Sessions in web analytics are one of the most important components for analyzing your website's performance and your marketing efforts. A session is often a measure of volume of visits you get to your website.
Let's consider a practical example to better understand what a session is.
Say you're visiting a clothing store, this is counted as the first session. Next, you're looking at a few items, asking for the price from the shopkeeper, finally buying something from this store. Each of these actions is considered to take place during a single session.
Let's again say you're visiting the same clothing store and asking for the price, this is counted as a first session. Next, you walk into a nearby shop for half an hour before heading back to the first store to make a final purchase. This will be considered a second session. In this case, you will have a total of two sessions. A single visitor can have multiple sessions, but not more visitors than sessions in PageSense.
The sessions metric can be found in many places in your Acquisition and Behavior reports (on the left pane).
Case 01: A visitor lands on your company's clothing store, reads a blog post, clicks on a few products, exits the page, and doesn't come back in 30 minutes. The session ends.
Case 02: A visitor lands on your company's clothing store, reads a blog post, clicks on a few products, and leaves the page open without doing anything on that page for 30 minutes. The session ends.
Case 03: A visitor lands on your company's clothing store, reads a blog post, clicks on a few products, and leaves the page open but comes back in 22 minutes and looks for new products or browses. PageSense will continue the same session for another 30 minutes. However, if the same visitor performs all the above said actions and returns back to the site on 31st minute, then PageSense counts it as 2 sessions.
At 12:00 midnight: The second condition a session ends is at midnight, or when the new day begins. For instance, if a visitor arrives at your company's website at 11:58 pm the session will end at 11:59:59 pm, and the new session will start at 12 am.
When a visitor changes a campaign: Sometimes your visitors arrive on your site from different sources like Google, Facebook or email, every time a visitor changes the campaign source, PageSense ends the previous session and opens a new session.
Case 01: Say you’re running an AdWords campaign called 'Spring shopping sale' and a visitor lands on your website through this campaign, then this visit initiates a new session in PageSense.
Case 02: Let's say the same visitor as in example 01 gets interrupted with your email campaign message on 'Spring shopping sale', they click on the message and get redirected to your shopping site again. PageSense will now end the first session and start a second session for the email marketing campaign.
A session represents the number of times a visitor is active on your site. It's considered one of the most important metrics you can track, because it helps you understand how your visitors respond to your online marketing efforts, and whether they are working or not. If the number of sessions grows, this means more people are visiting and coming back to your site for information. It’s also important to keep in mind that the sessions metric does not recognize individual visitors on your website, the difference between sessions and visitors is covered in the next section.
Let's say you're trying to compare your last month's sessions with the month before that. Monitoring and analyzing your session metrics can help you answer the following questions:
Once you find answers to your root questions, you can proceed further with much deeper questions, such as:
A session is the period where a visitor is interacting with your website whereas a visitor refers to the person who is interacting with your website. In general, sessions are always higher than visitors count. For instance, if a visitor enters your website three times from the same device, but at different times or days, it will be counted as one visitor but three sessions.
Let us take a practical example:
Say, a visitor lands on your website for the first time, now PageSense sets a cookie to identify this new visitor. Now, if the visitor spends 5 minutes on the website, checks through a few pages, leaves the site and doesn't come back within 30 minutes, then the visitor is said to have completed the first session.
Next, let us say the same visitor returns to your website later on the same day, from the same device and browse (on a different time), this time PageSense will recognize them as a returning visitor. Now again if the visitor spends another few minutes on the website, checks through a few pages, and leaves, they may have completed another session.
Based on the above scenarios, PageSense will track the metrics as one visitor and two sessions. Therefore, one visitor could've multiple sessions but not more visitors than sessions.
There are tons of metrics that you can track in web analytics to measure the engagement of visitors on your site, such as the bounce rate, page views, and goal completions. Amongst these, the average session duration is the most important metric marketers need in order to keep track of how long your visitors stay on your website. In this article, we'll learn what an average session duration in PageSense is, how it's calculated, and what good it can do for your website.
Average session duration can be defined as the average amount of time your visitors spend interacting with your website. It is calculated by dividing the total duration of all sessions (in hours, minutes, and seconds) by the number of sessions in a given timeframe on your website.
Sessions in web analytics are the total number of times your visitors (both new and returning) have opened and interacted with your website pages. Session duration is the amount of time your visitors spend interacting with your site.
