Google Analytics 101: 5 Updated Metrics for Public Relations

Google Analytics is a critical tool to inform and measure communications programs. One of the greatest challenges of the tool is the frequency at which Google iterates , making changes to improve it and add functionality. For people who don’t use it on a daily basis, coming back to the application even a month later can be bewildering, with updated naming conventions and layout of data. Let us help you get caught up on five big naming changes and what they mean for you.

Visitors become users

Visitors were the people coming for a visit, but somehow this word often confused the end user of GA. The term ‘users’ now makes it more clear that it refers to single entities who visit a website and are tracked by GA. Remember that ultimately, effective PR and marketing should be increasing the number of users you have all the time.

Visits become sessions

Page hits (the number of times a page was viewed) and the number of visits per person was also confusing to GA users. Now the term sessions gives context and clarity, referring to what exactly happened during that user’s session instead of what pages they viewed. Another change: the term pageviews is now an indicator of what individual pages are seen by what users. If your PR and marketing are working to generate content that people want, sessions should increase at a faster rate than users, because users keep coming back again and again.

Content becomes behavior

When users come to a website, visiting pages isn’t the only action they take. They read, click, fill out forms, watch videos, look at photographs and more. Behavior tells us what the user is doing during their session on the website.

The behavior section can also help you with event tracking results, A/B testing and in-page analytics, showing step-by-step what the user did, where they stopped in the process of completing desired behaviors, what makes them stay, what makes them leave, and where they left.

Advanced segments becomes segments

Custom segments can be a little overwhelming while you’re still getting used to the wealth of data inside Google Analytics, but once you understand the data available, you’ll eventually want to use this feature to answer a question. This change reflects how segments are becoming standard use by all GA users.

Google updated the interface to be much easier to use, and the advanced features have been baked into the system, avoiding the overwhelming feeling that it might be too technical for GA users to use. Say goodbye to the terror of breaking something while using a setting whose description reads like a foreign language.

Traffic sources becomes acquisition

Before the changes, traffic sources told us where the users were coming from, what got them to the website. This section reflects what PR does to get eyeballs on a client’s website, what marketers do to keep them there or help users find the content that answers their questions. It reflects advertising efforts, SEO configuration, tools and campaigns that results in the acquisition of users.

Google Analytics’ new structure

Ultimately GA now follows a logical structure, and it’s easy as ABC.

Audience is about YOUR audience. Age range, gender, interest, location, and what technology they are using to access your site.

Acquisition tells us where the traffic is coming from, what sites referred traffic, campaign performance, keywords used to find the site, AdWords visits and social referrals.

Behavior primarily tells us about the user’s actions, what site content they found of interest most often and in what order they visited pages.

Conversions shows us what purchase or prospect actions the user took. From filling out a form to making a purchase, this section tracks goals, goal values, paths users most often took before converting and ecommerce sales.


It all sounds very confusing, reflecting a lot of change just when users are becoming more familiar with the platform as is. One of the upsides and the downsides of being a Google Analytics user is the number of changes to layouts, terminology and data. It’s a downside because it means we must always be learning new things to keep up, but an upside because inevitably we get better data that makes logical sense.

Spend some time getting comfortable with the new terms. Once you do, you’ll know where to look for problems and where in your marketing and PR you need to update strategies.

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