Two of the primary metrics in Google Analytics are Sessions and Users.
If you still tend to think in terms of Hits, you may find this a bit of an adjustment.
What’s a Session? What’s a User?
A Session is a visit — someone has come to see our website. This could be a visit from a new visitor or someone who visits us several times a day. Users are the individual people who visit, or their computers.
Here’s an example:
- Malcolm searches for environmentally sound cleaners on his coffee break, finds your blog, and clicks through to read your blog post on the subject. He is the User and his visit is a Session.
- When he clicks through again at lunch time to learn more about your products, he is not a new User, since Google Analytics recognizes his computer. Still, his second visit is a new Session.
- When he gets home and shows your website to his wife on his laptop without signing into Google, he is a new User as far as Google knows, with a new Session.
- Later, if his wife uses the same laptop to place an order, she will not be a new User — Google Analytics recognizes the computer — but it will be a new Session.
In this transaction, there have been two Users and four Sessions before the purchase was completed. If Malcolm and his wife return on the same computers to read blog posts or to order more products, they will not count as more Users, just as more Sessions.
This is why the number of Users is generally smaller than the number of Sessions, as you can see in the screenshot below.
This is a screenshot from the Audience Overview report from our lab site. You can see Users, New Users, Sessions, and the number of sessions per user.
An exception to the rule
If you sign into your Google account, Google will recognize you as a single user, no matter how many devices you use while signed in. Computers which are used by many people, such as public computers in a library or an office computer used by many workers on different schedules, will show up as one user.
Understanding Sessions and Users will help you understand the visitors to your website.
If this isn’t the best use of your time, you can always contact us for help configuring your analytics and identifying actionable data in your reports. Email Rebecca@HadenInteractive.com for details.