The following use cases illustrate the average session duration:
Case 01: Let's say a visitor lands on your website's homepage (Page 01) at around 6:00 pm. After reading through the page, they then click to the features page (Page 02) at around 6:05 pm. They then make an exit from the second page after spending two minutes on this page.
In this case, number of sessions is one, the session duration for page 1 is five minutes (time on Page 02 - time on Page 01) and the session duration on page 02 is zero. This is because PageSense only calculates the time spent by visitors on the last page of a session if they trigger an action on that page, such as clicking a link, playing a video, or filling out a form. Otherwise, no matter how long a visitor stays on a page, their session duration for that page will only be counted as '0' in web analytics. For this reason, it’s often important to keep an eye on both average session duration and average time on page.
Case 02: Let's say the same visitor lands on your website's homepage(Page 01) at around 6:00 pm. After reading through the page, they then click to features pages( Page 02)at around 6:05 pm. They watch a video until 6:07 pm, then exit from this page.
In this case, the number of sessions is one, the session duration on page 01 is five minutes (time on page 02 - time on page 01) and the session duration on page 02 is two minutes (adding two minutes of playing a video on the last page).
So the average session duration would be 5 + 2 /1 = 7 minutes.
Case 03: Let's say a visitor lands on your website's homepage (Page 01) at around 6:00 pm. After reading through the page, they click to the features page (Page 02) at around 6:05 pm. They then exit from the features page without making any interaction. Now, again the same visitor lands on your website's homepage (Page 01) at around 9:00 pm, reads through the page, clicks on to the features page (Page 02) at around 9:07 pm and watches a video until 9:10 pm, then exits from this page.
In this case, the number of sessions is two, the session duration on page 01 of session 01 is 5 minutes and the session duration of page 02 of session 01 is 0 (as there is no interaction in the last page to calculate the session length.) Next, the session duration on page 01 of session 02 is 7 minutes and the session duration on page 02 of session 02 is 3 minutes (obtained by adding the three minutes of video playing on the last page).
To view and compare the average session duration over a specific period of time, you can access the Performance over Time graph by clicking the Average Session Duration from the dropdown menu. From here, you can also view this metric based on daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly intervals.
New visitors are the number of people who come to your website for the first time in a given timeframe. If you're looking to improve the user experience of first time users on your site, this metric can give you a deeper idea of which channels get you the most and fewest first time visitors, which pages have high or low conversation rate, and where there's increased bounce rate from new visitors. Analyzing data based on new visitors metric can help you understand which content on your site needs to be better optimized and personalized to increase conversions and decrease bounce rates from this segment of visitors.
In PageSense, the new and returning visitors are identified based on cookies. When someone lands on your website, PageSense immediately sets up a randomly-generated string or ID within the visitor's browser. When a person comes back to your website on the same browser and device, PageSense scans for the cookie ID to determine if that person is new or returning. If the cookies match with an existing ID, that person is considered as the returning visitor. However, if the cookie set is not present, PageSense creates a new one and considers them as a new visitor.
Note that if a visitor clears the cookie stored in their web browser, or uses a different device or browser to access to your website, then PageSense will label them as a new visitor during their next visit. For example, let's say a person visits your website from their desktop computer at work, then visits your website again from their iPhone. PageSense would record this as two sessions with two new visitors. 'Visitors' and 'Sessions' are entirely different in PageSense. They are the most suggested metrics to track the performance of your website in web analytics.
The visitors metric can be found in many places in your Acquisition and Behavior reports in the left pane.
It's no surprise that tracking visitor count on your website is the first thing that anybody would love to do. Depending on how well you manage to get visitors to your site, how many of them are new, and how these visitors eventually convert, you can figure out which pieces of content are working and which pieces should be improved on your site. Below are a few reasons why visitor tracking can be important for your website:
Analyze which sources receive more visitors
Perhaps the number one reason for tracking visitors count in web analytics is to find an estimate of the total traffic that you receive from all sources to your site, and the highest and lowest number of visitors obtained across individual sources. This information can help you increase your online presence in places where your visitors are most or least active, and further try to boost traffic obtained through these sources to your site.
