Web Analytics Standards: 26 New Metrics Definitions

waa logo Some of you know that I am a member of the Web Analytics Association Board of Directors. Amongst my duties are to help share responsibility for the WAA Standards Committee, which is led by the committee co-Chairs Jason Burby and Angie Brown.

It is my distinct pleasure to share with you all 26 brand spanking new metrics that have been published by the WAA standards committee today. They have been a long time in the making (you can imagine what happens when practitioners, consultants, vendors, industry thought leaders all come together!!), and were announced at the Search Engine Strategies (SES) show in San Jose.

You can download a copy of this wonderful document: WAA Aug 2007 Standards.

I am incredibly proud of the work Angie, Jason as well as the committee volunteers have put in over the last so many months. Their hard work has resulted in standard definitions for some of the most foundational metrics in our world. Everyone will benefit from this additional clarity and all of us now have a benchmark to compare our own web analytics vendor's metrics.

Here are the new terms that have been defined:

Building Block Terms:
        Page, Page Views, Visits, Unique Visitors, New Visitor, Repeat Visitor, Repeat Visitor & Returning Visitor

Visit Characterization:
        Entry Page, Landing Page, Exit Page, Visit Duration, Referrer, Internal Referrer, External Referrer, Search Referrer, Visit Referrer, Original Referrer, Click-through, Click-through Rate/Ratio, Page Views per Visit

Content Characterization:
        Page Exit Ratio, Single-Page Visits, Single Page View Visits (Bounces), Bounce Rate

Conversion Metrics:
        Event, Conversion

Here very briefly are the definitions (the real gold is in the comments that you see in the document for each definition, make sure you download it and read it carefully):

    Page: A page is an analyst definable unit of content.

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

    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.

    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.

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

    Repeat Visitor: The number of Unique Visitors with activity consisting of two or more Visits to a site during a reporting period.

    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.

    Entry Page: The first page of a visit.

    Landing Page: A page intended to identify the beginning of the user experience resulting from a defined marketing effort.

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

    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.

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

    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.

    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.

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

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

    Original Referrer: The original referrer is the first referrer in a visitor's first session, whether internal, external or null.

    Click-through: Number of times a link was clicked by a visitor.

    Click-through Rate/Ratio: The number of click-throughs for a specific link divided by the number of times that link was viewed.

    Page Views per Visit: The number of page views in a reporting period divided by number of visits in the same reporting period.

    Page Exit Ratio: Number of exits from a page divided by total number of page views of that page.

    Single-Page Visits: Visits that consist of one page regardless of the number of times the page was viewed.

    Single Page View Visits (Bounces): Visits that consist of one page-view.

    Bounce Rate: Single page view visits divided by entry pages.

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

    Conversion: A visitor completing a target action.

There is a lot more value added content in the document, it lays out key context that will help you think through and understand these definitions. Please download the WAA standards document.

In closing I would like to once again thank the co-chairs and the Volunteers for their hard work (with a special big warm hug for Angie!!).

This is fun stuff. Perhaps you'll consider joining the WAA, if you are not a member already?

Angie, Jason, the Volunteers and I welcome your feedback and critique of the definitions, please share your thougths with us.


  1. 1

    Awwwww, shucks. :)

  2. 2

    Excellent document. Thank you Avinash for posting this!

  3. 3


    1) read Web Analytics Definitions
    2) understand Web Analytics Definitions
    3) live by the Web Analytics Definitions

    Now it's up to vendors to adopt those definitions, and to everyone else to speak the same web analytics language!

  4. 4

    I should probably address these questions directly to the WAA, but suspect they all read here anyway. ;-)

    1. What are the distribution rights on this document? From what I can see the document is a normal document: copyrighted to the WAA itself and hence the usual copyright laws kick in.
    ie. I can't, legally, hand around/distribute copies. :-)

    2. Ditto the definitions themselves. This is perhaps the more vexing issue. In that while I totally support the idea of having standard definitions, if I can't copy them into, eg. my product documentation and so on; then I can't use them and hence spread them. Thus having standard definitions is of no use to me *anyway*. :-(

    "Fair Use" has different meanings in different countries. IANAL, but my understanding of *Australian* copyright law would mean that it is illegal to copy the definitions themselves as Avinash has done above. USA law is different, so don't go locking Avinash up…. yet! ;-)

    3. I have no idea if such exists already, but is there any scope for having these definitions be formally adopted as an ISO, or equivalent, international standard?

