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All About Google Analytics Session – A Comprehensive Guide

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Google Analytics Session

 

You must have come across the term ‘Session’ quite often in analytics. You must have thought about it in general terms like ‘ hey , who doesn’t know what a session is’ and just skipped. Well you are partially correct but majorly wrong. If you are into the digital marketing domain, especially into analytics, you need to know more about what a session is.

Whenever you open your Google Analytics account and come across the sessions column, you must exactly know what it means since that is major factor in deciding your content and website strategy.

Below is a screen shot from a temporary website’s analytics account showing you the number of sessions it has recorded.

Sessions Google Analytics

To start with, let me tell you that there is a difference between a Web Session and a Google Analytics Session. However, sometimes people use them interchangeably, which is not correct.

 

What is the difference between a Web Session  and a Google Analytics Session ?

A web session is basically a group HTTP request and response exchanges between a web browser and server in a given time frame. On the other hand , a Google Analytics session is basically a time frame within which the user interacts with the website.

Now moving on, let’s dive into Google Analytics Session.

 

Google Analytics Session

In Google Analytics, a Session is a group of user based interactions on your website within a time frame. For instance, As soon as you land on NVD Academy’s website, the session starts.

Sessions

 

The next question comes to mind is, how long does a session long? When does is start? When does a session end and the next session starts?

There are two ways a session’s  end is recorded :

 

1) Time Based Ending

 

(i) After 30 minutes of inactivity : If you visit a page, you session count has started. But then you do not perform any interaction with the webpage and simply stay inactive, after 30 minutes, your session 1 ends and session 2 starts. However, as you keep on interacting, each time the session is extended by 30 minutes. (30 minutes is the default setting in Google Analytics. You can change it as per your requirement.) To put things in perspective, see the image below.

Sessions Google Analytics

You enter the website at 14:01. So the 30 minute expiration time will be at 14:31. But you interact and click on a different page in the website at 14:02, the 30 minute expiration extends and is now counted from 14:02. So on and so forth.

 

There are two more aspects to this.

(a)  What if you enter the website at 14:00 and go out somewhere leaving your computer screen on and return at 14:29 and click on some other web page of the same website ? If you have grasped the concept, you know that your first session will be continued and your expiration time will be set for 14:29 + 00:30 = 14:59.

 

(b)  What if you enter the website at 14:00, go out somewhere leaving your computer screen on and return at 14:31, then start interacting with the webpage?

I hope you guessed it right. Session 1 ends and session 2 is now active.

I hope you are now clear with the concept of time based expiration of sessions.

 

(ii) At Midnight

You are a night owl and you start browsing the internet around midnight. You enter a website at 23:50 on 15th November 2018. You find it interesting and keep on browsing the website till 00:15 on 16th November 2018 (date at midnight changes).

Your session 1 started at 23:50 on 15th November and ended at 23:59:59 on the same date. The session 2 started immediately after that. Getting the point? During midnight your session changes automatically.

Sessions Google Analytics

2) Campaign Bases Expiration

Campaign basically means that if you enter a website organically through Google Search results or through a paid advertising link or through a referral link or social media , you are entering the website through different campaigns.

So if you enter a website through social media, your session starts. At the same time, if you enter the same website through some other referral link, then your session 1 via the social media ends there and session 2 via referral link starts. It doesn’t matter whether it took 30 minutes or less.

 

How can you change the Session timings from default of 30 minutes to your own timings as per your needs?

1) Fire up your Google Analytics account.

2) Click on the Admin button on the sidebar in the left.

Admin Google Analytics

 

3) Click on Tracking Info button in the second column and select Session Settings

Google Analytics

 

4) You will land up on the following screen and can alter the timings here

Session Timing Setting

 

 

Difference between Sessions, Users and Pageviews

We have talked enough about sessions and I hope that is quite clear by now.

There are certain other terms in Google Analytics that people generally confuse with sessions.

Users and Pageviews !

Let’s take them one by one.

 

Users

Every time you visit a website which has Google Analytics configured, it saves a Google Analytics cookie in your browser. If you are curious how the cookie looks like, see the below snapshot.

Google Analytics Cookie

 

This cookie has a client id, which is assigned to you once you visit the website and you are counted as a new user.

Next time you visit the same website from the same the same device and browser, Google analytics looks at your cookie and registers you as a returning user.

So basically you are a client ID in a Google Analytics cookie (ga cookie) in the eyes of Google Analytics.

 

You can see the GA cookie here

Settings > Advanced > Content Settings  > Cookies > See all cookies and site data. Find your site in the list and click on it. You can see the your GA cookie there. See the blow screenshots in order.

Google Analytics Cookie

 

Google Analytics Cookie

 

Google Analytics Cookie

 

Google Analytics Cookie

 

Google Analytics Cookie

 

Google Analytics Cookie

 

 

Page Views

Page view is the simple instance of user visiting a particular page on a website.

When you visit say page A and the navigate to page B and then return to page A again, then Google Analytics counts 2 page views for page A , 1 page view for page B and a unique page view for page A.

 

 

I hope this clears a lot of your doubts regarding Sessions and you will never look at them the same way you did. Next time someone asks you about them, you have got plenty of information to pour. For more such cool information about digital marketing keep reading our other blogs and join the industry experts’ driven  digital marketing course in Noida and Delhi NCR. And if you wish to be a pro in this domain, contact NVD Academy , the best digital marketing training institute in Noida and Delhi NCR.

 

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