3 min.
Visits, sessions and page views in Google Analytics
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Visits, sessions and page views in Google Analytics

Analytics & Tracking

After having dissected how the conversion funnel works, I will now tackle visits via several sources during the same session. You'll see, it's quite quirky but it doesn't hurt… Whatever…

First of all, let's start with a brief reminder of the definitions of the expressions used above. Online documentation, whether from Google or the Web Analytics Association , always gives us an aggregated definition of the terms "visits" and "sessions."   

Visits/Session (source: Web Analytics Association)

“A visit is an interaction, by an individual, with a website consisting of one or more requests for an analyst-definable unit of content (ie “page view”). If an individual has not taken another action (typically additional page views) on the site within a specified time period, the visit session will terminate. »

Visits/Session (source: Google)

“A period of interaction between a visitor's browser and a particular website, ending when the browser is closed or shut down, or when the user has been inactive on that site for a specified period of time. For the purpose of Google Analytics reports, a session is considered to have ended if the user has been inactive on the site for 30 minutes. You can update this setting with an addition to our tracking code. »

In summary, as long as the browser is not closed (whether the visitor has left the site or not!) or there has been no inactivity for more than 30 minutes, Google Analytics will only count a single visit. A session is therefore equivalent to a visit and vice versa. That said, it deserves to be dug because what happens when, in the same session, a visitor arrives at a site via two different sources? Will Google Analytics count one or two visits? One or two sources? And the page views in all this? Don't throw any more, the cup is full. I sense you are impatient, feverish, nervous, even confused…



To test this, I used my personal site dedicated, you will quickly understand, to tennis. I previously cleared all Google Analytics cookies in order to work with clean data.

Here is the scenario:

I arrive on the site via direct access by browsing 6 pages.

First source of traffic

Seen pages

Direct access












Note: the URL "/tests/test-adviso.html" was used to deposit a cookie identifying my personal visits via the personalized variable that my dear and loving colleague Paul has already screened, very elegantly I must say, a while ago.  

Still in the same session, that is to say without having closed the browser and without inactivity for 30 minutes, but arriving through Google this time and browsing 2 pages.

Second source of traffic

Seen pages

Google Organic




Here is what Google Analytics gives us as a result.

Analytics results

Content performance

So we have a visit with 8 page views. You understand that despite the fact that I have left the site, Google Analytics only counts a single visit because I have not closed the browser.

What does Google Analytics tell us about traffic sources this time around? The “Traffic sources overview” section shows us this:

Traffic sources

The visit was attributed to the first source of traffic, namely direct access. Google was therefore not recognized as the source of the visit.

And yet!

Traffic sources

Once in the “All traffic sources” section, Google has been identified as the source but no visit or page has been attributed to it…

So there, it becomes really dark this story. And the pages then? What source are they linked to? To find out, I went into the details of the “/biography.html” page, which I saw coming from Google, and I segmented by source.

Content detail

Google Analytics does give me Google as a traffic source. Phew!

And yet! (Again…)

In order to follow through on my reasoning, I created an advanced segment that only included visits from Google. The result is disconcerting to say the least since this time Google Analytics does not give us any results.

Page views

No visits for no page views…

Let's see what the advanced segment only includes direct visits gives us.

Traffic sources

The segment gives us all of the page views, even those that followed the visit via Google.

Why ?

Advanced segments are based on the sessions themselves linked to the first source of traffic concerning them. In this case, the session, whose first source of traffic is direct access, saw 1 visit, 2 sources and 8 pages.

On the other hand, the screenshot of the traffic sources (see below) does not give us the entire session but rather the visit linked to the first source of traffic, namely, the direct traffic, which included , she, 6 page views. However, the content report gives us all the pages… Are you still following me?

Traffic sources

If you have made it this far, I congratulate you and invite you to reread everything to make sure you have understood everything.



Let's say you want to optimize traffic sources for a content site where the number of page views per visit is a key indicator. Which feature to use? The “Traffic Sources” section or the advanced segments? I would say, “Never mind! ". The scenario that I have reproduced is more or less marginal and this has no influence on the quality of the general data. The almost similar data obtained during the analysis of the traffic sources of a large content site is proof of this.

In conclusion

This demonstration reminds us that the behavior of Google Analytics can be extremely complex to understand and will always require the support of specialists. Each performance measurement tool has its own way of working and Google has chosen to use this method.

No, it is not enough to know how to place a Javascript code to claim to know Google Analytics!