    Speaking as someone who was a rep on a Standards Australia committee many many years ago, I perhaps have an inbuilt bias towards the formally approved standards. Yes it can be a fluffy tick only, but it does also lend weight in minds and perceptions.

    Such experience also means that I really appreciate just how much work goes into writing these documents. Well Done All concerned!!!!

    4. I ask because I have to be a PITA at least once a day. And because I note from the doc properties that Avinash did the PDF conversion ;-) (Ghostscript? I find Ooo does a pretty good job fwiw). Any chance of an A4 version vs US Letter?

    Cheers, and again well done. Now to read the 34! pages in detail.
    – Steve

  5. 5

    Steve : I have now familarized myself the legal policy and am ready to go to jail.

    On a serious note though this seems to be a concern from others (who have emailed me). I am going to bring this to the board's attention and bring back a official point of view.

    I was not trying to break the law by copying the definitions here, I wanted to make sure lots of people get exposure to them. I am hopeful that the WAA is very supportive of the use of materials contained in the document (with clear citations).

    But law is the law and it should be respected.

    Thanks for the feedback.


  6. 6

    Nice work by all the members of the committee on updating and adding to the document. I echo the earlier comments that the it would be great to see these all adopted by the vendors so we're all talking the same language.

  7. 7

    Ha! Didn't mean to imply so strongly that you could or even should be locked up. :-)

    Under Aussie law, the rules are not so much for a given "percentage" of a work, rather if the infringement is over a substantial part. Given that the docco in question is WA Definitions, it logically follows that the definitions are a "substantial part".
    One could argue they're the whole point!

    See here for more of a heads up:
    "Can I copy 10%…"

    There are several. One of the biggest issues to overcome is allowing reproduction in any medium without actually changing the definitions themselves.

    Possibly the easiest is to look at the Creative Commons pre-built licenses.

    Pick an "Attribution"; "No Derivative Works" license over the actual definitions you've extracted above. For example.
    Something similar for the actual docco itself.

    HTH? Cheers!
    – Steve
    PS I tried for "shorter" on this comment. :-P

  8. 8

    Yes, we have received other comments about the copyright. We used another document as a template for this one and didn't even think about the copyright being there. Honestly, I don't know much about copyright law (I'm a nerd, not a lawyer) other than seeing how some other industries abuse the heck out of it, but the other person who emailed us seemed to think that having that there would prevent him from copying the document and sharing it with his coworkers. I always thought that was covered under "fair use," it's not like he's going to pass it off as his own doc. Of course we want people to read the document and share it and adopt those definitions so we'll visit that topic and find out what to do.


  9. 9

    @Steve Thanks for pointing this out. I already compiled a little glossary from the definitions and appended it to client deliverable ppts (attributing the def's to WWA). Now it seems I need to be more careful. (even though I AM working in China). The creative commons license seems like a good idea.

  10. 10

    Florian: My pleasure. Glad to help! At the end of the day, I'm more in debt to the authors and the WAA for their efforts than the other way around!

    Angie: Think of "Copyright" as "Right to Copy". If it helps, substitute "DVD of the Movie XYZ" for "Document". If you can legally share part of a DVD Movie, or the whole thing? You're in the clear, re. this document. If you can't… well you (probably) can't share the document as you describe. :-)
    To be horribly simplistic about the whole legal edifice (and then some…) around copyright.

    In essence I have *NO* Right to Copy, except for that granted to me under (Australian) copyright law. UNLESS the WAA deliberately chooses to apply looser Right to Copy provisions for the Document.

    Which also opens up a whole can of worms of it's own:

    Being definitions, you want them kept inviolate and somewhat whole. The WAA would also have a perfectly valid reason for being seen as the Owner/Creator of the definitions.

    I guess the question becomes: What is the purpose of the definitions?

    An oversight I'm quite sure, but "Why?" seems to be missing from the 1st paragraph of the document. ;-) "How?" is there, but not "Why?". If you're at all like me, the intro is written last. ;-)

    Again, my thanks for your efforts!!!!!

    – Steve

  11. 11

    I second the suggestion for Creative Commons, but (though IANAL) I'm pretty sure "No Derivative Works" is the wrong choice. Taken literally, that wouldn't allow a substantial excerpt (as done above).

