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Basic definitions for web analytics

Understanding basic web analytics terminology will help you better evaluate your website performance. This glossary will provide you with a reference any time you find yourself asking, “What does that mean again?”

Unique visitor

A unique visitor is counted only once per IP address. A person with multiple sessions to your website would only be counted ONCE as a unique visitor.

For instance, if you visited your office website 10 times a day from your work station, even though you may have many sessions, you would only count as one unique visitor to the site.

Keep in mind: if a person clears the cookies on their web browser or visits your website from a different device, they will be counted as a unique visitor multiple times.

Returning visitor

A returning visitor is a user that has visited your website during the selected period (reported by month), who has also visited your website at least once prior to this period.

When analyzing your numbers, treat this metric with caution and look at trending rather than absolute values. Cookies are specific to browser and device which means that if a returning visitor is using a different browser or device, or has deleted or never accepted the cookie, then they will be seen as a new visitor even if that is not the case.

Visits

A visit is defined as a series of page requests from the same unique visitor with a time of no more than 30 minutes between each page request.

Page views

Page views are counted for every time a page on your site is loaded. This means that every visit to any page on your site is counted. When a user refreshes a page and reloads it, this will count as an additional page view.

Bounce rate

A bounce is recorded for each single-page session to your site. These are sessions in which the user left your site from the landing page without interacting with the page.

A bounce can be caused by a user who:

  • leaves the site by clicking an external link on the web page
  • presses the browser back button
  • types in another URL into the web browser
  • closes the browser window or tab
  • doesn’t interact with the web page for a long time (usually 30 minutes). This is called a “session time-out.”

The bounce rate is calculated from single-page visits (visits where users have only seen one page) divided by the number of entries on the site.

Landing page

A landing page (or entry page) is the first page that a person arrives at or lands on when visiting your site. They can land on a page by:

  • clicking on a link from another website
  • following a link from search results from a search engine (like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, etc.)
  • typing an address into the address bar
  • clicking on a link from an email
  • choosing a favorite bookmark and many other ways

Keyword

A keyword can also be referred to as a search term. This is the word or sequence of words that a user enters into a search engine in order to find a web page. Keywords are recorded when the website receives an incoming visit from a search engine.

For the purpose of reporting, keywords are reported in relation to landing pages. If a person arrives at any of your pages from a search engine, the keyword they used to find your site is reported.

Cookies

A cookie is a small amount of data generated by a website that is stored in the user’s computer either temporarily for that session only (session cookie) or permanently on the hard disk (persistent cookie).

Cookies provide a way for the website to recognize you and keep track of your preferences and visits.

Referrers

Referrers are external sites and search terms used across all search engines that have referred visitors to the website.

Exit page

The last page that is visited during a session is recorded as the exit page for the session.

For the purpose of reporting, it is possible that exits reported for your pages started in other sections of the website at large.