GA4 Views vs Sessions

Learn the difference between views & sessions in GA4, how GA4 views compare to views/pageviews in UA, and how to use different view & session metrics for SEO.

Monday, August 21, 2023
Updated:
GA4 sessions vs views

Key points:

  • GA4 Views are equal to UA Pageviews—not to be confused with UA Views (property-level filters)
  • GA4 Views include repeat views of the same page by the same user
  • GA4 Sessions have a beginning and an end, so a session can include multiple events (like views)
  • Views show you the relative popularity of different pages 
  • Sessions show you traffic acquisition and user engagement
  • There are multiple ways to use View & Session data in GA4 to study website performance and inform digital marketing strategy

Comparing Sessions & Views in GA4

Let’s start with a definition of Views and Sessions in GA4.

GA4 Views

Views in GA4 is a count of the total number of website pages and/or mobile app screens users saw (including repeat views by the same user). Views in GA4 is equivalent to Pageviews in Universal Analytics. Keep in mind that Pageviews in UA only counted views of a web page, but Views in GA4 counts views of web pages together with views of mobile app screens. 

<div class="post-alert">Don’t confuse GA4 Views with UA Views: Universal Analytics let you create different “Views” of your UA property (for example you could create a View that excluded internal traffic or filtered the data in some other way). GA4 doesn’t have that type of View, but it does offer permanent data filters for internal and developer traffic.</div>

If that’s the kind of view you’re looking for, here’s Google’s documentation on recreating Universal Analytics data filtering in GA4.

<div class="post-note">UA had a metric called Unique Pageviews which excluded repeat views by the same user. GA4 does not offer unique pageviews as a metric. The closest you can get without doing extra work is by looking at Users in GA4, and seeing how many individual users visited a web page.</div>

If you really want to re-create the Unique Pageviews metric in GA4, this blog provides the code snippet and Tag Manager instructions (be advised the author says it’s still not a 100% match to Unique Pageviews in UA).

GA4 Sessions

Sessions in GA4 is a count of the total number of sessions (visits) to your website and/or mobile app. Google defines a session as “a period of time during which a user interacts with your website or app”. 

If a user stops interacting with the website or app, the session will time out after 30 minutes (but there’s no upper limit to how long a session can last). You can change the default 30-minute setting if you want to.

<div class="post-note">Sessions as a metric has the same name in UA and GA4, but session data is collected differently in each platform, so the count won’t be the same.</div>

We have a whole article on our site explaining the difference between sessions in UA vs GA4 if you’d like to learn more about that.

Now that we’re clear on the definitions, let’s look at how GA4 Views and Sessions are similar, and how they’re different.

How GA4 Sessions & Views Are Similar

  • Views & Sessions are both event-based high-level metrics
  • Both metrics are built into GA4 & populated automatically
  • You can analyze Views & Sessions for your website as a whole as well as for individual pages 

How GA4 Sessions & Views Are Different

Views are a tally of the number of <code>page_view</code> events. Each page view is a standalone event equal to “eyeballs on screen”. GA4 metrics based on Views include:

  • Views per session: average number of Views per Session 
  • Views per user: average number of Views per user

There are also GA4 view events specific to ecommerce that you can set up, including <code>view_promotion</code>, <code>view_item_list</code>, <code>view_item</code> and <code>view_cart</code>.

Sessions are a tally of the number of <code>session_start</code> events (when a user first lands on your website). Unlike Views, Sessions have a duration. Sessions can encompass other events (including Views) and tell you more about how users are interacting with your web pages. 

GA4 metrics based on Sessions include:

  • Average session duration: average session length (measured in seconds)
  • Sessions per user: average number of sessions per user 
  • Engaged sessions: sessions that last at least 10 seconds OR have at least one conversion event OR have at least two Views (Low engagement sessions is the inverse metric)
  • Engaged sessions per user: average number of engaged sessions per user
  • Engagement rate: percentage of all sessions that qualify as engaged sessions
  • Bounce rate: percentage of all sessions that do not qualify as engaged sessions
  • Events per session: average number of tracked events per session (including Views)
  • Views per session: average number of <code>page_view</code> events per session (includes repeats)
  • Session conversion rate: percentage of all sessions that include at least one conversion event

Sessions are also used to qualify certain user metrics: 

  • Active users: number of users who have an engaged session (or are first-time users)
  • Returning users: number of users who have at least one previous session (engaged or not)

Good to know: Google uses the term ‘Active users’ in their documentation (and in Explorations), but the Active users metric is called ‘Users’ in standard reports. Active users is a new user metric not previously available in Universal Analytics. Learn more about users in GA4 vs users in UA.

Why GA4 Sessions & Views Matter 

Making an effort to understand Sessions and Views in GA4 is only worth it if you can use that understanding to gain insight into website performance.

What is the value of measuring views?

Views are a high-level engagement metric that show you which pages are seen the most. Views are like votes in a popularity contest where users can vote for as many pages as they want, as many times as they want.

If you know which pages are the most popular, you can:

  • Review those URLs on multiple devices and browsers to make sure they’re providing a consistently excellent user experience
  • Analyze page performance over time to see if the page is growing in popularity, holding steady, or declining
  • See if the top-viewed pages are also engaging and converting users (and take action if not)
  • See if there’s a common theme among your site’s most popular pages (which could be a clue for new pages to create)

If you know which pages are the least popular, you can:

  • Decide if these pages are worth keeping, updating or promoting
  • Review the internal links pointing to those pages - are they sufficient? Would it be helpful to add more?
  • Review the external links pointing to those pages - are they sufficient? Has the page lost backlinks over time? 

What is the value of measuring sessions?

Sessions are a high-level acquisition metric that show you how your website and app are acquiring users via different channels (organic, paid, referral, etc). Use the Traffic acquisition report (or an Exploration report) to analyze several different Session dimensions. 

When you know how each traffic channel, source or campaign is performing, you can:

  • Monitor traffic sources over time to identify trends
  • See which channels have the highest ROI
  • Decide if your online marketing resources are being allocated appropriately
  • Refine or optimize page content based on the dominant channel to increase engagement & conversion

Sessions are also used in several engagement metrics which can show you how overall website content, content groups, and individual pages are performing.

Use the Pages and screens report (or an Exploration) to find out:

  • Where your website or app users are spending the most time 
  • Where users are interacting with content the most
  • Which pages are generating conversions most efficiently, to see if you can replicate what’s working for other pages 
  • Which pages are getting the most entrances from SERPs so you can monitor landing page performance & optimize as needed
  • Which pages are low-value & decide whether to improve, combine or redirect them

You can also analyze Sessions and session-based engagement metrics by device, by GA4 audiences (subsets of GA4 users you can create), by geographical region, and other demographic details like age, interests and language.

<div class="post-note-cute">If you need help with GA4 implementation, reporting audits, dashboard configuration, or if you have questions about anything analytics related, don't hesitate to reach out: <a href="mailto:info@momenticmarketing.com">info@momenticmarketing.com</a></div>

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