Google Analytics Key terms

What is a session in Google Analytics?

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Published on Jan 20, 2023 and edited on May 13, 2024 by Iron Brands

A session in Google Analytics represents a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. Think of a session as a container for the actions a user takes on your site. These actions can include page views, social interactions, e-commerce transactions, and other types of events.

Here is all you need to know about sessions... or you could just use Simple Analytics. Simple and privacy-friendly. No complexity. No cookies. Just the data you need in a simple dashboard.

Google Analytics vs Simple Analytics

Alright, back to Google Analytics.

Key Characteristics of a Session:

  • Duration: By default, a session lasts until there's 30 minutes of inactivity. This duration can be customized by the user.
  • End of Day: A session automatically ends at midnight based on your Google Analytics property's time zone setting.
  • New and Unique: Each time a user initiates a new session, it's counted as unique, which can happen in various ways, such as after 30 minutes of inactivity or past midnight.
  • Triggered by Campaign Change: If a user arrives via one campaign, leaves, and then returns via a different campaign, Google Analytics starts a new session.

Importance of Sessions:

Sessions are crucial for understanding how users interact with your site. They help in:

  • Tracking User Engagement: By analyzing session data, you can gauge the level of user engagement, how long they stay, and what they do on your site.
  • Understanding Traffic Sources: Sessions provide insights into where your traffic is coming from, be it organic search, referrals, or social media.

Nuances and Considerations:

  • Session Timeout: Be aware that the default 30-minute timeout may not suit all websites. You might need to adjust this based on user behavior.
  • Cross-device Tracking: In an era where users often switch between devices, sessions can be fragmented. Explore GA's tracking capabilities to address the issue.
  • Impact of Campaign Changes: Changing campaign sources can inflate session counts, so it's crucial to understand how Google Analytics attributes new sessions in such scenarios.

Final Thoughts

Understanding sessions in Google Analytics is fundamental to analyzing your website's performance and user behavior. While Google Analytics is comprehensive, it can sometimes be complex and not the right tool for every organization. If you just want a straightforward dashboard with the insights you need, GA is not a great place to start. Additionally, Google Analytics is a privacy-invasive tool and requires an annoying cookie banner.

That's why we built Simple Analytics, a privacy-friendly and simple analytics tool - no personal data, no cookies, just the insights you need in a straightforward dashboard.

If this resonates with you, feel free to give Simple Analytics a spin (it's free). You just need to add the script and off you go. This takes about one minute.


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