This is a list of terms related to audience metrics. The decision to include and exclude specific terms was necessarily subjective. For this glossary we have included those used in this metrics report, common vernacular, designations used by significant analytics companies, and oft-employed terminology relating to large social platforms—the meanings of which may not be obvious to all readers.


Active visits - this refers to Chartbeat’s presentation of three main metrics, prominently displayed at the top of its dashboard, which provide data about users who are presently engaging on a site. These metrics are concurrents, engaged time, and recirculation.

Ad drop-off - the percentage of visitors who leave a video during the ad pre-roll.

App performance metrics - metrics used to analyze the technical performance of an app, such as user timing (a term Google employs to mean how long it takes for a user to perform a given user action).

Attention minutes - a metric Upworthy defines as the amount of time a user is engaged with a video, estimated by tracking video player signals about whether a video is playing, user’s mouse movements, and which browser tab is currently open to infer whether a user is actually watching the video.

Authentication/authenticated user - authentication, by way of user registration and a log-in process, for example, helps to filter out robots and spiders to give a more accurate count of unique visitors, thereby helping to identify and value users.

Average engagement - the average length of time that all users spend engaged on a particular page. See Engaged time.

Behavior Flow - a Google Analytics report that visualizes the path a user takes from one page to the next. A publisher defines “nodes” on a site map, which could be a single page, a collection of pages, or an event (such as a video play or download), and can then view the volume of traffic among nodes.

Big Board - Chartbeat tool for newsrooms that displays a constantly refreshing list of a top-performing articles.

Bounce - a visit/session that consists of a single view of one page by a user who then immediately leaves the site. The Web Analytics Association (WAA) also calls this a “single page view visit,” not to be confused with a “single page visit,” which can consist of multiple views of the same page.

Bounce rate - the percentage of users who view one page and then leave the site.

Break the Internet - a hyperbolic expression (stronger than “go viral”) for an unusually sharp rise in page views, shares, and other engagement around a particular piece of content.

Click - a colloquial term referring to a page view.

Click-through rate - the number of times a link is clicked, divided by the number of times it is viewed.

Click-through/clickthrough - the number of times a link is clicked.

Clickbait/click bait - a term with numerous definitions, including a headline that overpromises relative to what it delivers, sensationalist or otherwise low-quality content, or a teasing headline (so-called “curiosity-gap headline”) intended to grab viewers’ attention and generate more page views.

Clicks per minute - the number of times per minute visitors click on any link to a particular article. Chartbeat assigns a color code (green, yellow, red) to articles based on their clicks-per-minute performance compared to historical data for articles in the same page position with similar timing (time of day, day of the week).

Close rate - YouTube uses this to express the percentage of annotations immediately closed by the user. On YouTube, an annotation is a clickable text overlay on a video. Annotations commonly ask viewers to like, favorite, or share a video, or to link to related content.

Collective traffic - an inexact term generally referring to the number of visitors and the number of pages visited for a specific website. See also Site traffic.

Concurrents - the number of unique visitors currently viewing a site. Chartbeat provides second-to-second counts of its clients’ concurrents.

Concurrents dial - a meter-like visualization that displays how many people are on a site on a second-by-second basis, with a maximum cap as defined by the publisher. When the number of concurrents exceeds this cap, the publisher sees a “broken dial.”

Conversation rate - this is a term concerning social media, describing the proportion of an audience moved to discuss certain content. On Facebook, for example, it refers specifically to the ratio of “talking about this” to “reach” —with “talking about this” as derived from a number of potential participatory signals, which include comments, likes, shares, RSVPs, and other actions. See also Reach and Talking about this.

Conversion - the completion of some action by a user as intended by the site designer, such as clicking on a link or buying a subscription. A visit that results in a conversion is sometimes called a “converter.”

Cookie - also called an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie. This is a piece of data placed in the user’s browser memory when he/she visits a site. There are various uses of cookies; for metrics purposes, cookies can track a visitor’s actions through a particular session (session cookies), or track behavior over multiple sessions as long as the user’s browser is not reset.

Cross-posting - posting the same content to multiple platforms.

Daily Content Perspective - Chartbeat’s daily (midnight to midnight) summary of site metrics, which features the highest performing articles, top sections, top authors, and a summary of overall traffic.

Dark social - a term coined by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic referring to social sharing for which analytics software cannot ascertain a referrer. See also Unknown referrer traffic.

Dashboard/analytics dashboard - a display of metrics provided by analytics products. Dashboards generally include visualizations of up-to-the-minute data and options to view the data by different segments.

Device segmentation - a categorization of visitors by device (desktop, mobile, or tablet).

