Once properly installed on your website, Google Analytics (GA) can provide some pretty incredible insights without any additional configuration or setup. Identifying where the traffic to your site originates, how long users stay on your site, what content is most popular. All of these questions can be answered with just the basic Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) installation, pretty cool. But what happens when your thirst for data grows more intense? When you want to know more about your website traffic. Often times this requires additional set up around your analytics coding to track those further engagements.
“How come the %Exit metric doesn’t say 100%? Everyone has to leave a website at some point, right?”
Measuring how visitors interact with your website – and how they consume your website – is the critical way in which you can refine and improve your website to provide an increased level of visitor satisfaction, and a higher profit margin.
Entrances, bounces, and exits are three foundational, bedrock metrics that Google Analytics uses in many different ways to help you measure your website’s effectiveness. As it turns out, there seems to be slight to moderate confusion about what these metrics represent, and what metrics like bounce rate and %exit really mean.
Let’s start by defining the aforementioned three foundational metrics:
Entrances – This is the number of entries by visitors into the pages of your website.
Bounces – This is the number of single-page visits by visitors of your website.
Exits – This is the number of exits from your website.
Pretty clear so far, right? Good. Now, it starts to get slightly trickier. How about we define another metric:
Bounce Rate – This is the percentage of single-page visits to your website. Bounce Rate is calculated by dividing bounces into entrances.
So, when you have a 60% bounce rate, 60% of your entrances left your website on the same page they entered from. In other words, they did not view another page. Also, when you have a 60% bounce rate, Avinash Kaushik’s head explodes. 🙂
Still with me? Great! Now let’s define the last of our metrics:
%Exit – This is the percentage of site exits from your website. %Exit is calculated by dividing exits into page views.
A-ha! You probably already knew or had an inclination toward what the first part of the definition would say, but then reading the second part, you start to see why the %Exit metric isn’t ever equal to 100%.
Now let’s take the final step.
Does everyone have to enter your website to view it? Yes. Does everyone have to leave your site at some point? Yes, they do. So, while the %Exit metric isn’t going to be 100%, the number of total exits should equal the number of total entrances.
A few images will help you understand everything you’ve been reading so far. I created a custom report in the new Google Analytics platform showing entrances, exits, page views, %exit, entrances / page views, bounces and bounce rate metrics. I also have the page as the dimension for my custom report. This first image shows the scorecard, which tallies up the totals for all metrics for the dimension that I have chosen:
As I expected, the number of total exits equals the number of total entrances (everyone has to come in to some page and everyone has to leave at some point). But the %Exit metric reads 58.92%, not 100% as you would initially think. So, I threw in the page views metric to give you some clarity as to how Google Analytics is calculating %Exit. 13,467 exits divided into 22,857 page views, all multiplied by 100% will give you 58.918%, which is rounded up to 58.92%.
However, viewing the very first line item of my custom report shows that the number exits does not equal the number of entrances for any given page, because not everyone leaves your website on the same page that they entered it from:
Here, the %Exit metric makes a little bit more sense, as it is not tallying up page views for all viewed pages on the site – only the /index.php page. 43.91% of all page views on the /index.php page resulted in an exit from the website from this particular page.
I hope that you were able to obtain some clarification and some deeper understanding of how some of the common metrics that you see in Google Analytics are tabulated and used by Google. Remember to always know what data you’re looking at – that is, get to be familiar with the way metrics are computed in Google Analytics (or, your web analytics platform of choice), as it will help you glean those insights that we all strive for!