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Understanding Google Analytics: Part 1

Understanding Google Analytics and the data and insights it provides is possibly one of the most important jobs of any digital marketing professional. Google Analytics has been around since 2005 after Google acquired an analytics software developer called Urchin. The platform has been substantially improved in this time and much more data, information and insights are available now, the code has been substantially changed and enhanced. Google Analytics collects data from desktop, tablet and mobile users across a variety of operating systems and browsers.

There are hundreds of different terms to describe what you’re looking at in Google Analytics, often, the terms sound very similar to each other and, in many cases, terms are updated or changed quite regularly. Here we have put together a brief glossary of the most common marketing analytics terms used by Google Analytics.


A user is an individual visitor to your website, identified by a single, first-party cookie named _ga that stores a Google Analytics client ID.

New Users

First-time visitors to your website in a given date range

Returning Visitors

A user who returns to your site within a given date range.

Page Views

This is the number of times a user views a page that has the Google Analytics tracking code inserted. Read more about web tracking code here. This covers all page views; so if a user refreshes the page, or navigates away from the page and returns, these are all counted as additional page views.


A session is a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example, a single session can contain multiple screen or page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions. Those sessions can occur on the same day, or over several days, weeks, or months. If a user is inactive on your site 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, Therefore a single user can open multiple sessions.

Unique Page Views

A unique page view represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times. Unique page views are generated by the same user during the same session, for example, if a visitor viewed a page once or five times in their visit, the number of unique page views will be recorded as one.

Landing Page

The landing page is simply the page where the user begins their journey on your site. It is the main entry point to your site for that user. In addition to landing pages that may be found in Organic Search, paid advertising, links from other website or through Social Media, there are also specially built landing pages for lead generation and click-through landing pages, which have the goal of persuading the user to click-through to another page. Click-through landing pages are typically used on ecommerce sites, whereas lead generation landing pages are used to capture user data, such as name and email address. Examples of lead generation landing pages are contest entry forms or the process you undertake when signing up for free trials.

New vs. Returning Visitors

New visitors are those users that have not visited your site before the time period specified while returning visitors will have made at least one visit to at least one page on your site previously. This is determined by whether Google Analytics can detect cookies, which indicate previous visits. If Google cannot detect a cookie one will be set for future recording unless the user has disabled cookies in their personal browser preferences.


Segments enable you to analyse your data in more detail, by filtering the results to show only information for certain kinds of traffic. You can also use segments to compare results between groups of visitors; for example new vs. returning, or paid vs. organic search traffic.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of people who land on one of your web pages and then leave without clicking to anywhere else on your website, in other words, single-page visitors.

Users Flow

The users flow report shows how users moved through your site, from landing page to exit page. Users flow reports can be customised to show additional detail, such as the geographic location of users or the traffic source, and also shows how many people exited at each stage of interaction.

Conversion Rate

The number of people who converted on your website, i.e. an action that you want them to take such as filling out a form, completing a purchase, making a telephone call to you, subscribing or signing up, downloading an item or whatever action that you have defined, divided by the number of people who visited your website.

If you have any further questions about the terms used above, feel free to ask us and see the second part of our Understanding Google Analytics key terms here.