Sessions, Users and Page Views – understanding the difference

On 18 January 2018

Not understanding the difference between Sessions, Users and Page Views is actually the most common problem we stumble upon working with our clients.


What is Page Views(Hits)?

A page view is a basic interaction with a website, it is a synonym for Hit. We use the term Hit to describe the sizes of our traffic packages.
Simply put when you open a website you as a User create a Session and open a page generating a Page View, if you click on a link navigating to another page you create another Page View but you are still using the same Session and you are still the same User.
That all means that when a page on your website opens a new Page View event is triggered. So Page Views count is equal to the number of times the pages on your website were open including when you hit refresh the page in your browser.


What is Sessions?

When you close the browser and open it again after some time you are still the same User but some of your history has been lost and you open a new Session and of course a new Page View.
You can create multiple Page Views inside a Session so number of Sessions is always smaller than the number of Page Views.
The Session word here is a synonym for Visit, so the number of Sessions actually is the number of Visits.
In Google Analytics you have a metric called “Pages/Session” showing the average number of pages each Visit opens on your website. There is no “best” Pages/Session value, every site has its own depending on the type of content the site has. For blogs it can be quite low since visitors usually come from Google to read a particular article and for service websites it may be quite high because users interact with many pages.


What is Users?

If you open your website from another computer you will be counted as a new Users so in other words the Users count is the number of different people opened your website. If you open and close and open again your browser you will be the same User making differen Sessions and Page Views.
One of the parameters related to Users in Google Analytics is “Return Rate”, it shows how often the Users actually return to your website making new Sessions. If you have Return Rate 10% that means that 1 of 10 Sessions were made by the same Users that visited your website some time before, so you will have 90 Users and 100 Sessions.
The opposite to Return Rate is New Users showing the percentage of visitors visiting your website for the first time, if you have Return Rate 10% then the New Users metric is 90%
It is quite clear that the number of Users cannot be greater than the number of Sessions nor than Page Views.


How to find Sessions, Users and Page Views in your Google Analytics?

The basic traffic reports in your Google Analytics are in the Audience section.
You click at Audience(1) in the main left menu, then choose the first link Overview(2) and usually by default you get to a daily Sessions report for a few recent days. Now we need to change the report to Users or Page Views one, for it simply click on the dropdown(3) in the top left corner of the chart and choose the type of the report you need.