Hello again! So, as October is going to be a month of looking at the stats, metrics and analytical data behind digital marketing, today I’m going to discuss Sessions and Page Views. These are two metrics that anyone who has ever logged into Google Analytics, looked at their WordPress stats or seen pretty much any analytical data about a website. The thing is, they are also stats that I see people get confused about all the time! This is even more true when you throw Users into the mix as well! Therefore, I aim to try and make things a bit more understandable.
Okay, so let’s get started with the most accurate when you want to know how many individual people are coming to the website. The Users metrics is pretty simple really; it counts the number of actual, “physical” people who have visited your website within a given period of time. Pretty simple, huh?
If you are wondering how many different individuals are coming to your website, rather than how many times they come back, this is a wonderful metric. It will only ever track a user once, no matter how many times they return, giving you a great understanding of the audience size that your website has! Now I’m sure many of you are saying “that’s what sessions do”, but I’m sorry… It isn’t. Users tracks the individual, Sessions tracks the sessions themselves.
So what are sessions? Well, have you ever left a page open for too long, or left an ecommerce website only to return and see “your session has timed out”? Basically, when you visit a website you get a cookie placed onto your device. This will last for a predetermined amount of time, allowing the website and any analytical system to track your actions. So far the same as Users right? Well this is where it gets different.
When you visit the website after the cookie runs out, a new cookie will be added to your device starting a new session. Therefore, you have now been counted as two Sessions, but the Users metric will still only count you once. So, the more times you visit the website, the more Sessions you count for, but the Users count will not increase. See the difference?
Now that we’ve cleared up the difference between Users and Sessions, you may be wondering where Page Views comes into the mix. Well, Page Views as a metric counts each page a user visits. Therefore, if you visit a website (counting as one for the Users metric) but visit or refresh 30 pages, you will count for 30 Page Views by yourself!
In order words, it is great to see engagement levels of your website, because it could be astronomically higher than the number of Users. However, it isn’t very good at showing you how many actual people visit your site.
So how should we use these metrics?
Right then, this may get a little complicated but I will try to keep it as easy to understand as possible. If you want to know how many actual, individual people are coming to your site then you should be looking at Users.
On the other hand, if you want to know how much traffic your site gets, including repeat users, then you need to pay attention to Sessions. Finally, if you want to quickly judge engagement levels, you should compared the number of Users or Sessions with Page Views to see how many pages people look at on average.
Does that help to clear things up? Still got some questions? Let me know in the comments and I will do my best to help!