Are you falling victim to one of these 4 Google Analytics myths?

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool that can help you make seriously smart decisions about your site, and your business. But there are a few things that even the most seasoned Analyst gets tripped up on. Here are four of the most common myths about Google Analytics explained so you needn’t trip up, ever.

 1. A high bounce rate is an awful thing

The most common point of contention in Google Analytics is bounce rate. Often people assume this is people who land on your site and leave straightaway. Not the case. It is actually people that come to your site and leave without viewing a second page. So for single page websites like blogs and microsites a high bounce rate is inevitable. In these scenarios a person lands on the site, finds the thing they want without having to navigate from the page and then leaves, this is considered a bounced visit.

According to Google a healthy bounce rate varies greatly depending on the purpose of a site.


Website type


Avg. bounce rate



10 – 30%



20 – 40%

Lead Generation

National LGBT Museum

30 – 50%



40 – 60%

Landing Page

Every site

70 – 90%


The Sartorialist

70 – 98%


2. Unique visitors are people

Unique visitors count the number of distinct cookies dropped in a browser. Often people assume this shows the amount of people (and therefore size of audience) that are engaging on their website however this metric cannot indicate unique browsers or even computers. A far more robust means for looking at an audience in Google Analytics is through the Demographic & Interests function. This unlocks the ability to understand the people on a site, not just the cookies.

To do so you must modify the tracking code to support display advertising, update the privacy policy to adhere to Google’s Policy Requirements for display advertising, and finally enable Demographic reports in the Analytics interface.

 3. Average Visit Duration reports show how long people spend on a site

This one is a real doozy. The average visit duration report underestimates the actual time a person spends on a site. The way in which this is calculated does not account for the time a person spends on the last page that they view before leaving the site. So really this number shows the average time people spend navigating a website.

This can really trip you up if you have a content site. Say a person lands on your site and scrolls through the articles for 30 seconds before seeing something that takes their interest, spends 3 minutes reading the article, and then leaves. The last three minutes they spent reading is not captured as it is the last page viewed in the visit. The average time spent on site is reported as 30 seconds.

4. Direct traffic comes from people typing the address directly in the address bar

Perhaps it is the way it is worded, but often the assumption is that direct traffic is people that come to your site from typing the address URL directly into the address bar. In actual fact it is traffic from sources not indexed by search engines. This is usually as a result from the link being shared in a realm that Google cannot see. This commonly includes:

  • Untagged emails

  • Instant message services like Skype, G-Chat or AIM

  • Places outside the internet like hyperlinks in PDF and Powerpoint notes

  • Mobile apps like Twitter

  • Redirect pages

  • Bookmark bars

  • Or the link was in Javascript

Direct traffic would save us all a big headache if it were just called ‘the-catch-all-bucket’.

So that’s it, four myths debunked like that. For more pro tips enroll in Amber Horsburgh’s Google Analytics for Beginners course on Skillshare. The Skillcrush community can enroll for free, just use the code ‘CRUSH’ when you sign up here.


Amber Horsburgh is a Strategist at Brooklyn digital creative agency Big Spaceship. At the very minute she leads digital strategy for AXE and YouTube. She teaches Google Analytics and Digital Strategy at Skillshare.