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Glossary of Web Analytics Terms and Terminology

The following web analytics glossary identifies and defines common web analytics terms. However, as different web analysis tools often provide alternate definitions based on their context, please consult your analytics tool’s documentation or with your vendor to eliminate any confusion.

For more information about web analytics, please see our Website Analytics Fundamentals Series.

% Exit — The percentage of “Visitors” who leave from a given page. Used to measure the pages from which “Visitors” most often leave the site.

Active Time / Engagement Time — Average amount of time that “Visitors” spend interacting with content on a web page, based on mouse moves, clicks, hovers and scrolls. Unlike “Session Duration” and “Page View Duration / Time on Page,” this metric usually measures the time spent on the final “Page View” accurately.

Bounce – Bounces occur when an identified client views one page, then exists without viewing any other pages prior to leaving. May be subtracted from “Visits” in some tools.

Bounce Rate — The percentage of “Visits” where the “Visitor” exits from the first page visited without visiting any other pages on the site between the entry and the exit. Frequently an indicator of issues with page content, poorly targeted traffic to the page, or both.

Click — A single instance of a “Visitor” following a hyperlink on a given web page. Many web analytics tools segregate internal clicks (i.e., pages on the same site) from external clicks (i.e., pages on another site) and may require configuration to track “outbound” clicks (i.e., those leaving the site).

Click Path / Click Stream — The sequence of pages followed by one or more website “Visitors” on a given site.

First Visit / First Session / New Visitor — (sometimes known as ‘Absolute Unique Visitor’) A “Visit” from a previously unidentified “Visitor” .

Frequency / Sessions per Unique Visitor — How often “Visitors” “Visit” a website. Usually calculated by dividing the total number of “Visits” by the total number of “Unique Visitors.” Often used as a measure of loyalty from your audience.

Hit — A request for a file from the web server. Available only to those using “Log Analysis”. While, historically, web administrators used hits as a measure of site popularity, this number is usually misleading, dramatically over-estimating popularity. For instance, a typical web page consists of multiple (often dozens of) discrete files, such as images or embedded videos, each of which is counted as a hit as the web server delivers the page. Pages containing more discrete elements thus produce more hits than pages with fewer elements for an identical number of “Page Views.” This dramatically overstates “hits” received, despite no actual increase in site popularity. For this reason, Avinash Kaushik, among others, refers to hits as “How Idiots Track Statistics.” See “Unique Visitors,” “Visits,” and “Page Views” for more realistic and accurate measures of site popularity.

Log Analysis — A method of web analytics based on aggregating the records of server activity in web server log files. In contrast with “Page Tagging,” log analysis captures every request made of the server and every server response (see Hits ), but cannot easily track “Click Streams” and may undercount visitor activity due to page caching. While some vendors continue to support “Log Analysis” (and the technique may prove particularly useful to IT efforts), “Page Tagging” tends to be the more common web analytics method for marketing activities.

New Visitor — See “First Visit.”

Page Depth / Page Views per Session — The average number of “Page Views” site “Visitors” view/interact with prior to exiting the site/ending their sessions. Calculated by dividing the total number of “Page Views” on your site by total number of sessions. Also commonly called “Page Views per Session” or “PV/Session”.

Page Tagging — A web analytics method consisting of inserting an “invisible” image or a “server callback” into a web page to track browser activity. In contrast with “Log Analysis,” Page Tagging can provide additional information to marketers about customer activity and does not suffer from the same undercounting challenges (which isn’t to say it’s a perfect counting method). P”age Tagging” currently represents the most common method for conducting web analysis.

Page View — A “Visitor” receiving a single page, as measured by “Page Tagging” or “Log Analysis.”

Page View Duration / Time on Page — Average amount of time that visitors spend on each page of the site. As with “Session Duration,” most analytics programs typically cannot measure the length of the final “Page View” without custom programming.

Repeat Visitor — A “Visitor” that has made at least one prior “Visit” . The period between the last and current “Visit” is called Visitor Recency and is typically measured in days.

Session – See “Visit / Session”

Session Duration – Average amount of time that “Visitors” spend on the site each time they “Visit.” This metric can be complicated by the fact that many analytics programs may not measure the length of the final “Page View.”

Site Overlay — A display technique consisting of placing graphical statistics alongside links on a given web page. These statistics represent the percentage of clicks on each link.

Visit / Session — A series of page requests to a single website from the same uniquely identified client within a defined time frame between each page request (often no more than 30 minutes). While “Visits” and “Sessions” are sometimes used interchangeably, differences may exist within the context of a specific analytics tool. For example, a Visitor who leaves a site, then returns within 30 minutes, may count as only one “Visit” but two “Sessions”. Because time between “Page Views” is critical to the definition of Visits and “Sessions,” a single “Page View” may not constitute a “Visit” or a “Session” in a given analytics tool. Instead that represents a “Bounce.”

Visitor / Unique Visitor / Unique User — An individually identified web browser requesting pages from a website (“Log Analysis”) or viewing pages (“Page Tagging”) within a given time period (i.e. day, week or month). Analytics tools count “Unique Visitors” only once within the timescale (often 30 days, though the timescale is frequently configurable; please consult your analytics vendor for more details). A “Visitor” can make multiple “Visits” during that period from the same computer/browser without increasing the “Unique Visitor” count (note, however, those subsequent “Visits” do increase the “Repeat Visitor” metric). Identification is made to the visitor’s computer and web browser, not the person, most often using cookie and/or a combination of the visitor’s IP Address and web browser. Thus the same person using two different computers or with two different browsers will count as two “Unique Visitors”.


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