When it comes to understanding your online audiences and quantifying campaign success, Google Analytics is an invaluable tool. Used effectively, Google Analytics can track the growth of your traffic, the effectiveness of your social media channels and even the quality of your blog content.
But for many, opening Google Analytics can raise more questions than answers. Whether you’re stuck trying to grasp the relationship between channels and mediums or trying to figure out what a “bounce rate” is, you’re not alone. Google Analytics can be daunting, but we’ve got you covered.
These eight common terms will get you on your way to becoming the master of your online metrics:
Session: A session starts the moment a user enters your website and ends when they exit, or after 30 minutes of inactivity. It is during a user’s session that Google Analytics tracks how a user interacts with your website.
Entrances: Entrances are the number of times a given page is used as a “landing page,” or the first page visited by a user during a session. Pages with a high entrance rate attract users to your website and solicit high traffic.
Bounce rate: A “bounce” happens when a user leaves your website on the same page they enter, before viewing or interacting with any other pages. Bounces often occur when users are confused, bored or feel that a website doesn’t have the information they need. However, a bounce can also mean that a user is satisfied by the information presented on their single-page visit, and that they don’t need to seek any more information. For example, when you share a link to a blog post on social media, users will likely click the link, read the blog content, and then exit — satisfied by the content they consumed.
Exit rate: The exit rate tracks how often users leave your website from a given page from either a multi-page session or a single-page session (bounces). Like bounce rates, if a page has a high exit rate, it may not necessarily be a bad thing. A high exit rate can mean that a user is bored or turned off by your page, but it can also mean that the page satisfied their query. An example of this is a page that is the last step in a purchase process, or a page that links to social media profiles.
Traffic source: Google Analytics doesn’t just track what users do on your website, it also tracks how they get there. The traffic source dictates where your users come from when they visit your website. If a user finds your website via an organic search on Bing, the source will be ‘Bing.’
Traffic medium: Along with tracking the source of your audience, Google Analytics also tracks the specific method by which a user arrives at your website from a given source. For instance, let’s say a user clicks on a link to your website that’s included in a display advertisement on tripadvisor.com. The traffic source of this user is ‘tripadvisor,’ but the traffic medium of that user is ‘display ad.’
Traffic channel: Traffic channels group several traffic sources that use the same medium. In other words, if the mediums are the vehicles by which users reach your website, channels are the roads by which they travel. The relationship between a source, medium and channel can be confusing, so here is an example: Two users arrive at your website from different traffic sources. One comes from a Google search, the other from a Yahoo search. However, both users come from the same type of medium in that they are both organic searches. As a result, they are both a part of the ‘organic search’ channel.
Some of the most common channels are direct, organic search, paid search and referral. By analyzing your web traffic across multiple mediums and channels, you can determine the best avenues by which to attract visitors to your website.
While understanding these terms will help you begin interpreting your websites data, it’s imperative that you analyze all your data within the context of your greater marketing strategy. On the micro level for example, is the goal of a given page to inform your audience or to encourage them to explore your website further?
Whether you’re looking to master your SEO presence or to inform your audiences, your content is the heart of your product. But it’s only through Google Analytics and tools related, that you can truly measure your success.