Skip to Main Content

Google Analytics at Yale: Analytics Definitions

This is a description

Google Analytics Background

How does Google Analytics measure web use?

A piece of text, cookie, is stored in the computer’s browser the first time it visits the web site. The cookie identifier is then recognized each time the computer returns.

What information does Google Analytics record?

Information recorded includes

  • The type of computer used, its operating system and browser.  
  • Where the computer is—city, region, country, continent. (for example New Haven). 
  • Network provider (for example, Yale).
  • The search engine and keyword search that brought the computer to the web content.
  • Time that a computer stayed on a web site.
  • The specific pages viewed.
  • What page was looked at last before the user leaves the site.

What cannot be recorded?

  • Specific IPs
  • Personally identifying information (such as a name)
  • Satisfaction

The limits on what can be recorded means that we cannot tell things like undergraduate versus graduate use, or at least we cannot with Google Analytics out of the box. 

Definitions of Key Metrics

This information refers to

  • User A single person (sort of) visiting a web site. Actually determined by the cookie stored on a browser, ie the single cookie code is identified as a user.

    User information is under Audience/Overview. Dimensions of user informaiton include Language, Country, City and system infomation such as the browser and operating system.

  • Session A session is a group of interactions that take place on the website within a given time frame, by the same user. A session ends when the user leaves the site or is inactive for 30 minutes. For example a single session can contain several page views and events.

    Sessions are under Audience/Overview.
  • New versus returning visitor: a new user has not visited your site before in the specified time peried. 

    New and returning visitor information is under Audience/Behavior.

  • Pageview A pageview is recorded every time a web page is viewed during a single session. When a visitor hits the back button, a pageview is recorded. When a visitor hits refresh, a pageview is recorded. Every time a page is opened in the browser, regardless of whether it has been cached, a pageview is recorded.

    Page information is found under Behavior/Site Content.

  • Unique Pageviews Number of sessions during which a specific page was viewed at least once. If I am on a web site for a few minutes, and during that time view the same page three times, that is three pageviews and one unique pageview.

    Page information is found under Behavior/Site Content.

  • Bounce A visit with one pageview only. It doesn't matter how long the visitor was on the page or how they left. Technically, it's a visit with only one interaction. A high bounce rate is considered a bad thing, in general. The exception is a site which functions only as a portal to external links.

               Bounce rate benchmarks:

                     20% and below is an excellent rate

                     Over 50% is poor

               Bounce rates are found under Behavior/Site Content.

  • Exit pages: Is a list of pages from which users exited your site, or the last page they visited. 

  • %Exit is (number of exits) / (number of pageviews) for the page or set of pages. It indicates how often users exit from that page or set of pages when they view the page(s). Source:

  • Time on Page is measured by subtracting the time a visitor hit a page from the time they hit the next page. (e.g. If they hit Page 1 at 12:00 and hit Page 2 at 12:03, time on Page 1 is three minutes.) This means that the time on page for the last page in a visit is always zero because Google Analytics has no next page time to use for the calculation.

    The time spent by users on a page indicate how "engaged" users are with the content. The longer on the page, the higher the engagement

    Time on page is found under Behavior/Site Content.

  • Average Visit Duration is calculated based on the timestamp difference between the first and final pageviews that occurred during a visit. Since the duration of the final pageview cannot be calculated, Average Visit Duration as reported in GA is always somewhat shorter than in actuality.

     Found under Audience/Overview.

·        Source:

  • Goals and conversions: A Goal represents a completed activity, called a conversion, that contributes to the success of your business. Examples of Goals include making a purchase (for an ecommerce site), completing a game level (for a mobile gaming app), or submitting a contact information form (for a marketing or lead generation site).

    Defining Goals is a fundamental component of any digital analytics measurement plan. Having properly configured Goals allows Google Analytics to provide you with critical information, such as the number of conversions and the conversion rate for your site or app. Without this information, it's almost impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of your online business and marketing campaigns.

·       Source:

         Goals are set in Admin, at the View level.

  • Referring sources: Metric indicates where users came from. A referring source can be grouped into Organic search (sites like Google and Yahoo), referral (link from an external web site), Direct (user bookmark or typed URL), Social (Facebook or similar), and Email. Within these groups Google Analytics will also show the specific referrer and the path or URL.

    Referring information is found under Acquisition/All Traffic.
  • Search: Organic search queries and Site Search

    Queries (from Organic Search): the search terms users entered by users who then came to your site. This is different from site search.

    Searches used in external sites such as Google are found under Acquistion/Search Engine Optimization/Queries.

    Site search are searches entered on your web site using the YaleSites Google Appliance. However, this data will not be found in the reports on Google Analytics Site Search. on our Yalesites will display in Google Analytics as a regular page containing the directory /gsearch. This page recorded in Google Analytics indicates a search for VPN