Correctly understand sessions, page views, entries & exits in Google Analytics

Why can’t I measure pages with sessions in Google Analytics? Why can’t you add up the number of individual page views? When creating your own custom Google Analytics reports, you can choose combinations of over 400 dimensions and metrics. But not all of them fit together and show valid figures. Here you get an overview of the metrics sessions (visits), page views, unique page views, entries and exits and learn how to use them correctly.

Dimensions and Metrics

Every report in Google Analytics consists of dimensions and metrics. With dimensions properties are described by your users and their sessions and actions. Dimensions describe characteristics of your data. Metrics are metrics that can be measured. They indicate numerical sizes.

In the tables of Google Analytics reports, dimensions are usually arranged in rows and metrics in columns.

Unique pageviews vs. visits

The naming of the individual metrics in Google Analytics is not always self-explanatory. For example, it is not clear to everyone what the difference between “visits” and “unique page views” is.

Visit (session): A session describes the length of time that a user actively interacts with a website or app. All usage data (screen views, events, e-commerce, etc.) are assigned to a session.

Unique Pageviews:  The “Unique Pageviews” metric comprises the number of visits during which the specified page was viewed at least once. A  unique page view is counted for the combination of page URL + page title .

How does Google Analytics calculate?

To better understand how Google Analytics counts , let’s take a look at a single report. In the table, the pages called up during a visit are shown in sequence, as well as the counts generated by Google Analytics.

For better differentiation, the page-based counts are marked orange and the session-based counts are green .

Google Analytics metrics

What can you see in this table?
If you look at individual counting areas in the table, you can see the difference between “page views” and “unique page views”:

Page-based counts:

Pageviews and Unique Pageviews

A total of 11 pages were accessed during this visit , but only 9 different pages. Unique page views are counted for the first page view of a page during a visit (each page is only counted once per visit).

Session-based counts:

Entrances and exits

An entry is counted for the first page and an exit is counted for the last page. Attention: A session is only counted for the first page.
That is why you can not get a valid number from the combination of page analysis and sessions !

This is what the evaluation looks like in Google Analytics :

Evaluation in Google Analytics

In order to see how many sessions a particular page was visited, you have to select the unique page impressions in the page report. As you can see above, with this metric each page is only counted once per visit, so this is the actual number of visits that this (individual) page was called up.

But be careful: this does not work when looking at several pages of an area!

If you want to know the number of visits during which at least one page of an entire area was accessed, for example the “Blog” area, you cannot simply filter the page report according to this page path and add up the unique page views. Because there are overlaps here !

Screenshot blog area with page analysis and page filter:

Page analysis and page filter

With this standard evaluation, when filtering the blog pages, three unique page views for the blog pages are added together.

In order to find out how many visits at least one page of the blog area was accessed, you have to create a segment for this , which is then placed over the target group overview , for example.

Target group overview

Target group overview

This is how you get the right result: At least one blog page was accessed during one visit.

Conclusion

In order to determine coherent and useful figures with Google Analytics, the right combination of dimensions and metrics is very important. Of course, you have to know how Google Analytics counts and what is behind the individual metrics. This is the only way you can make meaningful evaluations.

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