The Difference in Google Analytics Users, Sessions, and Pageviews
How much do you know about your users, sessions, and pageviews? Do you know the difference?
Lets’s picture a party at your house. The party itself is your website. People come over, they hang out in different areas, they eat or drink certain things and talk to certain people.
All of these actions can relate to your website; the users, sessions, and pageviews.
Each interaction is crucial data, even a secret weapon to some. You can use this data to create relevant content specifically based upon the actions of your website’s visitors. We’ll show you how.
Understanding “Users” for Google Analytics
Users are unique visitors to your site the first time they arrive in a given time period.
Let’s say you are tracking your Google Analytics user activity for 1 month. It doesn’t matter how many times a person comes back to your site or what they look at your site in any given time period. They are just one user.
Here’s an example:
Person #1 comes to your website on the first day. They go to multiple pages. Come back a few days later and nose around again. They read articles and go to your social profiles. Then they come back another week later visiting your blog for more articles.
All of these visits add up to only one user. Even though they were in multiple pages and multiple times within that month. If you are counting only users, they would be considered a returning user.
If person #2 comes around and does the same activity, they are considered another user. So, now you have two unique users to your site.
A user is given a random number for on the first time stamp they visit a website URL via cookies. This number is called the client ID. The computer a person visits from will always have this random number UNTIL the cookies are deleted, thus, the random number is deleted as well.
This means that if this user visits a site multiple times in a month, they are considered only 1 unique user each time. After the cookies are deleted, the same user can visit the same site, however, they will be given a new random number again and now are counted as a second user. The same goes for mobile devices. The same user can be counted as two unique users if the are using two different devices.
Sessions VS Pageviews for Google Analytics
Sessions are any times a person (user) comes back to your site after a 30 minute time lapse.
This means a person can be moving around your site continuously for hours within the same session. If they stop moving or leave the site and 30 minutes passes, then when they come back they are then in their next session.
Person #1 comes to your website on session #1 and they visit multiple pages and blog posts. This person stops looking around and leaves your site to go to your Facebook page. They don’t come back for an hour. This means they are now on session #2.
Pageviews are the number of visits to each page, regardless of the visitors being new users or returning users.
Pageviews are simply counted by the number of times a new user or returning user go to a certain page. How many times to people go to your “About Us” page or “Contact Us” page? How many times do your visitors read a certain blog? Pageviews can be measured on your Google Analytics by going to Behavior > Overview.
How to Count Pageviews
Counting pageviews is simply counting the number of pages that are actually viewed. regardless of the user. You will count the pages all users view individually.
Person (user) #1 visits 2 pages of your site
Person (user) #2 visits 3 pages of your site
Person (user) #1 revisits 2 pages of your site
Person (user) #3 visits 2 pages of your site
When counting pageviews, we don’t count the users, but only the pages they visit.
Add them up 2 + 3 + 2 + 2 = 9 pageviews.
If I were looking at one user’s activity, it may look like this:
User: 1 (unique visitor in 1 month)
Session: 1 (browsing for 1 hour)
If I left and came back two other times, my stats could look like this:
It’s a Party-Website Analogy
As we said, your party at your house is your website.
The rooms of your house are the menus (if we imagine that you can see them all from one central area). When someone (users) comes into your house, they can see different rooms and decide which one appeals to them most. They may enter one room (session) and move to another. Perhaps they go to the kitchen and hang out there.
The food and individual areas within each room are the pages (pageviews). Maybe you have a sign over the fridge that says “I’m the newest GE Super Galactic Awesomeness!” so a lot of people head right to the fridge, open it up, look at it, and hang out there. This is the same if you have an awesome article or page that is of high interest to the reader (and even not so interested, but curious reader).
So, you have one party guest (user) who came into the kitchen (session) and viewed the fridge, food, and table areas (pageviews). Same thing with a website. A visitor (user) comes to your site, goes to the services page, about us page, articles, and contact (pageviews). While the user moves around the house or website, they are still in the same session but have multiple pageviews. If they leave the house or website for a half hour or more and come back, then they will be in a new session.
Where Did They Come From?
Another point is thinking about how those people found out about your party. Was it word of mouth? Did you post an event on Facebook? Did you post it on your page? Did you send invites through the mail? This is your advertising and it’s how people get to your site, too.
Statistics on Users, Sessions, and Pageviews
We can get a lot of information and statistics from this party, too. Let’s use the same analogy for measurements and statistics. We like using Google Analytics because it has a lot of information and, well, it’s free!
Using the party example, there are questions we can ask that we would find on our analytics.
How many people came to the party? How many went to the bathroom? What percentage of people drank soda versus beer? What people went into the living room, left and came back? How many times did people go back to the food area to get more food?
All these questions correlate to your website to help determine how many visitors you had, how many of them visited certain pages and how many of them interacted with your call to actions or read certain articles.
How To Use Google Analytics Data
The best way we’ve found to use this data is by keeping tabs on what your visitors are actually looking at when they are on your website. To us, the most important of the three are the pageviews.
By watching what pages your unique users are looking at, you can see what type of content is reeling them in during the beginning phases of the buying cycle. In the same way, watching what your return users are viewing is what content may be influencing them to buy.
There are a few ways that you can really get the most impact from those visitors on those specific pages. For instance, if you know that new users come to a particular page, perhaps your services, you can add more helpful links, keywords and “start here” content to help lead them to the next stage.
Here are some items you can add to pages to help you get the most impact:
New / Unique User Pages
- Beef up your SEO keywords on entry landing pages new users are searching
- Add a specific call-to-action button to view product details
- Include beginner checklists or easy step-by-step guides to new user pages
- Link to other pages in the next step of the buying cycle
- Highlight related and new content
- Provide easy “Sign-Up” forms for newsletter
Return User Pages
- Include purchase keywords (SEO) on landing pages and exit pages
- Add a specific call-to-action button to view comparison and pricing tables
- Add FREE downloads of advanced or in-depth checklists, guides, or even reports
- Link to other pages in the next step of the buying cycle (purchasing)
- Prominently direct them to FREE TRIALS or FREE ESTIMATES
- Create images in the sidebar to lead to videos from current customers
- Feature loyalty rewards that they may have missed out on the first time
Using Google Analytics doesn’t have to be daunting. The statistics provide incredibly valuable information that you can use as your own secret weapon to outshine your competitors on the search engines. Just like everything else, practice makes things easier. So, keep playing around with your Google Analytics pages. View the overviews of the Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior reports.
Did we miss anything or do you have additional questions?
I hope this statistical information has got your creative juices flowing to help you think about designing an amazing experience for your visitors. I also encourage you to learn more about navigating within Google Analytics so that you can have more power in your back pocket.
Please leave us a comment below and we will be happy to answer your questions!
Understanding Users and Analytics
These are some brilliant tips! thanks
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