Library:Circle/Google Analytics metrics

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Summary

Every measurement that Google Analytics (GA) makes is called either a metric or a dimension. This page gives a brief description of some of the metrics in GA that could be useful for the assessment and analysis of cIRcle.

Related Articles

Google Analytics for cIRcle

Examples of Google Analytics dimensions

Dimensions & Metrics Reference page at Google Analytics


What are metrics?

Metrics are typically numerical measurements that can be analyzed statistically. They can be added or subtracted, and we can calculate average values, for example. In the context of a typical database or Excel spreadsheet, they would form the column headings and would be called attributes or measures.


Some common metrics

There are about a hundred metrics in GA, and many are related to advertising, e-commerce, and internal site searches (provided by Google, if you are subscribing to this service) which makes them unnecessary for cIRcle. Each of these metrics can be measured over any given time range. Just as it doesn't make sense to measure the weight of a country, but it does to measure the weight of an individual of that country, not all metrics and dimensions can be paired together. A full list of allowable pairings can be found on Google's dimensions and metrics reference page.

Visits

Several of the useful metrics in GA are related to the idea of a session. When a visitor comes to any page on the cIRcle site, a new session is started. This session is only considered finished when any one of a number of events occurs: for example, if more than thirty minutes have passed and the visitor has stayed on the same page; or the day has ended; or if their web browser is closed; or if any other key criteria that identifies the source of the visitor has changed. Note that at the moment, if a visitor leaves the cIRcle site but then returns again within thirty minutes, it will not be counted as a new session. The visits metric simply counts the total number of sessions over the time period that we set in the report.

It's important to note that a visit in GA is only counted when a HTML page on the cIRcle site is loaded. These include community homepages, collections homepages, item pages, submission pages, search pages, and so on; any page in cIRcle can have visits associated to it. But file downloads from cIRcle have no HTML page associated to them, and so directly downloading an item file (or bitstream) will not register as a visit in Google Analytics. For example, search engines often return search results with links directly to the PDF or other file itself. Clicking that link will take the visitor past the HTML item page and directly to the file, which will not register as a visit in GA. Still, the resulting download will be counted in the DSpace Reporting Suite.

Visitors

This metric counts the total number of people who have visited any page in cIRcle, over the time period specified in the report. We can also measure how many people visited any particular page, using the same metric but limited to the single page.

The initial session by a user during any given date range is considered to be a new visit and they are counted as a new visitor. In any future visits, they are counted as returning visitors. Google does its best to identify these new or returning visitors through the visitor type dimension, using cookies saved on their computer to track whether they have been to the cIRcle site before or not.

The new visits metric counts the number of visits by people who have not been to the site before. Of course, if visitors routinely clear cookies from their computer, they cannot be identified as returning visitors and then this metric is not that useful. These new visits can also be reported as a percentage of all visits, and this is exactly what the percent new visits metric does.

Pageviews

One visitor looking at one page on the cIRcle site makes one pageview. This metric counts the total number of such pageviews over the time period specified. Happily, GA is not supposed to count views by web crawlers or robots. Another metric, unique pageviews, counts the actual number of distinct pages viewed within one session. For example, this corrects for pages viewed repeatedly due to visitors clicking the 'back' button on their browser; if you visit a page, then go elsewhere but return to the same page, the unique pageviews count remains 1 although the pageviews counter is 2.

Pageviews per Visit

This metric calculates the average number of pages a user viewed when they visited the cIRcle site. Since it uses the pageviews metric to calculate the average, repeated views of a single page are counted. This average is sometimes used to measure how engaging the site is; that is, if the number is high, that could mean that the visitor was interested in content on the site and so clicked through several pages.

Avg. Time on Site

The average time, in seconds, that a visitor spends in cIRcle. Generally, all time measurements are calculated using the duration between clicks. Google can only record page changes by visitor’s clicks to go elsewhere, by following a link or clicking backwards or forwards. This means that the time spent on the exit page is not easy to measure, because the visitor is leaving the cIRcle site and our analytics ends when they leave the site.

Bounces & Bounce Rate

A bounce is counted when a user lands on a particular cIRcle page and then leaves the cIRcle.ubc.ca domain right after that. In other words, in a particular session, the visitor views exactly one page in cIRcle and then leaves. The bounce rate is the percentage of all visits that are single page visits only. While this metric is typically meant to measure how the site holds a visitor’s attention, it is probably not particularly useful for item pages in cIRcle. After all, if a visitor finds the particular paper or thesis they were looking for, then they will simply download it and leave, and this would mean a high bounce rate.

Organic Searches

An organic search occurs when a visitor types a keyword or phrase into any search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo! and so on, and then selects a cIRcle page from the list of search results. Although the exact keywords used in the search are actually a dimension in GA (see here for more), the number of these searches performed in any one session is tallied as a metric, called organic searches.


Conclusion

There are several other metrics in GA that have not been described here, and their omission from this article doesn't necessarily mean that they are useless in our context. They could also be relevant to analyze usage of cIRcle, and should be explored to see what information they provide. In addition, more metrics could be introduced by Google Analytics in future, and refinements to existing metrics are also ongoing.