In Google Analytics, a session is defined as a group of interactions that a user makes within a given time frame on your website. The default session duration in GA is 30 minutes. Whatever a user does on your website like browsing of pages, downloading files, purchasing products, subscribing to newsletters, etc. The moment the user leaves a website, one session is recorded.
In short, session metrics reports both the visit and active user on your website.
Visitors who keep your website open in a separate tab and continue browsing elsewhere are not counted past the 30-minute session marker.
You can change this session marker in GA according to your business needs and set it to 2 minutes or 1 hour.
Campaign timeout is how long a traffic source is attributed even if the visitor comes as direct traffic. Earlier, the timeout was extended each time a visitor came to the site, which meant that a campaign or source of traffic theoretically lived forever. But now, it ends after six months.
Sessions and campaign timeout
Both sessions and campaigns end after a specific amount of time.
As mentioned above, by default, sessions end after 30 minutes of inactivity whereas, campaigns end after six months.
You can customize your own settings for sessions and campaigns to end after the specified amount of time.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to setting the session and campaign timeouts. Every business needs different time frames with respect to their goals and KPIs.
Here are a few ideas about a session and campaign timeouts:
Consider, for an example, a user Alex has reached your website-
- Your site automatically signs Alex out after he is inactive for forty minutes, you can now set the session timeout to 40 mins.
- If your website has a lot of content and you expect Alex to read and get engaged with it then lengthen the session time. Conversely, shorten the session time if the site has less content.
- Set the campaign timeout handling to the same time that the campaign is going to run. Clicks to a social media micro-campaign might not be relevant for more than a few days after the launch of the campaign.
Ideally, campaign timeout should not be greater than two years and the session time frame should not be less than one minute or greater than four hours.
The tendency to set the threshold much higher than you need because you want/hope users to spend time on your site and engage with your content also exists.
But if your organization is event-based and has monthly conversions than you can be rest assured that a few site visitors are going to engage with your site only as long as it takes to finish a conversion.
If your site is geared more toward engagement without any conversion goal, you can expect session lengths to be higher.
Unlike other GA settings, we know that campaign lengths are going to change with each new advertising campaign and the length should match the duration of that marketing campaign.
When it comes to sessions, here are some examples to help you figure out when to raise or lower campaign timeout lengths.
- When you launch a new season, you’ll want users to spend more time than normal combing through all of the new content related to your awesome event offerings. If your session timeout setting is 10 mins, you’ll want to crank that up according to session lengths.
- If your upcoming event isn’t selling great and you decide to launch a 12-hour sale to help unload ticket inventory along with a handy one-click ticket purchase. You’ll want to lower the session timeout setting to accurately measure those quick purchase turnarounds.
- If the average session is set to 10 minutes but if it were lower, say two minutes, GA would end up reporting different results. This doesn’t mean the lower value is wrong in such a situation, and not providing the data needed to determine the appropriate value of that traffic generation campaign.
- If you edit the session length and then immediately go to the campaign report admin panel and refresh the page, the data values will remain unchanged.
GA doesn’t report metrics retroactively, meaning, if you edit the session length and then immediately go to the campaign report admin panel and refresh the page, the data values will remain unchanged. So take care and give the metrics some time to reflect and analyze everything to set the session and campaign time frame.