Deciphering the Terminology of Google Analytics 4

09.01.2022 3 Minutes

Google Analytics can provide a wealth of knowledge about your website – from its most visited pages, to the kinds of visitors that are browsing. It’s free, easy to set up, and essential for gaining insight into what’s working and what’s not for your audience.

In order to get the most from this tool, you have to understand what you’re looking at. The better you understand the terminology, the easier it will be to measure the your website.

Below is a glossary of essential terms for making sense of Google Analytics. However, please note that this list is far from exhaustive, so it’s wise to also review Google’s own glossary of terms and other resources to get a better sense of the wide variety of dimensions, metrics, and other terms used in Google Analytics.

Account & settings terms

These are terms you may encounter as you set up a GA4 account or as you’re navigating through the settings in the Admin panel:

  • Account — A collection of properties whose data is owned by a single legal entity (such as a business or personal account). This is (generally) the highest level of access in Google Analytics.
  • Data Stream — A source of data that is used to populate a GA4 Property. Common data streams include websites and apps. All GA4 Properties must have at least one data stream.
  • Filter — A means of including or excluding event data from your reports based on different parameters. Data filters are configured at the property level and apply to all incoming data. Once you apply a filter the effect is permanent, meaning that all data collected after a filter is set up with exclude (or include) the sessions specified in the filter. For example, many organizations will filter out internal traffic by excluding all traffic that comes from their office’s IP address(es).
  • Google Analytics 4 (GA4) — The newest Google Analytics platform, released in October of 2020.
  • Google Tag Manager — The recommended way of installing tracking codes (such as the GA4 tracking code) on a website. Google Tag Manager allows you to bundle multiple tracking codes (called tags) under one account so you can edit them in the Google Tag Manager dashboard (rather than having to ask a developer to make the changes on your site for you).
  • Internal Traffic — A parameter in Google Analytics that is often used to create a filter. After a user specifies what types of traffic count as internal (generally by setting an IP address or range for internal traffic), they can set up a filter to exclude internal traffic from all future reports.
  • Organization — An access level in GA4 above the Account level. Having an Organization is optional, and is generally only needed in cases where an organization has more complex tracking needs.
  • Property — Properties are the containers that hold your reports. They are generally used to organize different web properties, such as if a business has two or more websites. Properties are also used for different configurations of Google Analytics, such as if you have Universal Analytics and GA4 installed on the same website.
  • Universal Analytics — The old version of Google Analytics that was used from 2005 until its depreciation in July of 2023. The primary analytics format is now GA4, which has replaced Universal Analytics.
  • View — In Universal Analytics, Views were an access level below Properties that allowed for different types of data collection (generally by adding filters). They are no longer used in GA4, with the closest comparable term being Data Streams.

Tracking & reporting terms

These terms will commonly show up as you use GA4 on a daily basis:

  • Average Engagement Time — The average amount of time that an engaged user spent on your website. Specifically, the user engagement metric is defined as the length of time that your website was in the foreground for a particular session.
  • Conversions — The number of times users triggered an event defined as a conversion in the property’s GA4 settings. Common conversion events are form sign-ups or clicks on a phone number.
  • Default Channel Grouping — Rule-based definitions of website traffic sources, such as Organic Search, Email, and Referral.
  • Engaged Sessions — A session that lasted 10 seconds or longer, had 1 or more conversion event, or had 2 or more page or screen views. Note that you can change the definition of an engaged session in the GA4 settings to increase the time frame before a session becomes “engaged.”
  • Events — Events are recorded when a user performs a specific action on the website (such as starting a session, viewing a page, or clicking a link).
  • Sessions — A session occurs when a new unique session ID is created for a user and GA4 begins to track events against that ID. A session will end when there has been more than 30 minutes of activity or when a user leaves your website.
  • Source / Medium — A definition of the type of traffic you receive from each Default Channel Grouping, such as “Google / Organic.”
  • Users — In GA4 there are three User metrics: Total Users, Active Users, and New Users. Active users is the number of distinct users who visited and engaged with the website (i.e. engaged sessions). New users are Active Users with 0 previous sessions. Total users is all users (including non-engaged sessions).
  • Views — The number of web pages your users saw (including repeat views of a single web page).

Now that you understand what you’re looking at, you’ll be able to more effectively navigate Google Analytics for meaningful insights.

We’ve tried to cover the primary terms you’ll encounter using Google Analytics and, hopefully, this glossary will help you make sense of your metrics a little better.

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