Google Analytics – What Are Users And Sessions?

Navigating the world of web analytics is tricky. It can be complicated, and terminology is important. I’m often asked about the difference between Google Analytics’ sessions and users.

Here’s what you need to know…

Google Analytics (GA) works by using cookies. Each time you visit a site with GA on it, you’re cookied by GA. That’s how analytics can tell if you’ve been there before. The user cookies are set to expire in 2 years. That way, if you visit a site in January, and then come back in December, GA will know that you’ve been there before and track you as a “returning” user (instead of a “new” user).

A session is everything that happens from the time you enter a site, to the time you leave the site.

So let’s say, I (a user) decided to go on a website’s sales page on my laptop, but for some reason or another I didn’t push through with the purchase. Google Analytics first checks to see if there is already a cookie that tells if I’ve been to the site before. If not, it drops a cookie and counts me as one new user and one session.

Later on during the day, I go back to the same page and finally make my purchase. That counts as another session… but for a returning user (Google Analytics will recognize that I’m the same user and that I’ve been to the site before).

Later that month, I go back to the site and leave a review about the product. That counts as another session.

This would now be read as 3 sessions by 1 user (as opposed to 3 sessions by 3 different users.)

If you have any more questions about this, leave a comment and if you found this post helpful in any way, please like, share, tweet and share with others.

– Mercer

About The Author


Chris Mercer, who typically goes by "Mercer", has a sales and marketing background that stretches over 20 years. He began his online marketing career in 2009 and has become a sought after analytics & conversions expert, helping other top-marketers to improve their own offers and sales funnels. Now decades of real-world experience are brought to you post-by-post as he delivers Seriously Simple Marketing tips that you can use to build your own business!