Session: A group of interactions — pageviews, events, goal conversions, e-commerce transactions, etc. — between the time a user enters and exits your site. A session may also expire after 30 minutes of inactivity.

Source: The origin of traffic to your site, which fits into more general categories called mediums. A source may be Google, a domain (, or a specific email campaign.

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