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In Google Analytics Essential Training, Corey Koberg shows how to use the Google web analytics platform to generate and evaluate information about the visitors to a web site, including data on site traffic, user behavior, and marketing effectiveness. This course covers the out-of-the-box functionality, from account creation to reporting fundamentals, and explains how to glean insights from the vast array of data available.
Throughout this section we talked about several different concepts in web analytics measurements, such as visitors, visits, and page views. These concepts are used throughout many of the reports in Google Analytics, and it's worth taking a moment to talk about what they really mean and put some formal definition around them. At the highest level, we have an actual human being who sits down to use a computer. This is known as a visitor, and through cookies and other technologies, Google Analytics tries to keep track of how many unique visitors see the site in any given time period. But each person or visitor might come to the site more than once, which would result in multiple visits by that one visitor.
For example, if this person came to the site three times throughout the month, as shown here, the reports would show one unique visitor but three unique visits. A new visit starts anytime you either open a new browser or let more than 30 minutes lapse since the last page you saw on that site. Additionally, a new visit can start any time you come back through a different campaign. For example, if a visitor were to click on two different AdWords ads, those would be two different visits. So if you go have lunch and then come back to the site afterwards and continue browsing, that will look like a new visit to the site, since it's been more than 30 minutes since your last page view.
Visits are also known as sessions. And finally, each of those visits to the site can browse through multiple pages or page views during that particular visit. It is important to note that these metrics are estimates and based largely on browser cookies. This means that if you close your browser or even turn off your computer and come back weeks later, the cookies will still be there and Google Analytics will recognize you as that unique visitor from before. But if you move to your iPad or visited from your smartphone or even from another browser on the same computer, you would be seen as a new visitor with a fresh set of cookies.
Each of these metrics has value and will be used in different ways. For example, visitors can give us an idea of our reach. Visits will tell us about loyalty and so-called stickiness of the site, which means how often do people come back, and how willing are they to come back to the site over and over, while page views tells us about how engaged visitors are during that visit. As you look through the reports in Google Analytics, think about what these metrics mean and which is most appropriate for the question you're currently trying to answer.
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