Google Analytics Compliance with WAA Standard Metrics

Following the lead of Dennis Mortensen (founder of IndexTools, Director of Insights at Yahoo!, WAA board member and all around good guy) I’ve decided to identify just how compliant GA is with these standards.

Below is a list of all standards defined in the WAA metrics definitions document and GA compliance with each definition. GA is compliant with 19 of the 26 metrics. Most of the non-compliance is due to the fact that GA does not offer all the metrics that the WAA defined.

Compliant Term WAA Definition GA Definition
Yes Page

A page is an analyst definable unit of content.

Same as WAA

Yes Page View

The number of times a page (an analyst-definable unit of content) was viewed.

Same as WAA.

Note: A pageview is created each time the _trackPageview() method is executed. Any value passed to the _trackPageview() method will appear in the Content reports, thus making a Page analyst definable.

Yes Visits/Sessions A visit is an interaction, by an individual, with a website consisting of one or more requests for an analyst-definable unit of content (i.e. “page view”). If an individual has not taken another action (typically additional page views) on the site within a specified time period, the visit session will terminate. Same as WAA.

Note: By default, a visit will terminate after 30 minutes of inactivity by the visitor. The legth of inactivity can be modified by altering the Google Analytics tracking code.

Yes

Unique Visitors

The number of inferred individual people (filtered for spiders and robots), within a designated reporting timeframe, with activity consisting of one or more visits to a site. Each individual is counted only once in the unique visitor measure for the reporting period.

Same as WAA

Note: Google Analytics defines this term as Absolute Unique Visitors.

A visitor is defined using a unique numeric identifier stored in the Google Analytics tracking cookies. This value is set when the visitor’s first visit is created.

Each visitor is counted only once in the Absolute Unique Visitor metric, regardless of how many times they return to the site during the reporting period.

Yes

New Visitor

The number of Unique Visitors with activity including a first-ever Visit to a site during a reporting period.

Same as WAA

Note: While GA does share the same definition for a new visitor it does not does not count the number of new, unique people (visitors) that have visited the site during the reporting period. GA counts the number of VISITS generated by new people.

Google Analytics calculate the number of New visitors by identifying the number of new unique visitor IDs that were created during the reporting period.

It is possible to measure the number of new visitors using a profile and include filter.

NO

Repeat Visitor

The number of Unique Visitors with activity consisting

of two or more Visits to a site during a reporting period.


N/a

This metric does not exist in Google Analytics.

Yes

Return Visitor

The number of Unique Visitors with activity consisting of a Visit to a site during a reporting period and where the Unique Visitor also Visited the site prior to the reporting period.

Same as WAA

Note: While GA does share the same definition for a return visitor it does not does not count the number of returning unique people (visitors) that have visited the site during the reporting period. GA counts the number of VISITS generated by people coming .

GA identifies a return visitor as any visit generated by a person who’s unique identifier cookie was set prior to the reporting period.

Yes

Entry Page

The first page of a visit.

Same as WAA
Yes

Landing Page

A page intended to identify the beginning of the user

experience resulting from a defined marketing effort.

Same as WAA

Yes

Exit Page

The last page on a site accessed during a visit, signifying the end of a visit/session.

Same as WAA

Yes

Visit Duration

The length of time in a session. Calculation is typically the timestamp of the last activity in the session minus the timestamp of the first activity of the session.

Same as WAA

Note: Google Analytics uses a different name for this metric. It is called ‘Average Time on Site’.

The average time on site is calculated by dividing the total time spent on the site by the total number of Visits.

NO

Referrer

The referrer is the page URL that originally generated the request for the current page view or object.

The referrer in Google Analytics is the page URL that originally generated the request for the current VISIT. This value is then added to all pageviews in that visit.

The referrer is identified in GA as any source whose medium is “referral”.


GA also has a field called ‘Referral’ which does conform to the WAA’s definition. However; this is not a field displayed in any report, only available as a filter field.

N/a

Internal Referrer

The internal referrer is a page URL that is internal to the website or a web-property within the website as defined by the user.

N/a

This metric is not available in GA.

N/a

External Referrer

The external referrer is a page URL where the traffic is external or outside of the website or a web property defined by the user.

N/a

This metric is not available in GA.

See definition of Referrer above.

N/a

Search Referrer

The search referrer is an internal or external referrer for which the URL has been generated by a search function.

N/a

This metric is not available in GA.

Note: While Google Analytics does track both external search phrases and internal search phrases, the term ‘search referrer’ is not used in reporting.

Yes

Visit Referrer

The visit referrer is the first referrer in a session, whether internal, external or null.

Same as WAA

Note: This data is called a Referral in Google Analytics and can ONLY be the external referrer.

N/a

Original Referrer

The original referrer is the first referrer in a visitor’s first session, whether internal, external or null.


N/a

This metric is not available in GA.

Note: See information about Referrer above.

Yes

Click-through

Number of times a link was clicked by a visitor.

Same as WAA

Note: Google Analytics refers to Click-throughs as ‘clicks’.

This metric is only available in the AdWords reports.

Yes

Click-through Rate/Ratio

The number of click-throughs for a specific link divided by the number of times that link was viewed.

Same as WAA

Note: Click-through and Click-through Rate is the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click. It is calculated by dividing the number of clicks on an ad(s) by the number of impressions for the ad(s).

This metric is only available in the AdWords reports.