Learn which pages are gaining (or losing) your visitors attention
Sometimes all the hard work you put into building your web pages may fail to attract the expected number of eyeballs and conversions on your site. . By tracking web analytics based on the pages that receive the highest or lowest number of visitors, you can learn if your newly published pages have succeeded in attracting more visitors, which pages are prompting people to explore more, which pages are causing visitors to bounce off, and what your customers like or dislike about your site. Based on these observations you can implement the best practices used in the top-performing pages onto your other low performing pages to gain increased visitors and conversion rate.
Filter the most appropriate visitor segments for your business
Segmenting your data, the right type of data is key to the success of any business. Using the advanced filters in web analytics, you can identify visitors who closely match your business needs, from a large spectrum of visitors coming to your website. This type of audience-filtering allows you to gather information that suits your requirements, such as how many visitors are male or female, which device or browser they use to access your site, and where they live and work. With this information, you can identify who among your target visitors is likely to convert, then cater your website content accordingly. You'll also know who to target in your advertising campaigns, as well as how to write your ad copy to better resonate with them.
The bounce rate is the percentage of sessions when visitors leave your website from the first page they entered without interacting with it. In other words, the percentage of sessions when visitors view only one page and then leave your site without triggering an event or clicking to another page through the entry page. These single-page sessions have a session duration of 0 seconds since there are no subsequent hits after visiting the first page for PageSense to add to the session duration.
Single-page sessions are sessions when the visitors enter your website and then leave immediately from the same page. An 'entrance' indicates that the visitor entered your website from another site or came directly to the page through other traffic sources, and not after visiting another page of your site. For example, if someone lands on your site on Page A, then moves to Page B from there, and finally leaves from Page B without making any interaction or completing a set goal, it will not count toward the bounce rate for Page B, because the entry to that page wasn’t from an off-site source.
So, imagine a person lands on your website from a search engine result like Google, spends 5 minutes reading the content on your page, then realizes that it doesn’t have the information, products, or services they’re looking for. Now the visitor clicks the back button to go back to the search results and find a different site to visit. In PageSense, this behavior by the visitor is considered a bounce and the percentage of visitors who bounce off from the site is the bounce rate.
The main ways a visitor may bounce from your website are:
Clicking on a link to another website
Clicking the back button on the page
Typing a web page URL in a new tab
Closing the browser or the tab
Remaining idle until the session times out automatically
In general, the bounce rate metric tells you if your visitors find your website's content interesting or not, which pages on the site need to be improved and whether there are any bigger problems that your site might have like difficult navigation, slow page loading, poor aesthetics, or low quality or irrelevant content.
In PageSense, the bounce rate is tracked for the whole website as well as for individual pages.
The bounce rate of the website is calculated by dividing the total number of single-page sessions across the website by all sessions on the website. For example, if your website receives a total of 1000 sessions through organic search traffic over the course of a month, and 500 of those sessions have visitors leaving the site without triggering an event or proceeding to any other pages (single-page sessions), then your website’s bounce rate is 50%.
On the other hand, the bounce rate of an individual page is calculated by dividing the total number of single-page sessions (the session starts and ends on the same page) on a particular page by the total number of entrances to that page. For example, if your homepage receives 500 sessions that have visitors entering directly through your home page and 100 of these sessions start and end on this same page without your visitors triggering an event or moving on to other pages on your site, your homepage's bounce rate is 20%.
The bounce rate metric in your report can be found on the Acquisition and Behavior tabs (available at the left pane).
For example, you can view a data table displaying bounce rates from different traffic sources in the Acquisition -> Source/Medium report.
For bounce rate by individual page, click Behavior >All Pages to see a data table displaying the list of all your website’s pages and its specific bounce rate as shown below.
To view and compare the bounce rate for the entire website over a defined period of time, you can access the Performance over Time graph by clicking the Bounce Rate metric from the dropdown menu. You can also see this metric over daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly intervals.
In general, you can expect your website’s bounce rate to be anywhere between 26% and 70%, and this depends on several factors like the purpose of the page, the nature of your business or industry, your traffic sources, and the design of your webpage. For example, if the purpose of your page is to get visitors to subscribe to your newsletter and that page sees a high bounce rate then you might need to optimize the page to achieve better conversions. However, if the purpose of the page is only to read a post or find an address, then it isn’t surprising that your visitors close the tab without further interaction, leading to a high bounce rate.
