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Use this page to learn about common web analytics terms and metrics that can help you make data-driven decisions for monitoring and improving your website.


Glossary of terms

This section contains an alphabetical listing of common web analytics terms. Some of these terms and definitions have been reprinted from the Web Analytics Association's list of published definitions (PDF, 293 KB).

Bounce rate: The percentage of entrances on a web page that result in an immediate exit from the website.

Cookie: A small string of text stored on a user's computer by a web browser. It consists of bits of information such as user preferences, shopping cart contents, the identifier for a server-based session, or other data used by websites to recognize visitors.

Direct traffic: The number of visits to your website that originated through visitors who a) clicked a bookmark to come to your site or b) typed your site URL into their browser. Direct traffic can include visitors recruited via offline (i.e., print and television) campaigns.

Entry page: The first web page accessed during a visit to a website.

Exit page: The last page accessed during a visit to a website, signifying the end of a visit. In a tabbed or multi-window browser environment it should still be the final page accessed that is recorded as the exit page even though it cannot be definitively known that this was the last page the visitor viewed.

Landing page: The page that a visitor lands on after clicking on a targeted link or advertisement. A landing page can also be an entry page for a site; however, its main purpose is to monitor visitor behavior for targeted content.

New visitor: A visitor who has never visited the website before or who has cleared browser cookies before the recorded visit.

Page view: The number of times a web page was viewed during a visit.

Referring sites: Other websites that send traffic to your website.

Returning visitor: A visitor who is returning to the website. (This is detectable if they have received a cookie during their prior visit and if they have not cleared their cookies.)

Search engine: A web-based program that searches web pages and documents for specified keywords and returns a list of the web pages and/or documents where the keywords were found. Google, Yahoo, and Bing are few examples of search engines.

Visit: An interaction by an individual with a website consisting of one or more requests for a unit of content (usually a web page). If an individual is on the site for more than the specified time period (usually 30 minutes), the visit session will terminate and a second visit will be recorded.

Visitor: An individual who visits a website during a defined period. A visitor can make multiple visits and their identification is based on the visitor’s computer. A cookie helps determine whether a visitor is new or returning.


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Data collection metrics for websites and website sections

This section contains guidelines on metrics for website and website section related data collection for performance and monitoring purposes.

Metric/data point*Description of metricRecommended reporting frequency
Website section**Website
Average time on pageProvides the average time spent on a web page by a visitor. It tells you how long a visitor stayed on a page within a given visit duration (usually 30 minutes).

If the goal of your web page is to provide information, the time spent on your page will likely be greater than if the goal of your web page is to send people to other sites.

You should compare the time spent on your page with the average time spent on the website, to get a sense of how much time a visitor may be spending on average during a given site visit.
Average time on siteProvides the average time spent on your site by a visitor. It tells you how long a visitor stayed on your site within a given visit duration (usually 30 minutes).N/AMonthly
Exit rateHelps you determine the number of visitors who exit the site from a given page. A high exit rate from your page would be an indicator of a few things:
  • Your page contains links to external sites and hence visitors exit here
  • The visitor was able to complete their task and therefore left the page
  • The visitor was not able to complete their task and hence left the page
    Conversely, a low exit rate would be an indicator that visitors spend more time on your page while completing their task and depending on the content on your page, it can be good for your site/page(s)
Number of visitsProvides the total amount of traffic your site gets during a given period of time. Trending the visits over time will provide patterns on amount of traffic that your site gets.MonthlyMonthly
Search analyticsProvides data related to search-engine behavior on your site and on the web. It is important since search engines play a key role in enabling visitors to get to your content through web search engines and site search engines. The types of data to look for are:
  • Web search keywords: keywords visitors search for on web search engines (through which they get to your content)
  • Number of visits with searches: provides an understanding of how many of your visitors use search to find something on your site vs. browsing or landing on the page they are looking for
  • Site search keywords: gives you a representation of content that visitors look for once they are on your site. It provides good insights on understanding what visitors look for in your site
  • Search engine referrals: the number of visits and visitors to your site sent through search engines
Top exit pagesHelps determine the pages from which visitors leave/exit from your site. Knowing the exit page will help you enhance content on those pages to retain visitors or increase engagement.

Exit rate is calculated separately for each page because it is the property of an individual page independent of any other page on the site.
Top visited pages (by number of page views)Provides trends on the most visited (most popular) content on your site/section. It enables you to see which pages visitors visit most frequently when visiting your site. This data will help you understand which content should be prioritized in your site's content strategy.

Comparing the page views per visit will give you an estimate of how many times your page was viewed during a visit.
 Monthly Monthly
Traffic sourcesProvides a view of the sources visitors come from to your site/section. It is usually representative of sources such as direct traffic, referring sites, and search engines.

By knowing which sources work best at directing traffic to your page, you can work on strategies to improve ways to get more visitors to your page.
Visitor loyalty (number of returning visitors)Provides trends on unique and return visitors that can inform how frequently site/page content needs to change.

If the goal of your site/section is to have visitors return for new information, this metric will help provide insight into whether your site is doing a good job at getting users back to the site or not.
MonthlyWeekly, monthly


* These metrics are tool agnostic. Naming conventions for specific metric reporting may vary when seen in different web analytics tools such as Webtrends, Google Analytics, NetInsight, etc.

** A custom report will be required to see segmented data for a particular section of a site.


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