Setting the right session timeout for your website is really important for measuring conversions, reports, and user experience.
Session timeout can determine the success of your Analytics implementation. Session timeouts can cause serious practical problems and even data loss for many website owners who do not fully understand the impact it can have on your data.
A long session timeout could lead to a high bounce rate and a reduction in efficiency, a short session timeout could influence the quality of your information. But what exactly is session timeout and what is the default session timeout and how does it affect Google Analytics? This article aims to answer this question
The time a user spends on your website is counted as a single session. If the same user returns to your site later in the day, that becomes another session.
Session timeout represents the event occurring when a user does not perform any action on a website during an interval (defined by a web server). The event, on the server side, changes the status of the user session to ‘invalid’ (ie. “not used anymore”) and instructs the web server to destroy it (deleting all data contained in it).
In simple terms, session timeouts refer to the time the web server decides that there is no activity by a user on the website and terminates the session.
In Google Analytics, there are three types of session timeout duration: time-based, end-of-day, and campaign-based.
You will see the drastic change in session metrics when moving from Universal Analytics to GA4.
NOTE: Google has stated that all Universal Analytics properties must migrate to Google Analytics 4 by July 2023.
So it's high time to discuss the difference between Universal Analytics and GA4.
Because bounce rate can be affected depending on the session timeouts, it is relevant to discuss bounce rate vs engagement rate. In Google Analytics 4 bounce rate is no longer measured. As a result, you will track a new metric: Engagement rate.
When someone visits a page on your site, loads it, but doesn't click on any internal links or interact with your site in any other way and leaves without visiting any other page on the site, that is called a bounce.
Bounce rate is calculated by single page session divided by the total session
Engagement rate can be calculated by dividing the number of engaged sessions by the total number of sessions over a specified time period
In addition to engagement rate, other metrics in GA4 that are based on engagement rate include,
The session timeout lets you set how long a user can remain idle or inactive on your page before the session expires. If they return within the set period, you can count their return as one session
Undoubtedly, while browsing we all get distracted by our screens or at work. It's easy to lose track of time and forget what we were doing by keeping all the tabs open.
Google Analytics counts a user’s return to a website after an inactive period as a new session. Based on this, if a user returns to the website several times in the same day after a period of being away, Google Analytics will report it as multiple sessions although essentially it is the same person, this inflates the number of sessions and also the bounce rate for that page.
That is why keeping the short timeframe makes no sense. Depending on the content and the type of website, it is a good idea to extend your session timeout period to 4 hours.
The short answer is - yes.
Based on the session, you will make decisions that significantly impact your business. That is because, if you've set the time period to 30 minutes, you'll be misled into believing you have more visits, a higher bounce rate, and a lower conversion rate than you actually do.
By changing this setting, you will have a significant impact on many Google Analytics reports, since it changes the underlying rule for commonly used metrics such as 'Session'.
In addition, ecommerce conversion rate, goal conversion, pages per session, bounce rate, etc are just a few of many metrics that use this as a basis for calculation.
If someone returns to your website within a few hours on the same day, Google Analytics will record each visit as a separate session. You can avoid this by setting the maximum session timeout to the default value in Google Analytics.
Universal Analytics has a maximum session timeout of 4 hours, while Google Analytics 4 has a maximum session timeout of 7 hours 55 minutes. Since these are vital business metrics, it's better late than never to get them right from now on.
You can change the session timeout by following the steps below,
STEP 1: To change the web session timeout, navigate to your Google Analytics 4 property and click on the admin tab.
STEP 2: Select data streams, then click the name of the data stream for which you want to change the web session timeout.
STEP 3: Scroll down and click on the configure tag settings under the Google tag settings.
STEP 4: Then click on the adjust session timeout
STEP 5: Here adjust the timer for the session timeout and adjust the timer for the engaged sessions for your web page and save.
The default session timeout in Universal Analytics is 30 minutes. However, this could be changed anywhere between a minimum of 1 minute to a maximum of 4 hours.
This can be accomplished by changing the default session timeout setting in your Universal Analytics property by deciding the ideal length for your Google Analytics session.
Steps to change the session timeout in Universal Analytics
The default campaign session timeout in Universal Analytics is 6 months. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to campaign timeouts. Every business needs different time frames with respect to its goals.
Steps to change the campaign session timeout in Universal Analytics,
In Google Analytics, the concept of session is the key aggregation unit of all the data you work with.
There is no compulsion to keep this default setting. In fact there are strong arguments for changing it to a significantly longer time period. Mainly because modern humans are naturally distracted when they're in front of digital devices.
So we recommend changing this to a longer time period so that you can get a more accurate picture of activity on your site.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a single dashboard that summarizes all your marketing efforts in one place? Check out Dataflo’s pre-built customizable dashboard for monitoring and evaluating the success of your paid marketing efforts across all your ad campaigns.
What if you get common values for Impressions, Clicks, CTR, CPC etc. for your multiple ad campaigns all under one roof?
Dataflo simplifies your paid advertising reporting with this feature. You don’t have to depend on often messy, time-consuming spreadsheets to track the most important KPIs/ metrics. No more logging into multiple accounts or hopping between different tools in the tech stack to check how your accounts on different channels are performing, or compiling a comprehensive report that seems to take eternity.
Now you can view your Facebook, Twitter and other social media performance metrics in one place.
Get started by following these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get our pre-built template
Step 2: Connect and integrate your PPC accounts with Dataflo
Step 3: In seconds, your dashboard will be ready to use