Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but to the average person trying to make sense of the platform, the data can feel overwhelming. To better understand what makes up this beast of a program, we should first review the metrics used within it to measure website traffic. These are used both separate and together to show how well your implementations and programs are working, as well as quantify them.
Below we will explain each metric, with examples. Let’s use a fake business – a muffin store –to help better understand them in a real-world application.
‘Users’ are unique visitors to your site, and are measured using ‘cookies’. An HTTP cookie (also called ‘web cookie’, ‘Internet cookie’, ‘browser cookie’, or simply ‘cookie’) is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user’s computer by the user’s web browser while the user is browsing. Cookies allow websites to remember information, or to record, a user’s browsing activity.. In Google Analytics, cookies identify a single user’s traffic behavior. So, a person who enters and leaves a website continually will still only count as a single ‘user’. This useful metric helps us measure how how many visitors come into each individual page on a site.
Real-world example: ‘Users’ on the web = the number of unique customers who’ve entered your muffin store to look at the delicious muffins
As one could probably figure out, ‘new users’ are those customers who have never visited our website before. This is valuable in seeing if a campaign was successful in bringing in new customers.
Real-world example: The number of new customers that enter your muffin store for muffins.
Sessions are a measurement of how many times someone has entered your website, independent of if they have been there before. This is a useful tool to measure just how frequently consumers visit your site and pages.
Real-world example: The number of times customers have walked through the front door of your muffin store.
The bounce rate is the percentage of people who went to our website, but left before interacting with anything or seeing another page. This is a very useful tool to see which pages are effective (or not) at maintaining visits.
Real-world example: Customers who go into your muffin store and immediately walk out, remembering they don’t even like muffins, or realizing that they walked into the wrong store.
Pages/ sessions measure the number of pages a unique user has visited before leaving your website. This shows the depth of our sessions and how engaged with our website a user was.
Real-world example: How many different muffins did the average customer consider before walking out of our store.