Digital fold - the point on a digital page beyond which a user must scroll to see more content. This term has become less meaningful as the growth of screen sizes, new devices, and software configurations have vastly increased the potential range of browser dimensions.

Direct traffic - a label used by Google Analytics and Chartbeat to refer to sessions from people who typed in a URL, clicked on a bookmark, or copied and pasted a URL into a browser. The more technical name for direct traffic is “unknown referrer traffic,” because the browser request does not include a referrer variable. See also Unknown referrer traffic.

Engaged time - Chartbeat’s term for the amount of time users spend reading, watching, commenting, or otherwise engaging with content. Chartbeat measures engaged time by tracking keyboard and mouse events, inferring whether a tab is active or not.

Engaged users - Facebook uses this term for the number of unique people (in reality, unique Facebook profiles) who have clicked on a given post.

Engagement score - a ranking metric based on a combination of popularity and average engagement with a video, benchmarked against the publisher’s entire video library.

Entry page/landing page - rather ambiguous terms that Google Analytics and other media analytics companies use interchangeably to mean the first page a user visits when he/she comes to a site. Landing page can also refer to a page that the publisher specifically intends to be the user’s point of entry into a session.

Event - any logged or recorded action that has a date and time assigned to it by either the browser or server. Examples include a click, a mouseover, a video play, a key press, and many others. Events can be counted in different ways: by the total number of occurrences of an event, the number of visits that include at least one occurrence of an event, or the number of visitors who execute the event at least once.

Exit page - the last page visited before a user leaves the site.

First launch/new user - this refers to the session when an app is opened for the first time on a device.

Impact metrics - a high-level term regarding attempts to measure the impact that journalistic works have on the world. These have emerged partially as a response to the perceived inability of browser-based metrics to describe journalism’s social utility.

Inbound link - also known as a backlink, incoming link, inlink, and inward link, this term refers to any link into a site from outside sites. Publishers are notified by a kind of acknowledgment called a “trackback” when other sites link to theirs.

Individual traffic/personal traffic - traffic to all posts on a given site that are authored by a single person.

Influencer/social influencer - a person or entity with a significant following on social media.

Install - the event of installing an application onto a device. Frequently used in reference to smartphones and tablets.

Internal traffic - traffic coming from a link within the same site.

Kinja Leaderboard - list of Kinja users with the highest number of unique page views in the past 30 days. Kinja is Gawker Media’s publishing platform.

Like - a recorded action of “liking” (as in, giving a virtual “thumbs up”) a post, usually referring to Facebook. Instagram and LinkedIn also use this term. YouTube has both “like” and “dislike” options, and BuzzFeed has an array of tags that users can choose from (\<3, WIN, OMG, LOL, FAIL, CUTE, broken heart emoticon, YAAASS, WTF, TRASHY, and EW).

Location - user location, sometimes based on an IP address or readings from device sensors.

Map overlay - a geographical visualization of a given metric.

New visitor - a user visiting the site for the first time during a given reporting period.

Page exit ratio - the number of exits from a page, divided by the total views of that page. Unlike bounce rate, page exit ratio applies to visits/sessions of all lengths.

Page view/pageview - any time a user views a page by any method, such as clicking on a link, typing in a URL, or refreshing a page. Page views are sometimes called “hits” or “clicks.”

Platform segmentation - a categorization of visitors accessing a website versus those using its mobile app.

Play rate - the percentage of visitors who click play on a video.

Play Store view - a page view of the app description page within the Google Play Store.

Post-click metrics - this generally refers to any metric describing the session after a session is initiated, either positively (time on a site or other engagement metrics) or negatively (bounce rate).

Pre-click metrics - this generally refers to any metric describing what leads a user (or not) to a site, such as click-through rates from an email newsletter.

Reach - number of unique people who have theoretically been exposed to a given piece of media or a media brand. Facebook uses this metric with regard to users who have accessed posts. Broadcast ratings calculate reach from surveys of a subset of the population within an area.

Recirculation - percentage of users who view at least two distinct pages in the course of a single visit, excluding those who arrive at the homepage and then view exactly one additional page. Sometimes recirculation is used more narrowly to mean the percentage of users who view at least two distinct article pages in a single visit.

Referral Flow - a visualized report, produced by Google in Google Analytics, of how users find and acquire an app on the Google Play Store.

Referred traffic - also called external traffic, this refers to traffic coming from a link on an outside site other than social media or via a search engine. A “referral” is sometimes used to describe a single referred session.

Referrer - variable in the browser request that is used to determine traffic source.

