More users than sessions in Google Analytics

September 22, 2015
Blog: More users than sessions in Google Analytics

When we are analyzing our data in Google Analytics, every now and then we might bump into some irregularities. This often makes us doubt the accuracy of our data. We can all agree that nothing is more frustrating than having to analyse data that might be incorrect or inaccurate.

Now when we look at the following report we can see that the amount of Users often differs from the amount of Sessions. This is nothing out of the ordinary since a user can visit your site more than once, thus resulting in more sessions per user.

Why is the amount of users higher than the amount of sessions? Is it because of inaccurate data, or is there more to it? In order to explain this we must first understand how these statistics are calculated in Analytics.

Google Analytics Users vs Sessions: Example

User 1: Starts his session on the Home (/) page, clicks through to the /contact page and ends his visit back on the Home (/) page.
User 2: Starts his session on the /blog page and clicks through to the /contact page, where his session also ends.

What this looks like in Google Analytics: see table

The “problem” here is that we are comparing session-level metrics with hit-level dimensions. This might cause some confusion. A session is a single visit to a website and is linked to the first page the user lands on (landing page). For User 1 this is the Home page. User 2 lands on the /blog page. Even though both users visited the /contact page, neither of their sessions started there, thus resulting in two users but zero sessions for that page… When we want to know how different landing pages are performing, it is best we compare the Unique Pageviews metric with the amount of Entrances. Keep in mind that sessionsare not entirely the same as entrances. Session count increases on the first hit, regardless of the type of hit (Event / Pageview). Entrances only take pageviews (or screenview) into account.


Users vs Sessions: Conclusion

  • Always be careful and mindful when combining session-level metrics with hit-level dimensions.
  • The metric “Sessions” is just a counter that increments with the first hit and is associated to the page where the visit begins (Landing page or Destination Page). Even though the user has visited more than one page, the SESSION will only count for the FIRST page.
  • Do not confuse Sessions with Unique Pageviews. A session is only counted once per user per visit, while every user might visit several unique pages during his session.
  • Entrances are not the same as Sessions. Entrances do not take events into account, they only count for actual pageviews.
Lonneke Spinhof

Lonneke Spinhof

Managing Partner

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