Google Analytics: Understanding Foundational Metrics

Google Analytics is a free tool that provides reports to better understand website traffic and the effectiveness of marketing (Tietbohl, 2021). Google Analytics provides so much data that it may seem overwhelming to beginners. However, coming to understand even some of the foundational metrics will allow for better informed website and business decisions. Google Analytics also provides measurement to calculate return on investment for marketers (Tietbohl, 2021).

These are five foundational Google Analytics metrics, as defined by Tietbohl (2021):

  • A Page as a single unit of content, such as one webpage.
  • A Page View refers to the number of times a page was viewed, even repeatedly by one user.
  • User or Unique Visitors are the number of individual people that visited a site within a given time frame.
  • A Session, sometimes called a Visit, is the set of web requests (clicks, sign-ups, etc.), made within a given time frame by a single user visiting a website.
  • An Event is defined as any recorded website action with a specific date and time.

Google Analytics tracks data for each individual web page, or Page, that exists within a larger website. Page Views are not to be confused with the number of unique visitors that viewed a website. Instead, Page Views are the number of loads and reloads of the same page, from the same user, during a session (Chris, n.d.). In Google Analytics, Page Views will always be higher than the number of unique site visitors (Chris, n.d.).

Page Views, especially combined with other data, can help a business to better understand website use and visitor behavior (Chris, n.d.). For example, Google Analytics can be used to create a Segment that splits Page Views between Desktop and Mobile users (Chris, n.d.). If the number of mobile Page Views are higher than the number of desktop Page Views, a business may want to consider investing in a mobile version of their website.

Google Analytics defines Users as “unique visitors,” and the metric was called just that until 2014 (Malnik, 2020). Once a user visits a website, they will not be counted again unless they have cleared their cookies or visit from a different device (Malnik, 2020). A marketer can utilize the User metric over time to see if an ad campaign is increasing new customer traffic. Users and Session are different, as one user can have multiple website sessions (Malnik, 2020).

Another foundational metric, Sessions, can inform marketers of how attractive their website is to visitors. The Honey Baked Ham Company uses Sessions to “track the overall flow to a site from specific channels as the first indicator of its effectiveness to lead top of the funnel traffic into a site and users to understand which channels are effectively engaging those visitors.” (Malnik, 2020).

Events are defined as user interactions with content and can include downloads, form submissions, video plays, and link clicks (Google, n.d.). An Event “hit” includes four parts: category, action, label (optional), and value (optional) (Google, n.d.). For example, a business owner might track the success of a promotional video by setting up a “play” button that records a hit every time these values are met: Category: Videos, Action: Play, and Label: Promo Video.

Whether you choose to track Page Views, Users, Sessions, Events, or all the above, the metrics chosen should align with overall business goals. Stay tuned for the next blog in which readers will be introduced to Google Analytics engagement metrics!


Chris, A. (n.d.) What are Google Analytics Page Views? (Complete Guide). Retrieved from:

Google. n.d. About Events. Retrieved from:

Malnik, J. (2020, June 2). Sessions vs. Users vs. Pageviews in Google Analytics: Everything You Need to Know. Retrieved from:

Tietbohl, M. (2021). Intro to web analytics and the basics of web analytics [Online]. Retrieved from

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