Understanding Sessions in Google Analytics and What They Really Mean

By Mintent Staff on February 6, 2019 Categories: Content Marketing, Content Strategy, SEO
google analytics sessions

Data is at the core of every great marketing strategy in 2019. It allows us to create actionable plans based on empirical evidence, not assumptions. Without it, we are simply making educated guesses about the strength of a particular strategy and its growth can be stifled as a result. Data analysis needs to be at the forefront of our minds as marketers and there are many different ways we can use it in practice.

As most of us already know, Google Analytics is one of the most important tools used for data analysis. In fact, over 27 million websites use Google Analytics. Unfortunately, there still seems to be some confusion over how to interpret some of the most essential metrics on the platform. This includes things such as page views, bounce rates, and the reason you’re here with us today — sessions.

Sessions are the most important metric in understanding website performance. They give us the ability to evaluate all the moving parts of any given website interaction. It’s an overarching view of whether people are engaging with your website, if you will. We’re here to help you understand what they are and, more importantly, how they can help you.

Let’s Talk About Sessions

The easiest way to think about sessions is using day-to-day life as an example. Let’s say you go to the mall and you’re there for about an hour or so. In that time, you go to a few stores, meet up with your friends, and have lunch at the food court. These are all the interactions that have taken place during your mall session.

Google’s own definition of sessions is very much the same: a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. Now think about going to a website like Amazon for some online shopping. As soon as you enter their website, your session has begun. Google Analytics will follow things such as what pages you view, what products you end up buying, what city you’re from, browser language, and what forms you fill out.

Google_user_interaction
Source: Google

It’s kind of like being in Las Vegas: what happens on the website stays on the website. Sessions give marketers valuable insight into how a user divides their time on your site. Are they looking at a particular product for 20 minutes then leaving? Are they checking out multiple pages and signing up for special offers? You can answer all these kinds of questions by utilizing the sessions metric.

A session can end in a few different ways. If you leave a website, that notes the end of your session on that particular site. By default, Google will also end your session after 30 minutes of inactivity, at midnight, or when a campaign changes. While you do have the ability to adjust session and campaign timeout, this generally only applies for highly specialized sites with lengthy articles or specific product pages that don’t require the extra time.

Using Session Data to Your Advantage

A session records every interaction on your site in a given period of time. That includes big actions such as purchases and sign-ups down to minor clicks and scrolls. With all these bits of information, we’re able to understand how users are navigating our site.

If you run an e-commerce site, for example, and the average session duration is only 30 seconds — there is clearly a problem. This could be the result of a faulty website, mobile compatibility issues, or just a poor overall user experience. By extracting the information from sessions, we can start the process of pinpointing where those issues are coming from.

GA_session_data
Source: Geekflare

A session exists to show you that a problem is there, but not necessarily what it stems from. It’s up to us as interpreters of data to take those stats and dig into the why behind them.

Sessions are also used as the primary metric to analyze year-over-year performance. An increase in sessions compared to the previous year means increased traffic on your site. You can look at the users to see if they’ve increased year-over-year, but you ideally want every user to have more than one session on your site. Sessions equal engagement.

Spend some time looking at your sessions to unearth different patterns and pathways. Equipped with this information, you can make the necessary adjustments to your site and see if your sessions are becoming longer and more fruitful.

Sessions highlight red flags with website performance that have become a barricade from users completing a conversion on your site. By understanding the context within these sessions, we can break down these barricades to create a smoother user experience that will lead to more conversions. This takes an especially vigilant approach where you need to constantly monitor your sessions and adjust them accordingly.

Understanding your sessions better will strengthen your content marketing strategy. But you can’t just stop there, our industry-leading software includes SEO tools, trackable links, and customized workflows to help you build a unified approach that works. Sign up for a free account today!