Data Snacks

Sessions, Users, & Pageviews in Google Analytics: What’s the Difference? [Data Snacks]

In our latest episode of Data Snacks, we cover the main differences between Sessions, Users, and Pageviews, and why they sometimes don’t align with reporting from other tools.

John Bonini John Bonini on February 20, 2018 • 3 minute read

Data Snacks is a video series from Databox that shares bite-sized tips to help you be more data-driven.

If you’re like most marketers, you view reporting from Google Analytics as validation against all other tools.

Think about it–how many times have you compared the output you’re seeing from another tool against what Google Analytics is reporting?

“Why don’t clicks from our Facebook Ad campaign match Sessions via Facebook in Google Analytics?”

“Why are visits so much higher in HubSpot than they are in Google Analytics?”

Google Analytics is so accessible that it acts as the benchmark against all other metrics from all other tools.

It’s futile (more on that next) but inevitable behavior.

Most of the inconsistencies you’ll encounter between Google Analytics and other tools is simply due to the differences in how these tools define their criteria. The lack of understanding of what a “Session” is compared to a “User” in Google Analytics, for example, only furthers the confusion.

If you don’t know the difference between Sessions, Users, and Pageviews in Google Analytics, how could you confidently draw any correlation between what you’re seeing elsewhere?

This is the focus of the latest episode of Data Snacks, but before you dig in, see the detailed metric definitions (which I reference in the video) below for a quick refresher.

 

Want the Google Analytics template shown in the video? You can download it for free here.

A quick refresher on the definitions

Sessions

Google Analytics records a session every single time someone visits your website. A session starts right away when someone loads a page and ends after 30 minutes of inactivity.

Every pageview, click, transaction, etc., tracked during this period of activity makes up one “Session.”

If that same visitor comes back several hours later, or the next day, a new session is counted. Therefore one person can log multiple sessions.

For that reason, it’s not a great measure for tracking unique website visits (which is how many marketers wrongly use this metric.) There’s often a discrepancy between “Sessions” in Google Analytics and “Visits” in other performance-tracking tools because of how GA defines a session.

Users

“Users” are Google Analytics’ way of defining unique visitors.

Any time a new visitor lands on your website, Google Analytics assigns them a unique ID, or client ID, that’s stored in a cookie in your browser.

So say you visited our website in Chrome, your Chrome browser received a Google Analytics cookie with a client ID. When you return, GA will then log you as a returning user rather than a new visitor.

If, however, you visit our website a second time, this time using Safari, you’d receive a separate client ID, and therefore GA would recognize you as two users.

“Users” and “Sessions” are vastly different, as one user can log multiple sessions on your website.

Pageviews

A “Pageview” is any view of a page that is being tracked by Google Analytics.

It’s a fairly generous measurement as if you land on a page, that’s a pageview. If you reload that same page, it counts as another. If you leave the page and come right back, it’s yet another pageview—all from the same page and user.

Looking for more Google Analytics templates? Browse our free template gallery here and get started.

About the author
John Bonini
John Bonini is Director of Marketing at Databox. He's passionate about building brands that tell great stories. Connect with him on Twitter @bonini84.
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