Google Analytics provides a wealth of knowledge on your website – from its most visited pages, to the visitors that are browsing. It’s free, easy to set up, and essential for insights on what’s working and not working for your audience.

In order to get the most from this tool, you have to understand what you are looking at. The better you understand the terminology, the more useful Google Analytics will be for measuring the effectiveness of multiple aspects of your website – month by month and page by page – and giving you the insights needed to make improvements. Below is a glossary of essential terms for making sense of Google Analytics.

Acquisition – Acquisition metrics show where your traffic is originating from, be it Google searches, social media links, or other websites.

Average Session Duration – The average visit length of time a user spends on your website at any given time. This is a key metric for measuring the effectiveness and quality of your website.

Average Time on Page – The average time that users spend viewing a page or group of pages.

Bounce Rate – A bounce is a single page website visit, and so your site’s bounce rate is the percentage of single page visits that your site has. Generally you want this number to be as low as possible, however sites with standalone pages such as blog articles tend to have lower bounce rates by nature.

Direct Traffic – Visitors that came directly to your site by typing your company website’s URL into their browser’s address bar or through a saved bookmark. Direct traffic generally indicates how many visitors already know your company and URL.

Event – A ‘hit’ that tracks user interactions, such as clicks, downloads, and video plays.

Exit Page – The last page a user visits before leaving your website.

Filter – A tool that allows you to include or exclude specific data in your reports. For example, you can exclude internal company traffic so that your employees are not included in the website metrics. You can also exclude known bots.

Goal Conversion – This is the completion of an activity on your site that is important to the success of your business, such as a completed sign up for your email newsletter. You must set this up first before Google will track a goal conversion.

Landing Page – The first page that someone visits when they come to your site. Often this is the homepage.

Organic Traffic – Users who come to your website from natural (or unpaid) search engine results.

Pages/Session – The average number of pages viewed during one visit.

Pageviews – The total number of website pages viewed. For example, if one user visited your homepage and the contact page, then that would count as 2 pageviews. 

Referral Traffic – Visitors that landed on your website through a link on another website, such as Facebook or a site that references one of your blog articles.

Returning Visitors – Visitors that have previously visited your website (on the same device).

Search Traffic – Visitors that came to your website through a search engine such as Google or Bing.

Sessions – A session is a single continual active viewing period by a visitor. If a user visits a site several different times in one day, each unique visit counts as a session.

Source/Medium – Grouped together, source is the origin of traffic (such as bing or twitter) and medium is the category of the source (such as organic or social)

Unique Visitors – The number of unduplicated visitors to your website (each user only counted once).

Unique Pageviews – Combines the pageviews from the same user in the same session, counted as one unique pageview.

Users – The number of people that have visited your site at least once during a given time period. One user could have multiple sessions, but will still be counted as a single user.

% Exit – The ratio of exits to pageviews. This indicates how often users leave page(s) compared to how many pages they view.

Now that you understand what you’re looking at, you’ll be able to more effectively navigate Google Analytics for meaningful insights. We’ve tried to cover the primary terms you’ll encounter using Google Analytics and, hopefully, this glossary will help you make sense of your metrics a little better. Take a look at our other analytics articles for a deeper dive into how to utilize Google Analytics for your firm.