A Glossary of Key Terms in Google Analytics

Updated July 2016

If you’re new to online business, then a lot of the terminology used in the Google Analytics dashboard are probably new to you too. That’s why I’ve prepared this glossary of key Google Analytics terms and phrases, so you can have a quick and handy reference by your side in future. This is a work in progress, so feel free to get in touch if you spot any definitions I've missed.

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Account – this is the top most level of organisation in Google Analytics, and will be your starting point when you first sign up. Accounts can contain several properties, which in turn can contain one or more views.

Adwords – a paid advertising service from Google. If you have an Adwords account you can link it to your Analytics account to collect additional data about your campaign performance.

Attribution – the process by which Google Analytics determines which of your channels receives the credit for a conversion. There are several different attribution models you can choose from.


Bounce Rate – the percentage of people who arrived to your website, then left without going to any other page on your website or triggering any events.


Channels – these are the differents categories of website traffic you receive. For example, people can arrive to your website via links in Email, or Organic Search, or simply by typing your URL directly into their browser.

Conversion – this most commonly refers to users completing a transaction on your website; i.e. purchasing a product or service from you, or completing the steps in one of your pre-defined goals.

Conversion Rate – the percentage of visits to your website that lead to a conversion, out of the total number of visits for a given period.



Direct – one of the most misunderstood traffic channels. The simple definition is that it refers to users who arrived at your website by typing your address directly into their browser bar, or by clicking on a bookmark. However there are occasions when Google Analytics may not be able to capture the source of a visit; if this occurs, the visit will also be categorised as “Direct”.


Event – a user interaction with your site, such as playing a video or downloading a file. Events have to be pre-defined and require additional code; they are not automatically tracked in Google Analytics. Events do not automatically count towards your conversions; if you want a particular event to be considered a conversion you must also create a goal based on that event.


Filters – these are set up in the admin panel, and allow you to modify the data shown in a particular view. For example, you can filter out traffic based on a particular IP address, or create a filter to isolate the data for certain sections of your website (i.e. all URLs with "/shop/" in them.)


Goal – this is similar to an event, in that it is a predefined action or set of actions that visitors can take on your website, like signing up for your email newsletter. Goal conversions are used as a measurement of your website’s performance.



Intelligence Events – these are alerts that are triggered whenever Google Analytics notices a significant change in traffic or user behaviour. Some are automatic, others you can define yourself.





Medium – a particular category of traffic sources, for example "organic search" or "referral".



Organic Search – this refers to the portion of your website traffic that arrived via a search results page, like Google or Bing.


Pageview – when a visitor to your website loads one of your pages in their browser.

Property – a property is a single website or mobile app that you want to track in your Analytics account. Each property has a unique ID number that you add to your website or app via the tracking code snippet, so you can easily identify the data in your reports.


Query – this is the search term that generated an impression of your website in organic Google search results. You can find the data for queries in your Search Console report.


Real-Time – these are a set of reports in Google Analytics where you can monitor sessions and events as they occur on your website.

Referral Exclusion – every referral triggers a new session by default. This can cause problems if for example you have a third party payment processor (like Paypal.com), where the user temporarily leaves your site, only to return after making payment. You can stop Paypal from triggering a new session and appearing as a referral in your reports by adding it to your referral exclusion list.

Referral– a particular website that sent visitors to your website. Examples include news / blogging sites, social media websites, or posts in forum that link to your site.


Search Console – a free Google service that allows you to closely monitor your SEO performance in Google search results. You can link your Analytics and Search Console accounts to collect additional data about your SEO performance.

Self Referral – occasionally an issue in Analytics reports, self referrals are when you see your own domain listed as a source in your traffic reports. This indicates a problem with your tracking setup and generally requires an expert to find the cause and fix.

Session – a single visit to your website. Sessions can include multiple pageviews. It is important to note that if a particular session results in a bounce, then the time on site will be recorded as zero.

Site Search – this a report in Google Analytics that can tell you what users are searching for within your site. This needs to be configured in the Admin area of Google Analytics and is not automatically tracked.

Social – this is the portion of your website traffic that arrived via a social networking site, such as Facebook, or LinkedIn. A social networking site is defined as any website where users are able to create an account and interact with one another.

Spam Referrer – a fake traffic source in your reports, generally designed to boost another website's search ranking. You can use filters to exclude them from your reports. Learn more here.

Source – where your website traffic came from. For example this could be a search engine like "google" or "bing", or another website.


Tracking Code – this is the piece of code you need to insert on any page you want Google Analytics to monitor. It is unique to your Google Analytics property and can be found in the Admin > Property > Tracking Info section.


User – a visitor to your website.


View – A view is simply a collection of reports in Google Analytics. You can have multiple views for a single property (i.e. website), and show different segments of data for each. For example, you can have one view that shows all the data for www.example.com, and another that isolates all the data from www.example.com/blog via filters.


Webmaster Tools – the former name for Google Search Console.