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What Is a Session and Why Does It Matter?

Understanding how long visitors interact with your content — and how long they spend on a page before making a purchase or clicking away — is crucial for marketers and brands of all stripes. After all, if someone visits your site but clicks away after a few seconds, it’s clear that something isn’t working.

That’s why you need to understand what a session is, how it works, and why it matters to your digital marketing efforts. Let’s take a deep dive into the details.

What Are Sessions?

Think of a session as the stretch of time during which someone uses an app, software program, or website. Say that you have a brand social media page or ecommerce store, and someone visits that store from 5:05 PM until 5:15 PM. That 10-minute window is a session.

Similarly, if you have an application, and someone opens it, uses it for 20 minutes, then closes it down, the 20-minute window after they reload is another session.

A session is a span of activity during which a user utilizes a site, app, or program. Depending on factors like engagement rate, app type, and other factors, sessions can vary wildly in length, content, and much more.

What Data Is Collected in a Session?

So long as your website or app is equipped with data analytics tools, you can track various data from each session. For example, if someone uses your app or website, you might observe metrics like:

  • Session length, or the length of time a single user used the app or website
  • What each unique user did after starting a session, like clicking on links, downloading files, and buying products
  • User behavior; Where the person spent most of their time in the session and the patterns of user clicks
  • Session duration, when the session starts to when the session ends
  • Session timeouts; when there are several minutes of inactivity after a new user starts a session
  • Bounce rate; the number of sessions that drop off before making a desired action
  • And more

Note that a session only applies if an app or website is open in the forefront of a mobile device or web browser. For example, if a new unique visitor opens your website for the first time, then minimizes the window a number of times, the amount of time the user is technically connected to the website is inaccurate.

That’s one reason it’s important to use good web analytics software or data tracking tools. In this way, you can ensure you only track sessions where people are actively using or visiting websites or apps, not just keeping them open to idle.

Why Do Sessions Matter?

Sessions matter for various reasons to marketing agencies and organizations as a whole.

Visitor Interest

Each new session can tell you about visitor interest in your product, app, or brand website. 

The longer your sessions are, the more interested each visitor is in what you’re offering. The reverse is also true if the average session for your app or website is short; it means your website doesn’t hold the attention of people who come to your brand via Google ads or other forms of advertising.

Popular Activities

Sessions and session details can also inform you about the most popular activities on an app or website. For instance, if most people who start a session on your brand website click on your online store, it means they are most interested in your products, not your FAQ page or other offerings.

By discovering the most popular sections of a site or app, you can transfer their best elements to other areas. In time, you can boost or improve the entirety of your app or website, resulting in even more user engagement and longer sessions.

Engagement Levels

In a broad sense, sessions matter for SEO and advertising because they tell you the engagement level of your target audience members. Again, longer and more frequent sessions indicate a high level of customer engagement, especially for applications or mobile platforms. 

If you catalog or record some sessions but they are relatively short, it means your app or website is attractive but not engaging for people who finally get there or start to use the app. You may see some new visitors but fewer returning users.

Buyer Likelihood

You can further use sessions and session data to determine the average likelihood of a visitor turning into a buyer. 

For example, suppose you investigate your session data and find that most people who spend more than five minutes on your website make a purchase. In that case, you should double down on making your website interesting and engaging for new visitors.

The longer someone sticks out on your site, the more likely they will pull the trigger and buy something rather than clicking away or going to a competitor’s site.

Tracking Sessions for Online Activity

It’s important to get in the habit of tracking sessions for online activity if you wish to better understand the effectiveness of your marketing campaign or start a different campaign that will be more effective.

For example, if you have a new marketing campaign with PPC or pay-per-click ads that lead visitors to a shopping page or product page, you need to track the sessions that those advertisements produce. 

If people have very short sessions when being directed to a landing page, it tells you that:

  • The advertising is doing its job capably, so it doesn’t need to be improved
  • The landing page is where people jump off, so the landing page needs to be fixed or boosted in some way

You can also track and analyze sessions for online activity on a broad scale. For example, you can gather data on all the sessions in a given timeframe, like a week or month, and ask yourself questions like:

  • How many sessions included a product view?
  • How many sessions included an action where a customer added a product to the cart?
  • How many sessions successfully resulted in a checkout?
  • How many sessions resulted in a user clicking away from a webpage or app in fewer than 30 seconds?

By analyzing the data, you can find the answers to these questions and determine big conclusions about your target audience and their behavior patterns. All this data will help you maximize the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

Is a Session the Same as a Page View?

A session is not a page view, but the two are closely related. A page view is necessary for an on-page session to begin. After all, someone has to visit or view a webpage for a session to start ticking/measuring.

However, a page view might still be counted even if a person clicks on a webpage, then immediately clicks out because they clicked the wrong link or because the page lost their interest right off the bat. 

Think of unique page views as the first step necessary to begin every single session, but not exactly the same as a session itself.

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Sessions track how long someone uses an app or stays on a website before clicking away or doing something else. 

By measuring user sessions, you can better understand how popular your app or website is or whether there’s room for improvement in one aspect or another.

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