Last night, Google once again snuck an update past us and right onto our Google Analytics Dashboards. For the majority of users, it likely won’t make a huge difference. However, the change in terminology has thrown many webmasters for a loop today.
What the heck are “sessions” and “users”?
The biggest change you’ll notice is the switch from “visits” and “visitors” to sessions and users. No longer will you see the term “visit” in Google Analytics. The switch in wording is something you will just have to get used to.
The data itself isn’t going to change, though. A session is still the period in which a visitor (user) is engaged in your website, and a user is anyone who has had at least one session on your website. From now on, this is what visits and visitors will be called.
Why the change in terminology?
The main reason, explained by Google, is to accommodate a combination of app and web data. If you have an app that you track data with in Google Analytics, in addition to your main website, you know that the two were formerly separate Google Analytics properties. Formerly, the app data included active users rather than visitors.
Apps don’t necessarily have “visitors,” since an app requires a user to download the app and actually “use” it. This made it frustrating for marketers, as the ability to combine the two properties to give an overall view of total “users” was difficult without the use of third party applications. Google now makes it possible to combine your app and web analytics.
This move allows you to focus on your conversion data and view exactly how your “users” are interacting with your product or service. The ability to view app data on its own is still possible, but it’s through the use of filters instead of separate properties.
How this affects the regular webmaster
For regular website owners and marketers that don’t have an app, things won’t change much.
The only thing you really have to worry about is the change in terminology. In time, this terminology change may reflect more accurate data as Google gets better and better at determining what users are, exactly. For instance, Google is one step closer to being able to track the same person going to your website from three different devices.
Before, this was three different “visitors” as each hit was from a different device and/or browser. But those visitors might have been all the same user. Overall, this hasn’t been implemented yet, but Google is setting us up for more accurate data in the future.
Google also mentioned that they added some more app specific fields to the analytics.js library:
- screen name
- app name
- app version
- exception tracking
All this does is further distinguish the app data from the web data, but also allows it to be combined. You will be able to drill down to just app data, or just web data, to further analyze what your users are doing. Filters can be created to designate the separate views.
The main advantage is seeing a combined view as total conversions and ecommerce tracking will sum both app and web data, giving you a bigger picture of your online presence. The full explanation from Google below:
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