Visits or sessions? Where is the difference?
4 minutes read
When analyzing a website, its users and their actions, we can look at a whole range of indicators. For example, we can analyze the number of users (how many people enter our site), conversion rates (how many people move from one place to another), sales (how many products or services have been bought by our users) or the amount of active time of the visit on the website (how many minutes the user has spent on our site actually exploring it). But that’s not everything. There’s one very important indicator, without which web analytics won’t be complete. Do you know which one?
Analyzing visits. This indicator plays an important role in many of our articles, and we decided to write one entirely devoted to it. We will try to show you the difference between visits and sessions, why it is worthwhile to explore the whole user’s visit, and how important it is to analyze the whole user’s path in drawing conclusions.
Analyzing session is like watching 30 minutes of a movie
The difference between a visit and a session (if we take into account web analytics) is enormous. You can say that analyzing a session is like watching just the first 30 minutes of a movie. Imagine: you meet Paul, the main character, make friends with him, go on a journey together and suddenly, bang! End of action. You have no idea what happens next, whether Paul marries his crush or maybe ends up alone.
The situation is similar when it comes to analyzing user sessions. A session is only a fragment of the user’s entire visit on the site, only a half an hour of our movie. If we want our analysis to be complete and accurate, we need to take into account the whole visit, because it may consist of many tabs (and each of these tabs will be a separate session) that the customer opens to compare the products or services we offer.
As we said at the beginning – in order to see the entire path that the customer goes through on our site, we need to analyze all the tabs/sessions/the whole visit. Why?
Why only analyzing visits will give you the full picture?
Some customers explore sites using just one tab. But the vast majority of them, open a lot of tabs to compare products, descriptions and photos. For a complete analysis, we need to check what our client has done on all the tabs. Why? Let’s consider two cases.
Assumptions: the user opens 7 tabs, each tab is analyzed as a separate session, the user makes a final purchase.
When analyzing each tab separately, we can wrongly conclude that there are not one, but seven users, of whom only one made a purchase and the rest left our site without being the lucky owner of our product. Going further we draw another conclusion – the conversion rate on our website is slightly over 14%. By formulating further untrue statements, we come to the conclusion that in order to increase the conversion rate, we have to increase our advertising expenses and maybe even redesign our website. After all, since as many as six users have left it, something must be very wrong with it. Do you see how many incorrect conclusions we reached because we were analyzing sessions, not the visit? Now let’s take a closer look at the second case.
Assumptions: the user opens 7 tabs, all tabs are analyzed as one visit, the user makes a final purchase.
Analyzing all the tabs as a whole visit, we have a full picture of what is happening on the site. We can see that this is one and the same customer who opened seven tabs just to compare products before making a purchase. The conversion for this analysis will be 100% (one customer = one finalization of the transaction). Since this is the best possible conversion rate, we don’t have to think about additional expenses for advertising campaigns or changes on the website.
##What should you analyze, visits or sessions and why?
As you can see, correctly analyzed sessions and visits significantly influence the interpretation of data and business decisions. What is worth remembering is that:
- we analyze whole visits (not single sessions);
- the visit may consist of several sessions;
- the analysis of sessions only can lead to wrong conclusions and bad decisions.
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