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Google Analytics - Part 6: Key Metrics Dimensions Defined

01/10/2016

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This month we look at the different types of data, or ‘metrics’ that you can view in Google Analytics and we unpack some of the most common metrics, including ‘sessions’ and ‘bounce rate’.

There are two principle categories of data in any digital analytics tool:

  1. Dimensions, which refer to data that helps to characterise who your users are (User Dimensions), what kind of actions they take on your website (Interaction Dimensions) and also general information about the ‘session’ spent on your website (Session Dimensions).
  2. Metrics, which refer to the numerical data available in your Google Analytics account and can be categorised into Audience Metrics, Behaviour Metrics and Conversion Metrics.

All the reports you see in your Google Analytics account will contain both dimensions and metrics. Typically, this is structured in a table layout, with the first column displaying the dimension values and the subsequent columns displaying the specific metrics. E.g. 

Country (Dimension Name)Sessions (Metric 1)Bounce Rate ​ (Metric 2)New Users ​ (Metric 3)
UK9840%54
France4453%12

 

Some common dimensions you will find on Google Analytics include Geography (an example of a user dimension), Traffic Source (an example of a session dimension) and Page Title (an example of an interaction dimension). Common metrics include things like No. of Visitors (an example of an audience metric), No. of Page Views (an example of a behaviour metric) and Conversion Rate (an example of a conversion metric).

Common Metrics

Sessions

A ‘session’ is a period of consecutive activity on your website by the same user. A session is recorded as having ended after 30 minutes have passed with no activity by the user by default. This is called a session timeout, however, you can customise the duration of a session within Google Analytics if required. This can be useful if you expect users to spend much longer periods of time on your website, for example, if you had a website full of long training videos you would want the session time to reflect the average amount of time you expect a user to spend on-site.

A session will remain active on your website whilst your user is doing one of two things:

  • Generating page views (this literally means every time a page on the website is loaded by the user)
  • Triggering events (an event is when a user interacts with content on your website that is being tracked independently from the page view, e.g. clicking on a certain button, watching a video etc.)

Once neither of the above things have taken place for 30 mins, the session will be deemed to have ended (unless you’ve manually extended the default length of a session). It’s very important to bear in mind that all the time-based metrics in Google Analytics are fuelled by the principle of sessions.

Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is a term you are likely to have heard when it comes to measuring the performance of your website. Simply put, the bounce rate refers to the percentage of sessions taking place on your website where the user only ever performs one action. For example, a session would count towards your bounce rate percentage if a user came to your homepage and never clicked on anything else. In this instance the user has performed only one action (navigating to your homepage, thus triggering a page view) before the session expired.

So why is bounce rate a useful metric when measuring the performance of your website? If you have a high bounce rate (typically 60% or more) then it could be a indicator of one of the following things:

  • Poor user experience on your website. Users may find your website difficult to use, or find it hard to access the content they want to. This would especially be the case if your website is not optimised for mobile devices, since a lot of traffic comes from devices with small screens nowadays.
  • Confusing or irrelevant content. If the user was expecting to see different content or a different kind of experience when they access your website, they navigate away.
  • Poor design and lack of consumer trust. If your website doesn’t look trustworthy because the design is very dated or unprofessional, it’s possible that the user might leave your website without continuing their journey.

Sometimes however, high bounce rates may not bear much relevance to the performance of your website, depending on what the website is for. With a blog for example, a high bounce rate would be quite typical since users generally only access one page in a session and often arrive from other websites or apps specifically to the page they’re already interested in.

If you’re interested in discussing Google Analytics further or how we can help improve the performance of your website, please get in touch with a member of the team today.

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