Google Analytics Tweaks Sessions and Image Referrals

Google has made two notable changes to Analytics: Session IDs are now calculated somewhat differently and referrals from Google Image Search now count as search traffic.

The New Definition of a Session

To get an accurate idea of how a site visitor behaves each time they reach your site, Google and other analytics tools determine when a user has reached a new "session." Each session counts as its own visit, impacting key metrics such as page views, time on site, and total visitor count.

Three basic criteria were used by Google to determine this previously:

Google Analytics ends a session when:
  • More than 30 minutes have elapsed between pageviews for a single visitor.
  • At the end of a day.
  • When a visitor closes their browser.

The first and second items remain the same, but the session will no longer end just because a user closes their browser. Google now assumes that users who close the browser and then return to your site may be experiencing any number of internet phenomena, including a browser crash, "boss is coming" alt-F4 tactics, or casually browsing around a site while engaging in other activities.

Google is also adding one new criterion for what ends a session: If the user leaves the site and then re-enters from a new source, it counts as a new session. For example, if a user checks out an article on your site because they found it by searching for one term, then leaves your site and finds another article based on another term, each visit counts as a new session.

All historic data in Analytics will be tallied by the old session definition. As for new data, webmasters are reporting a big increase in the total number of visits (i.e., sessions) and a correlating decrease in other metrics (e.g., time on site, page views, etc.).

Image Referrals Now Count as Organic Searches

For years, traffic from (or any site) have registered as referrals. Now that's changed, with Google Images counting as one more part of Google's organic search traffic.



For those who have seen a big decrease in referral traffic and an increase in search traffic, now you have an explanation. As far as whether this is a good thing or not, that's up for debate. Users will now be able to see what search terms visitors came in on when referred by Google Image Search, but the overall search traffic statistics and site performance (such as conversion rate) will be skewed.

What do you think of the new changes? Let us know in the comments, below.

About the author

Rob is a search engine, SEO, and net technology enthusiast. His work as a webmaster (since 2002), in the web development industry (since 2005), as an SEO specialist (since 2008), and as a dedicated writer in the internet technologies field (since 2009) have given him a rounded perspective on the workings of the web.

Rob hard-codes in notepad, his favorite TV show is Firefly, and he loves writing fiction.

Check out his fiction on Amazon, his content writing portfolio, and his SEO Consulting site, or follow him on Twitter @RobDYoungWrites or as Rob D Young on Google+.