Google Analytics has become one of the most widely used web analytic tools. It allows users to monitor and analyze the interaction with their webpages. Yet, the information given can seem overwhelming. We take a deeper look and analyze users and sessions vs pageviews and outline their differences.
What are Users, Sessions and PageViews metrics?
Analytics software is mainly used to analyze your website traffic and gauge how many users visit your webpages. However, it’s not always clear which metrics can help you understand your website performance best.
Let’s take a look at the main differences for users vs pageviews vs sessions for the 3 most commonly used metrics:
A User is an online individual that has visited your website. No matter how many sessions the user has made, the user count will not increase. Google will remember the user even after they leave and return.
A Session represents a single visit to your website no matter the duration. So for example, if a user visits for a few seconds and then leaves, it is still regarding as a session. In contrast to previously, if a user leaves and returns to your website, the User count will not increase, but it will count as a new session. Given this, it is essential to note that not all sessions are significant. The duration of a session can give an indication of whether the user liked the content or not.
Pageviews depict each individual time a page on your website is loaded by a User. A single session can include a number of Pageviews if a user navigates through other web pages on your website without leaving.
When a user lands on your site and visits multiple webpages, those webpage visits count as pageviews within the user’s session. But what about when the user decides to reload the page or press back to view the previous page? Do they still count as pageviews? The answer is Yes. They will still be counted as page views but they will not be listed as unique. A unique pageview is only considered for the first time a user visits on a page during a single session. However, if a new session begins, the user can revisit the same page and it will still be considered as a unique pageview.
So what does this mean? Having a lot of page views that are not unique can actually be a good sign because it means that your users are revisiting multiple pages without leaving the site. This is the intended behaviour if the webpages revisited are the ones that best convert sales. However, truthfully, it all depends on your goals for your website.
Users vs Sessions vs PageViews: Which metric is more important?
In general, both sessions and pageviews are important. Analyzing both the sessions and the page views can help you improve your site traffic. Having said that, depending on your website’s goals, some metrics may give more important information than others.
Some websites may choose to get revenue from sales leads. Some examples may include filling out a form or a user call. Since a user cannot sign up more than once, the website needs to constantly be on the lookout to bring in new users. So in this case Users metric may be more important than Pageviews and sessions.
In contrast, many websites choose to get their money from the number of times an advert is seen on your website (also referred to as Ad impressions). This means that every time a page on a site is loaded, and the ad comes into view, the site earns a little money each time. So for this instance, Pageviews are more relevant than sessions and users because that is where the revenue will be produced.
The reason for this is that the number of Ad impressions will remain the same regardless of if the views came from a single user or a hundred. The more pages that are visited, the more money your site will make. To increase revenue, you could try to bring in more users or focus on increasing their session, but in the end, your aim is to increase page views.
However, one thing pageviews will not tell you is how engaged your users are. Taking pageviews at face-value can be misleading because it doesn’t give you information on whether the user visited a lot of webpages because they got lost or because they found your website interesting. Also, a page is no longer just a webpage. A webpage is filled with ads, widgets and other marketing frames that make page views not very clearly defined.
While users and page views can give you a clear indication of what drives traffic, sessions metric proves to be beneficial if you want a deeper study of user engagement. Tracking this metric allows you to customize your app to the user, improve their experience and increasing your ROI.
By making use of session length and intervals you can gain insight on the user’s recurring behaviour for given time durations across different audiences and verticals. You can customize the report to pinpoint results within different dimensions. A good example is to check the session length in comparison to purchasing frequency or device.
Here is an example of an analysis of sessions for users vs average session length for new users.
Essentially, using the session metric can help you keep track of key events taken within your website. Such examples include identifying users who get lost navigating and measures user engagement. It also enables you to apply efficient marketing campaigns.
Final thoughts and recommendations
As you can see, all three metrics play an important role when analyzing and understanding what drives traffic to your website. Depending on your goals, you should focus on the metric that will help you convert. However, while users and page views are important to reach your goals, it is a short term solution. To really keep your customers interested and loyal, you should also focus on their sessions and their behaviours.