Difference between Users, Sessions, Pageviews, Unique Pageviews
How it all related to GDPR?
How Google Analytics identifies Users?
Google analytics assign a unique ID for each user when she/he lands on a website first time. Every time this users comes back to the website Google Analytics checks if the user has its unique id assigned already. By checking this unique ID it is able to tell either it’s a new visitor or returning visitor.
Google Analytics IDs
Where Google Analytics stores all this User ID data about our website visits?
It’s all in our browser. Each browsers stores cookie where GA has its section.
Since Google Analytics stores user IDs in a browser, Users – are nothing more than unique browsers. You will be counted as two users if you visit a website from one device but used two different browsers like Chrome and Safari.
Usually we think of Users as unique devices because majority of people tend to use only one browser on their devices. According to the survey in average people in US have 2.7 devices. So when we see that there’s 1000 users in our report we can assume that it equals to 500 real people.
New vs Returning visitor
Based on assigned Ids Google can identify whether you new or returning visitor. If you clear cookie every day GA will count you as a lot of new visitors. New vs Returning visitors analysis is becoming more complicated every year because software developers tightening screws by shortening the cookie collecting window.
For example, instead of 6 months cookie data by default, Apple made its Safari browser auto clear its cache every 30 days. All other software developers and manufactures started protecting their customers and implementing auto clearing cookies too.
GDPR and Users data.
In 2016 we’ve been introduced to GDPR which was intended to change the game.
Essentially GDPR is a set of online privacy rules and recommendations.
GDPR addresses many Users privacy issues and one of them is storing User ID in a browser and using it for marketing purposes.
Many people still don’t know that remarketing ads is nothing more than a small line of code in their browser which was added without their consent. The idea of GDPR is to be crystal clear with our visitors and ask them for the consent before we store any data on their behavior.
Essentially, sessions are website visits. One user can visit the website a couple of times which makes Sessions per User metric.
How sessions is counted in Google Analytics
By default GA counts sessions as a 30 min non-interaction interval. Session can be even 5 hours and includes many pageview as long as between all these pageviews and other interactions we didn’t pause for more than 30 min.
We are exploring the website for 10 min then take a brake for 28 minutes come back and keep interacting for 15 minutes more. This is an example of one session.
We are exploring the website for 8 minutes then switch to a different tab and browsing through other website for 41 min, than decided to come back. In this example we have two sessions because we didn’t send any interaction signals to Google Analytics for more than 30 min and it considerate that we finished the session. When we came back after 41 min it created the second session.
Custom session duration
Sometimes you might notice that we get weird pages in the Landing Pages report. What if one of the most common Landing Pages is the cart page? It doesn’t mean that people search for that page and land on it. It simply means that they get distracted or maybe were comparing prices on other websites and didn’t interact with the website for more than 30 min. When they came back GA created a new session where Landing Page was our cart.
In this example all the metrics attributed to the second session will be skewed. Landing Page, duration, source will be updated instead
For such accurencies GA has an option to customize