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What Jargon Means: The Career Practitioner’s Web Analytics Tip Sheet


by John Horn

Web Analytics That Inform Career Services

Knowing how to analyze and measure the online presence of a career centre – or any service, for that matter – provides practitioners, managers, marketers, and front-line staff with the information needed to best serve clients. When measured effectively, understanding how clients access a website, what they do within the site, and where they go when they leave can impact everything from web-content to marketing strategies to in-person programming and advising. Wrapping our heads around the definitions, terminology and jargon of web analytics, however, can be challenging. What precisely is a “bounce rate” or an “impression” anyway?
As you begin exploring the power of web analytics that inform career services, be sure to review these straightforward examples of how people engage with your website (The Typical Visitor’s Path) and the terminology that describes their actions online.

The Typical Visitor’s Path

Basic website visitor tracking activity consists of four main components:

  1. Traffic Source – where did the visitor come from? Search engines, ads, email links? This is very important to know because visitors from different sources behave in different ways.
  2. Entry Page – what page was the first page they saw when they arrived at the site? In the case of campaign tracking, smart marketers create a special customized entry page for the visitor to see when they click the ad; these special entry pages are called landing pages.
  3. Visitor Path – what is the sequence of pages the visitor views during the visit?
  4. Exit Page – what was the last page the visitor was looking at before they left the site?

A visitor searching Google and finding a link clicks on it (traffic source), which leads them to a page on the website (entry page), they click on several more links and view other pages on the site (visitor path), and then click on a link that takes them to another website (exit page).
Content originally contributed by Steven Liversedge, Director, (now part of Edited by Ned Kumar (2010). Content © 2010 Web Analytics Association.

Web Analytics Terminology

  • Hit – A request for a file from the web server. The number of hits received by a website is frequently cited to assert its popularity, but this number is extremely misleading and dramatically over-estimates popularity. The total number of visitors or page views provides a more realistic and accurate assessment of popularity.
  • Page view – A request for a file whose type is defined as a page in log analysis. An occurrence of the script being run in page tagging. In log analysis, a single page view may generate multiple hits as all the resources required to view the page (images, .js and .css files) are also requested from the web server.
  • Visit / Session – A visit is defined as a series of page requests from the same uniquely identified client with a time of no more than 30 minutes between each page request. A session is defined as a series of page requests from the same uniquely identified client with a time of no more than 30 minutes and no requests for pages from other domains intervening between page requests. In other words, a session ends when someone goes to another site, or 30 minutes elapse between page views, whichever comes first. A visit ends only after a 30 minute time delay. If someone leaves a site, then returns within 30 minutes, this will count as one visit but two sessions. In practice, most systems ignore sessions and many analysts use both terms for visits. Because time between page views is critical to the definition of visits and sessions, a single page view does not constitute a visit or a session (it is a “bounce”).
  • First Visit / First Session – (also known as “Absolute Unique Visitor”) A visit from a visitor who has not made any previous visits.
  • Visitor / Unique Visitor / Unique User – The uniquely identified client generating requests on the web server (log analysis) or viewing pages (page tagging) within a defined time period (i.e. day, week or month). A Unique Visitor counts once within the timescale. A visitor can make multiple visits. Identification is made to the visitor’s computer, not the person, usually via cookie and/or IP+User Agent. Thus the same person visiting from two different computers or with two different browsers will count as two Unique Visitors. Increasingly visitors are uniquely identified by Flash LSO’s (Local Shared Object), which are less susceptible to privacy enforcement.
  • Repeat Visitor – A visitor that has made at least one previous visit. The period between the last and current visit is called visitor recency and is measured in days.
  • New Visitor – A visitor that has not made any previous visits. This definition creates a certain amount of confusion (see common confusions below), and is sometimes substituted with analysis of first visits.
  • Impression – An impression is each time an advertisement loads on a user’s screen. Anytime you see a banner, that is an impression.
  • Bounce Rate – The percentage of visits where the visitor enters and exits at the same page without visiting any other pages on the site in between.
  • % Exit – The percentage of users who exit from a page.
  • Visibility time – The time a single page (or a blog, Ad Banner…) is viewed.
  • Page View Duration / Time on Page – Average amount of time that visitors spend on each page of the site. As with Session Duration, this metric is complicated by the fact that analytics programs can not measure the length of the final page view unless they record a page close event, such as onUnload().
  • Active Time / Engagement Time – Average amount of time that visitors spend actually interacting with content on a web page, based on mouse moves, clicks, hovers and scrolls. Unlike Session Duration and Page View Duration / Time on Page, this metric can accurately measure the length of engagement in the final page view.
  • Frequency / Session per Unique – Frequency measures how often visitors come to a website. It is calculated by dividing the total number of sessions (or visits) by the total number of unique visitors. Sometimes it is used to measure the loyalty of your audience.


With no globally agreed upon definition for web analytics, the good people at Wikipedia ( crowd sourced expertise and collaborated to bring you the above content. Content ©Everyone.

John Horn, M.A., is the Associate Director, Career Development of Career Services at the University of British Columbia. He is also a blogger, book reviewer, literary enthusiast, board member of a socially conscious tech start-up, and the Web Services Committee Chair for the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC).

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