Referrer Quality - a Chartbeat metric for ranking referred traffic sources based on which referrers send the most valuable traffic (i.e., loyal users and users who return directly to the site rather than those who return only through the referrer).

Repeat visitor - a user who visits a site two or more times during a reporting period.

Return - any consecutive session/visit to a site by a user within 30 days of an earlier session.

Return rate - the percentage of visitors directed to the site from a specific referrer who then become returning or loyal visitors.

Return visitor - a user who visits a site during a reporting period and has visited the site during a previous reporting period.

Scroll depth - how far a user scrolls down on a page.

Search traffic - traffic coming from a search engine, which could include clicks on paid search ads. Search traffic is sometimes further specified as “paid traffic” (traffic from paid ads) or “organic search” (Google Analytics’s term for search traffic excluding paid traffic).

Segment - a group of users defined by any set of criteria for metrics analysis. Analytics software is generally designed to compare metrics across segments. Examples of segments are converters (or non-converters), new users, or users who performed a site search.

Session/visit - a series of page views in a single interaction with a website. Counts of total sessions/visits typically include all sessions visitors initiate to a site (including return visits).

Share/social share - a distribution of content on social media.

Shareable - a term used to describe content that appeals to a broad audience that is likely to repost it on social media.

Site performance metrics - metrics used to analyze the technical performance of a website, such as page-load time (which typically includes any time spent redirecting from one URL to another), execution speed (how long it takes to load a given user action), and Site Speed (a Google Analytics terms based on the latter two metrics).

Site traffic - an inexact colloquialism for the number of people visiting a site.

Social plugin - button placed on the site to share content directly through a social network.

Social traffic - sessions for which the referrer was a social network.

Spike - a sudden rise in traffic to a site.

Stickiness - the degree to which a site or application keeps visitors engaged.

Subscriber - a term with different meanings in different contexts; generally it includes people who have elected to receive or be alerted to particular items of content.

Take off/blow up/go viral - a sudden rise in page views, shares, and other engagement relating to a particular piece of content.

Talking about this - a term Facebook uses for the number of unique people (in reality, unique Facebook profiles) who have created a story from a given post or page. On Facebook, a “story” is created when someone likes, comments on, or shares a post.

Time spent on page/time on page - the amount of time a viewer remains on a single page.

Time Watched (or Watch Time) - a term YouTube uses for the aggregate amount of time viewers are watching videos, normally from a particular user account.

Today’s Social - a feature of the Chartbeat dashboard, which displays daily counts of the number of tweets and Facebook likes.

Top Pages - a feature of the Chartbeat dashboard that displays the top-performing pages on a site at the present moment, based on their number of concurrent users.

Total Time Reading - a metric developed by Medium to estimate the amount of time a user spends reading an article, by periodically measuring the user’s scroll depth and inferring when he/she starts reading, if and when a user pauses, and when he/she stops reading altogether.

Traffic source - where visitors are coming from when they arrive at a site. Chartbeat divides traffic sources into five categories: direct, social, external, internal, and search. Google Analytics sometimes refers to the type of traffic source as the “medium.”

Trending - used generically to refer to a news story, topic, or hashtag around which there is an unusually high amount of engagement at a given moment. Social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter have their own (proprietary) algorithms for determining trends.

Unique visitor/unique - sometimes referred to as an “active user,” a unique is an inferred individual person who visits a site or uses its mobile app at least once within a specified period. Unique site visitors can be inferred by leaving and tracking “persistent cookies” on a user’s browser. Counts of uniques are typically filtered for robots and spiders.

Universal Analytics - Google’s name for a significantly new version of its analytics suite.

Unknown referrer traffic - sessions for which the request has no referrer variable. This may include users clicking on bookmarks, typing in a URL, or clicking a link in an email.

User - a visitor to a site over multiple sessions. In reality, this generally reflects a specific browser or device (not an individual person) that accesses a site.

Vanity metrics - metrics that are not deemed sufficiently actionable and exist more to serve a user’s vanity than to help in decision-making. Vanity metrics often refer to metrics like page-view counts, which may present publishers/writers with an inflated sense of how many people are engaging with their content.

Video start - the user action of starting to play a video.

Visit duration - length of time of a single visit/session.

Visitor frequency - also called “return frequency.” Chartbeat divides visitors into three categories based on how frequently they visit a site. New visitors are those visiting the site for the first time in at least 30 days, loyal visitors are those who have visited the site on at least eight of the past 16 days, and returning visitors fall in between these two.

Weekly Audience Perspective - Chartbeat’s weekly summary of user engagement time, referrer quality, and which visitors are returning to a site.

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