  12. 12
    Rahul Deshmukh says

    Good vlog on WA vendors and distilling the content. It felt a bit shallow to me…probably I am the loud guy asking questions to the vendors :–) Though, it definitely is a good start on the critical few features of each vendor that sometimes are not exposed during the "dog 'n pony" shows.

  13. 13

    Fantastic document – we all know what happens in organisations when we use the same words to mean different things. Standard definitions rule!!!

    Only disappointment so far is that it does not give a clear definition for a page view. For instance, when presenting a Google map with points of interest(POI), does a map scroll with a refreshed set of POI count as a page view?

    Keep up the good work

  14. 14

    Thanks for the definitions. I've been putting together my own list since joining the analytics community as of late. This is a great addition.


  15. 15

    Curious to know if "sessions" typically end also once a visitor has left a website to go to another? This is especially relevant for comparison shopping contexts where shoppers are bouncing between a variety of sites and may come back to yours 2-3 times in the course of a 1/2 hour.

  16. 16

    Nathanael : I wish there was a simpler answer. Let me try to explain:

    For most web analytics tools the session that starts when you visit the site continues for 29 minutes of inactivity. So you come, you see a few pages, your leave (lets say this is minute 5) and you come back ten mins later then your session continues. Let's say you click on another page and then go away then as long as you come back in less than 29 mins your session will continue.

    Some tools, a few, will terminate your session as long as you click on a link and leave. So you were on http://www.pricegrabber.com and click on a link to go to officemax.com then your session will be closed. If you come back again in a minute then a new session starts (resulting higher "visits" to the site).

    A couple of tools typically behave as in scenario one above but they have one exception. If you exit to a search engine and/or come back to the same site via a search engine then they terminate the session. So you type in "avinash", come to https://www.kaushik.net/avinash, don't see what you want, go back to google and type in "avinash speaking engagements" and come back to the site (this time landing on my speaking engagements page) then that will be two sessions.

    So there are all the nuances. Lesson: check with your vendor.

    Hope this helps.


  17. 17
    Rakesh Fhaujdar says

    Really very meaningfull information.

  18. 18


    Nice list.

    But "WAA Aug 2007 Standards" link is broken.


    – – – –
    Thanks Sayyad, the link is fixed now. -Avinash.

  19. 19
    Prithviraj says

    Hi Avinash and everyone,

    I have a question on referrers report. Can you please help me out

    Here is the situation:
    Visitor comes to your site(Page A) from http://www.ABC.com(referrer page) and then he moves on page B of your site.

    My question here is –
    If I'm looking at the referrer report, which is the referrer page to Page B considering the above situation? Is it Page A or the http://www.ABC.com?

    Appreciate your help.

    Best regards,

  20. 22

    Hi Avinash

    If I have not cookies, to calculate the use Unique Repeat Share. What I must use Unique Visitor or Total Visits?


    • 23

      Maria: If you don't use cookies you are quite limited in being able to track a "person" (or in Web Analytics parlance, unique visitor).

      You might use your web serving platform to serve up another unique id (say a hash key) to track each person – but it is not simple to do and if you would do that you might rather use cookies.

      If you can't track a person, you can't track repeat visitors (and other such metrics as frequency, loyalty etc).

      But you can track Visits. You can track referrers, keywords and other such things for that visit.

      PS: If you want to learn more about what you can track in a cookie-less environment, please see my newer post: EU Cookie / Privacy Laws: Implications On Data Collection And Analysis

  21. 24
    Lea Synefakis-Pica says

    The link to download the PDF appears to be broken; help?

  22. 26
    Michael Spencer says

    The link to WAA Aug 2007 Standards appears to be broken.

  23. 27

    Hi Avinash,

    I read through the document, and saw how new visitors,return visitors and repeat visitors were defined.

    It said how during a specific time period a person could be categorized as either a new visitor/Return visitor.

    But Google Analytics does not incorporate the concept of Repeat Visitors.

    Do you know how the Unique Visitor/Return Visitor/New Visitor Calculation is done by GA?

  24. 29

    Hey Avinash, it has been 9 years since you last posted this, I believe somewhere else in your site should have a latest copy. BUT I got to this page via Google Search, I will recommend to update this page?



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