Google Analytics is an incredibly useful tool for all users that run a webpage or app. It provides the owner with information on each individual person that visits their webpage or application, then it sorts and organizes that data and information into different charts and graphs so the owner can use that data effectively. If you plan to make use of Google Analytics or you are already an active user there is a very useful feature that you should be aware of to help improve your webpage or application. That feature is the Entrance and Exit system.
In order to understand what entrances and exits are you must first learn about sessions. Support.Google.com describes the landing page as “The period of time a user is active on your site or app.” Sessions are broken up by 30-minute windows of inactivity. Here is an example, let's say you visit a cooking website in search of a recipe to cook for tonight's dinner. You navigate through 4 or 5 different pages on that site looking for the recipe you want. Finally, you end on a chicken alfredo recipe and get to work cooking it. You stay on the webpage so you can see the recipe as you need it. Let’s say it takes you about 45 minutes to prepare and cook the meal. In that 45 minutes of inactivity on the webpage, your session would have ended. If you decided to continue browsing the website for a dessert recipe, Google Analytics would consider your next link clicked a new session.
Phones, tablets, and laptops are all used to look up recipes while cooking. Users will often stay on that recipes page for the duration of their cooking time so their session on the webpage will often end before they return to browsing. Image courtesy of Unsplash.
One more thing we need to go over before we discuss entrances and exits, that being landing pages. A landing page in Google Analytics is any page by which a new user session is created. Going back to the previously used example, after cooking for 45 minutes and returning to their tablet, the user's new landing page will be the next link on that page that they click on. That new page is both their landing page and the start of their new session. Interestingly, Google Analytics' definition of a landing page differs slightly from that of the traditional marketing team definition. They define a landing page as the page users are directed to through most ads, emails, and links. Think of it like the homepage or the first page a user is intended to see when they visit the website.
Here is a homepage I’m sure we’re all familiar with. Image courtesy of Unsplash.
Now we can finally talk about entrances and exits. Let’s start with entrances. An entrance is a metric used to show the number of times users visit a specific page first in their session. Exits are the metric used to indicate the number of times users visit a specific page last in their session. You might be thinking, entrances sound an awful lot like landing pages. You’re right, the two are similar but there are some key differences. Landing pages are dimensions in Google Analytics, while entrances and exits are metrics. Still confused? No worries, let’s break it down.
The majority of data points in most graphs and charts are made up of metrics. Image courtesy of Unsplash.
Metrics are the raw numbers of your data. Metrics are the elements of a dimension that can be measured with sums or ratios. Dimensions are the attributes or characteristics of data. You can think of dimensions like this. A dimension is the characteristics or attributes we use to better organize the raw data we have collected. Here are some examples of dimensions in Google Analytics--
Now here are some examples of Metrics in relation to the 5 dimensions used as examples above--
As you can see metrics deal with numbers while dimensions deal with labels/categories. So when it comes to the differences between entrances and landing pages, the difference is found in their function within Google Analytics.
Entrances and exits are used to allow the owner of a website or app to see the web pages that users are entering and exiting their webpage from the most. The rate at which users are entering a webpage is called the entrance rate, and the rate at which users end their current session on a webpage is called the exit rate. If you know the entrance and exit rates for individual web pages on your site, you can work towards improving those sections of the site. For instance, if we have a webpage with a high entrance rate we can edit that page to have more content that encourages users to explore our website further and spend more time there. When looking at a webpage that has a high exit rate, we can try to figure out what it is about this page that is making people leave it, and if possible, alter the page in order to remove that element and maximize the amount of time people spend on your website.
Entrances and exits are great metrics to keep in mind when running a website. They can help you improve your landing pages so that users are more likely to explore what your site has to offer, and they can help you understand why people are leaving web pages and what changes you can make to increase your user's session length. If you're having trouble finding your entrance and exit data, simply follow the instructions provided on this page here.