So, depending on your business, a higher or lower bounce rate can be either a positive or negative indicator of your website's success. To get the most value out of analytics, it's important to evaluate the bounce rate with other engagement metrics on your site like the session duration and time spent on page as this will help you understand how people are using your page and site, how long they spend on your site before exiting it, and whether a specific page or your site meets your visitors expectations and leads to a conversion.
Tracking your bounce rate is another key barometer to measure the success of your website. Here are a few advantages of measuring your website's bounce rate:
See which traffic sources lead to high bounce rate
As a marketer, you probably use several ways to promote your webpages to drive traffic and conversions to your site. Understanding how engaged audiences from each source are based on bounce rates and which traffic sources lead to the most and fewest bounce offs from the site helps you look for better ways to align your marketing channels and website experience. For example, let's say people coming to a webpage from an email newsletter tend to have a low bounce rate compared to social media traffic, because they are more likely to already be familiar with your brand. So if you’re promoting a web page heavily on social media, you can figure out what you need to improve to achieve better results to expect a lower bounce rate in the future.
Identify pages with poor user experience
Sometimes you might see the source of traffic and the quality of your page content is fine but still you have a high bounce rate on your page. This usually happens when your visitors find your page is poorly designed or when the loading speed of the page is slow. For example, let's say a visitor comes to the landing page of your site to learn about a newly released feature but you immediately bombard them with ads, pop-up surveys, and email subscribe buttons. In this case, you can expect a high bounce rate because your visitors want to explore more but you are interrupting them with sales pitches which they find irritating. Analyzing your bounce rate by page metrics allows you to identify pages that are problematic and initiate a UX design review to make your site easier to navigate and more engaging.
Optimize your page for a better SEO ranking
If you're struggling to improve the organic search traffic to your site then tracking the bounce rate for your web pages can help you indirectly understand the weaknesses in your SEO. For example, let's say your visitors land on your blog page searching for car insurance but your article starts talking about car loan rates. In this case, you fail to meet your visitor's expectations, so they are going to bounce off your page at a higher rate. With this insight, you can investigate the underlying SEO issues that cause a high bounce rate on specific pages like a mismatch between the page content and keywords, and use the right targeted keywords to bring the right people to the page.
The average time on page is the average amount of time that visitors spend on a specific page on your website. It is calculated using the following formula:
Avg Time on Page = Total time on page / (Page views - Exits)
The time on page is the time difference between landing on a page and moving to the next page. For example, if a visitors lands on Page A at 10:00am and then decides to open Page B at 10:05am then the time on Page A is 5 minutes.
Page views is the number of times the page was viewed by the visitor.
Exits is the number of times visitors exited your site from this specific page.
Tracking this metric can help you learn which pages of your website your visitors are spending the most and least time on and which ones are the most engaging and valuable to your visitors. Some important pages that you will want to track this metric on include your homepage, blog page, sign-up page, features page, and any other pages that track a goal conversion on your website.
When analyzing engagement based on average time on page, remember that PageSense doesn't measure the time a visitor spends on the last page of their visit to your site (the exit page). For example, if your visitor exits your site by closing the browser window or tab or typing another website into the URL field, PageSense can't track the average time spent on this page.
To understand this better, let's walk you through two different cases:
A visitor lands on Page A of your site, then clicks to open Page B after spending 20 seconds on Page A.
The visitor spends 30 seconds watching a video on Page B.
The person then exits the site from Page B by closing their browser.
In this example, the time on the first page, Page A, is calculated by subtracting the time on Page A from Page B which is 20 seconds. However, the time on Page B is calculated as 00 seconds even though the visitor spent 30 seconds on that page since the visitor exited the site without clicking another page on the site. In this case, there is no next timestamp to use to calculate the time on Page B. So, PageSense counts as a bounce and doesn't record the amount of time people spent looking at the last page of their visit to your site which is the exit page (Page B).
So, the calculation is:
The average time spent on page A = 20/(1-0) = 20 seconds
The average time spent on page B = 0/(1-1) = 00 seconds.
1. A visitor lands on Page A of your site, then clicks to open Page B after spending 20 seconds on Page A.
2. The visitor now spends 30 seconds watching a video on Page B and moves to Page C.
3. The person spends 50 seconds reading an article on Page C and goes back to Page A to find more information.
4. After spending 15 seconds on Page A, the visitor clicks on an external link (configured with a link click goal) to another website.
