Google Analytics Definitions

What Does It All Mean?

Google Analytics has a large set of metrics and dimensions which provide a wealth of data about your site. For each website in CHSSWeb, we produce a dashboard containing several metrics that we feel site owners and managers will find useful. This page provides a brief explanation of each metric. We hope this will make using and interacting with your analytics more approachable. If you have questions about analytics, please contact us.


This metric represents the number of unique visitors to your site during a given period of time. A single user can account for multiple sessions.


A session is a group of user interactions with a website that take place within a given period of time. A single session might include multiple pageviews and events. A single user can have multiple sessions during given period of time. A session will expire after 30 minutes of inactivity or at midnight.


A pageview is an instance of a page being loaded (or reloaded) in the browser. This metric represents the total number of pages that have been viewed during a given period of time. The same page, viewed multiple times during a single session, will be counted multiple times for this metric.

Total Unique Pageviews

A unique pageview aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session. This metric calculates the total unique pageviews on a site during a given period of time. A single user visiting the same page 3 times during the same session will count as 1 unique pageview.

Daily Users

This chart examines the change in the Users metric over a period of time. It can be used to help determine which days a site has more traffic or map spikes in traffic to external events that may have had an impact on site traffic.

Daily Unique Page Views

This chart examines the change in the Unique Pageviews metric over time. It can be used to see which days a site experiences a higher number of unique pageviews or map changes to external events that might have caused an increase or decrease in pageviews. In the academic realm this can be useful when compared with academic cycles and events.

404 Pages

This is a custom metric that shows the top urls, based on pageviews, that produce a "404 Not Found" error when visited. This metric can be useful in determining if there are links to your site which reference content that is no longer available. This could be content that has been moved or put into draft mode. To accompany this metric, we have a Custom Report available that can provide the source of these 404 errors. This report can be added to your analytics account by clicking the link below and selecting which of your views you would like the report to be available for. If you are not already signed in to your analytics account, you will be prompted to do so before selecting a view.

Add the 404 Errors and Source custom report to your account >>

Bounce Rate

This metric calculates the percentage of single-page sessions on a site. This is the percentage of all sessions during which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the analytics server. The type of content and the action you hope a user will take based on that content will determine how acceptable the bounce rate is. Learn more about Bounce Rate >>

Pages per Session

This metric is calculated as the average number of pages viewed per session. It can be useful when thinking about the average number of pages a visitor to your site might view during each visit.

Average Session Duration

The average session duration is the total duration of all sessions divided by the number of sessions. It can be useful in approximating how long the average user spends on a site. Considering this metric when planning your content can be useful if you are building content that might require a long stay on your site.

Traffic Drivers

This metric looks at how and from where traffic arrives to a site. The source is the origin of the traffic, such as a search engine or another website.  A "(direct)" source represents those visitors that arrive directly to a site through an address being typed into the browser, a bookmark or a link in an email or SMS, for example. The medium is the general category of the source. Organic refers to an unpaid search engine listing. A referral describes traffic that came from links on another website.

Visitor Locations

This metric shows the geographic location where a session originated. Google Analytics uses the IP address of a hit to provide an approximate location. Currently, this metric is broken down by city on the dashboard.

Top Pages

This metric lists the top ten pages, by pageview, for a site during a given period of time. This is useful when reviewing which pages on a site receive the most views and how much time, on average, is spent on each of those pages. This data can be helpful when making content and organizational decisions about a site.

Sessions from Social Networks

This chart displays the total sessions originating from a source considered a Social Network and then breaks those up visually by network. A session is counted here if the activity leading to that session began on a Social Network. This metric is especially useful in evaluating how well content posted to different social media services drives traffic to a site. It can be used, along with analytics provided by the social network, as a tool to evaluate and refine social media strategies.

Search Activity

This metric represents search terms queried on a site's internal search function and the number of unique searches associated with each term. Multiple searches for the same term during a single session will be counted once. Patterns in this metric might provide information on what content users are looking for but are not able to easily find on a site.