Yes

Page Views per Visit

The number of page views in a reporting period divided

by number of visits in the same reporting period.

Same as WAA

Yes

Page Exit Ratio

Number of exits from a page divided by total number of

page views of that page.

Same as WAA

This metric is called ‘Exit %’.

N/a

Single-Page Visits

Visits that consist of one page regardless of the number

of times the page was viewed.

N/A

This metric is not available in GA.

Yes

Single Page View Visits (Bounces)

Visits that consist of one pageview.

Same as WAA

Note: Bounces can be modified by other Google Analytics features; specifically Custom segmentation and event tracking.


When either of the previous features are used the Google Analytics tracking code will request the invisible gif from the Google Analytics server.


Google Analytics will interpret this GIF request as a visitor action and conclude that they are engaged with the webpage and will
NOT count them as a Bounce.


To be clear, if a visitor lands on a page, and views a video that is tracked using event tracking, and then leaves the site from the original landing page, a bounce will
NOT be counted.


The same is true for custom segmentation. If a visitor is placed in a custom segment on a landing page, and does not view any other pages, a Bounce will
NOT be counted.

Yes

Bounce Rate

Single page view visits divided by entry pages.

Same as WAA


NOTE: See comment above regarding how the number of bounces can change based on the use of Event Tracking or Custom Segmentation.

Yes

Event

Any logged or recorded action that has a specific date and time assigned to it by either the browser or server.

Same as WAA

Note: There are multiple attributes to an event in Google Analytics. There are objects, actions and labels.

Event Tracking is a Google Analytics Beta feature and may not be enabled in your account. You can read more about Event tracking in this post or on the GA Code Site.

Yes

Conversion

A visitor completing a target action.

Same as WAA

Note: In addition to conversions, Google Analytics will also calculate Conversion Rate. Conversion rate is the total # of visits resulting in a desired action divided by the total number of visits.


Also note that a conversion will only be recorded ONCE per visits. Visitors can not convert more than one time per visit.

You can read more about goals in this post: All About Google Analytics Goals.

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    Comments

    1. says

      Hey Justin,

      This is great! This is really great. And I am not just saying that with my WAA, Board of Director hat on.

      I believe that we might even create an opportunity, where we could see other non-free solutions create compliance lists. – creating the vendor transparency that practitioners deserve!

      Cheers :-)

      Dennis R. Mortensen, Director of Data Insights at Yahoo!
      Blog: http://visualrevenue.com/blog
      Book: http://visualrevenue.com/blog/yahoo-analytics-book

    2. says

      Steve,

      Thanks! As you may have seen on some other blogs, I needed to pull this information together for a WA tool survey. I figured I might as well share it with the rest of the world as Dennis did.

      Dennis,

      Thanks so much. I couldn’t agree more. Who should we pressure next to post their standards? Omniture? ClickTracks?

      Thanks for the comments.

      Justin

    3. says

      Nice list Justin

      However, I really think the WAA are barking up the wrong tree with their heavy reliance on VISITOR tracking for their list of definitions, as opposed to VISIT tracking.

      As you know, visitor tracking is probably the least accurate metric that can be counted by web analytics tools. There are simply too many unknowns – cookie blocking, cookie deletion, the new browser stealth/incognito modes, multiple users on the same computer, same user on multiple computers, mobile phone users (most without javascript capabilities).

      Of course, tracking unique visitors would be great in an ideal world. But the reality is that its just not going to be possible…

      I feel the days of reporting on visitors as anything other than a side metric are numbered – similar to reporting pageviews, it will soon be irrelevant. My view is that it is much better for analysts and marketers to focus on visits and engagements as their benchmarks.

      BTW, here is a the link to a whitepaper I wrote earlier this year on accuracy considerations for web analytics implementers and users: http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com/blog/2008/02/16/accuracy-whitepaper/

      Best regards, Brian

    4. says

      Brian,

      Thank you so much for offering your insight on these metrics. I appreciate the time. I could not agree more that visitors are a dyeing metric and that the visit is much more suitable. Moving away from visitors would help mitigate the current issue of cookie deletion.

      Thanks again for taking the time.

      Justin

    5. James Warren says

      Forgive what is likely a simple question, but under the GA definition of New Visitor:

      “It is possible to measure the number of new visitors using a profile and include filter.”

      Could anyone more detail into how this is actually done?

    6. angie says

      I just realized I never commented on your post. Bravo Justin, thank you!

      Brian, your comments about visits vs. visitors are well-taken. We need to hear that type of feedback. It’s hard for us to ensure we’ll catch feedback when it’s on someone else’s blog, particularly in the comments, so please make sure to tell us directly at “standards at webanalyticsassociation dot org” or comment on our post (http://waablog.webanalyticsassociation.com/2008/09/new-standards-d.html).

      I don’t want to let valuable comments like that slip through the cracks.

      Angie Brown
      Co-Chair, Standards

    Trackbacks

    1. [...] Justin Cutroni di EpikOne ha provveduto ad analizzare quanto Google Analytics sia aderente a questi standard, rilevando che solo 19 delle 26 definizioni sono rispettate; in verità delle sette che non corrispondono, soltanto una non è “compliant”, mentre le altre sei semplicemente non esistono in GA. Questo comunque non cambia la sostanza del problema, anche se è decisamente meglio che avere sette metriche completamente sbagliate. Vediamole nel dettaglio (lascio i nomi in inglese): [...]

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