So, the calculation is:
The average time spent on Page A = 35/(2-0) = 15 seconds
The average time spent on Page B = 30/(1-0) = 30 seconds
The average time spend on Page C = 50/(1-0) = 50 seconds.
You can see the average time on page data table for the list of all pages on your site in the Behavior > All Pages report as shown in the figure below.
Alternatively, you can view and compare the average time on page over a defined period on the Performance over Time graph by clicking Average time on page from the dropdown menu. From here, you can also see the performance of this metric over daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly intervals.
Your website might be attracting a huge number of visitors each day, but if those visitors don't engage with your content then you are missing out on quality leads for your business. Tracking the average time on page can help you do the following important things:
Identify the kinds of pages that are popular
Understanding the different types of webpages (such as long or short articles) and the designs that make people stay longer on your site can help you see which work best for your audience and your brand. For example, if you have a variety of blog posts on your site and you see that visitors spend longer on articles with infographics and illustrations compared to articles with just text then you can choose to enhance your webpages by adding more visual content like images, photos, and videos. This action can help boost user engagement and the time spent by visitors on your page.
Assess the ranking of your webpage
Search engine ranking is an indicator of the visibility and popularity of your website content worldwide. So, if you have certain pages that are popular with longer time on page metrics then it means that these pages have a greater chance of driving high-quality traffic towards your website and make you rank higher on organic search results. This list of top-performing pages can help you analyze which keywords you should use and what mistakes you need to fix on other low performing pages for better results in the future. For example, you notice blog articles that address the customers' pain points in the title catch the immediate attention of your readers, resulting in a longer time on page than articles that don't try to resolve a specific issue.
Identify and optimize low performing or low converting pages first
Another major reason to measure the average time on page metric is to quickly identify and fix any technical issues related to the low performing or low converting pages on your site. Sometimes you can have a very high average time on page metrics for certain webpages, but the goal completion rate is still low. This could be due to a variety reasons like poor CTA button design which is not getting clicked or slow page speeds on mobile browsers that makes the audience lose interest and leave the page immediately, or the lack of required information on the page even after scrolling multiple times. Identifying and optimizing the pages that contribute to your business goals can help you boost user experience and the completion rate of your goals.
Understanding how long people spend on a single session of your site on an average (average session duration) and how long they spend on a single page of your site on an average (average time on page) is essential while analyzing your web analytics report. It may seem obvious that both the metrics are a measure of time and engagement of visitors on your site, but they are calculated differently.
Let's take a closer look at this with an example.
A visitor lands on Page A of your site. Next, the visitor clicks to open Page B after spending 50 seconds on Page A.
The person now spends 55 seconds watching a video on Page B, then moves on to Page C.
Finally, the person exits from Page C by closing their browser.
Now, here is how PageSense calculates the average session duration and average time on page:
The formula for average session duration is: Total session duration / Number of sessions
The session duration on page A = Page B - Page A = 50 - 00 = 50 seconds, the session duration on page B = Page C - Page B = 1:45 - 50 = 55 seconds, and the session duration on page C = 0. PageSense can't determine the time on Page C as there is no timestamp on the next page and so there is no reference to count the time on this page.
So the average session duration is = 50 + 55 + 0 / 1 = 105 seconds = 1 min 45 sec.
The formula for average time on page is: Time on page / (Page views – Exits)
The time on page A = Page B - Page A = 50 - 00 = 50 seconds, the time on page B = Page C - Page B = 1:45 - 50 = 55 seconds and the time on page C = 0. Again, PageSense can't determine the time on Page C as the visitor leaves the website without performing any action on this page.
So, the calculation is:
The average time on Page A = 50/(2-1) = 50 seconds
The average time on Page B = 55/(1-0) = 55 seconds
The average time on Page C = 00/(1-1) = 00 seconds.
Note that while considering average time on page, if you have lots of page views on your page but also a large number of exits, you will not see a high percentage for total time on page. The average session duration is not often considered a clear metric for decision-making because it takes into account the bounces that happen on the page.
However, even with their limitations, average time on page and average session duration are not completely unreliable metrics to track. In fact, they can be fairly accurate for understanding the performance of your website if the exit rate and the bounce rate are low.
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