Google Analytics: New & Returning Visits, Visitors, Unique & Absolutely Unique Visitors, Pageviews & Unique Pageviews (Q & A)
There are some important questions regarding Google Analytics. Information about Unique Visitors, Total Visits, New Visitors, Returning Visitors, Unique Visitors, Absolutely Unique Visitors, Pageviews, and Unique Pageviews might be confusing and need clarification. I had such questions and issues. I googled them and found answers to some important queries for Google Analytics (GA). Here they are:-
1. Unique Visitors are higher than Total Visitors in custom reports
Because people may see more than one page (a ‘pageview’) during a session (‘visit’), GA assigns the ‘visit’ count to the first/landing page of the session. The rest of the pages get a ‘visit’ count of 0. If the landing page is not shown in your report because of filtering, then the ‘visit’ count for that user session is excluded. The result is that you would have a ‘visitor’ but no ‘visit’.
2. What is the difference between Visits, Visitors and Unique visitors?
Visits = sessions. A session is a defined period of activity by a visitor. The standard criteria for a session in Google Analytics is activity without a break of more than 30 minutes OR closing the browser. So, if someone comes to your site, looks at two pages, goes to lunch and leaves their browser open, comes back an hour later and resumes browsing, a second session would be started. If a user viewed two pages on your site, closed their browser, and came back 5 minutes later, they would create a new session.
Visitors = unique people as identified by unique visitor cookies. This part is critical to understand. The __utma cookie contains unique visitor identifier numbers. If the __utma cookie gets deleted, or if the person changes computers or browsers, they won’t be tracked as the same visitor.
Within reports, “visitors” or “unique visitors” refers to the count of visitor ID’s that viewed the site during the selected date range. As noted in a previous post, if someone visits the site 3 times in a month, that would count for one visitor and 3 visits. When analyzing unique visitors between time periods you have to be careful not to overlap.
For example, if you have to report on monthly, quarterly, and annual unique visitors, when you report quarterly uniques you can’t simply add up the total visitors for each month, because if some people came back each month, it would triple count them. Same goes for annual sums, etc… To know the uniques count for a time period you have to analyze that entire time period.
Visits: every time someone comes to your site, it is a visit, unless it is within the x minutes (standard on 30) of his last visit.
Visitor : every tiem someone comes to your sit, it is a visitor, unless he visited the site allready
Unique Visitor: I am not sure, I tend to think it is the same as visitor?
3. Absolute Unique Visitors vs New Visits
If I discover your site today and only visit once in the morning and once in the afternoon (from the same computer and same browser) I am one unique visitor. But I had two visits. The first time that I visited, I had a New Visit, because I had never visited before. The second time that I visited (that afternoon), I had a repeat visit (becuase I *had* visited before.) So in this example, we have two visits. We also had only one Absolute Unique Visitor and one New visit.
Now, let’s say that I discover your site on Monday, January 5, 2009, and visit every weekday that week (once a day, always from the same computer, always from the same browser.) If I set my calendar to include the full week, GA sees five visits, one new visit, and one Absolute Unique Visitor. ( The good part is coming.)
However, the web analyst could set his calendar to worry about only Wednesday, January 7 and Thursday, January 8. For those two days, we will see: two visits (one each day, right?), one unique visitor and NO new visits.
Why not? Remember that I discovered the website on Monday. When I visited on Monday, I was new. GA puts a cookie on my browser at that point, and everytime I come back, I am considered a returning visitor.
So the dates that you choose to measure greatly affect the results you get, and the difference between absolute unique visitors and new visits. Of to put it another way: Absolute Unique visitors and New Visits are always the same if your calendar is set to always include every single new visit. As soon as you screen out some of the new visits, by having only a month instead of all time in your calendar, you will lose some of the new visits, but some of those people will come back during the time period you are measuring, they will be unique to the period but not new.
4. Absolute Unique Visitors v. New vs. Returning
For example for Sept:
Absolute Unique Visitors: 2,192
New V. Returning: 1,811 new / 2,166 returning
How can there be less new visits than unique visitors? Surely if you are visiting for the first time, then you are also a new visit?
Keep in mind, the visitor could of visited your site in August and if the Analytics cookies were still on their computer, they would be counted as a returning visitor for September, even though it was their first visit that month.
Absolute Unique Visitors = 2,192 different people (or in this case, computers) that visited your site during the given time period.
New = 1,811 different people visited your site in September that either had never been to your site, or were on a computer that did not have any cookies from your site.
Returning = 2,166 visitors had been to your site either before September, or were a new visitor earlier in the month, but then when they visited again at the end of the month they were counted as returning.
For example, if if visit your site today (October 1), I will be a new visitor for October. If I visit your site again on October 10, I will be a returning visitor (as long as cookies are still on my computer). If I visited your site on September 15 and then visited again on October 1, I would be counted as a returning visitor.
5. Pageviews vs. Unique Pageviews
A pageview is defined as a view of a page on your site that is being tracked by the Analytics tracking code. If a visitor hits reload after reaching the page, this will be counted as an additional pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview will be recorded as well.
A unique pageview, as seen in the Top Content report, aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session. A unique pageview represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times.
A Pageview is a single visit to a page. A ‘Unique Pageview’ is a visit to a page every 30 minutes. So, if a user visits your page once in 30 minutes, it’ll be recorded as one visit and one unique pageview. If he visits the same page twice within 30 minutes, then it’ll be 2 visits/pageviews and 1 unique pageview. But, if this user comes to the same page after 30 minutes, then it’ll be counted as 2 visits/pageviews and 2 unique pageviews. This is because a 30-minute cookie is set and it counts as one session.
So, if the user keeps going back to a page a lot but after 30-minute gaps, then there’ll be more unique pageviews.