In order to keep us all on our toes, Google decided to change the name of two of the most important metrics in Google Analytics: unique visitors and visits. (For the record, Google has done this without making any official announcement.)
From now on, unique visitors will be “users” and visits will be “sessions.”
This change doesn’t bother me, because I use Google Analytics so much that I instinctively understand why they made the change: for years, the Google Analytics team has struggled to explain what the concept of a session is. In many ways, it is easier to simply use the word session to denote whenever someone, anyone, anywhere, visits a website and sticks around for a defined amount of time.
The Difference Between Sessions & Users
A person could leave and return to a website 50 times in an hour and have 50 sessions. But it is all just one person. Hence the other name change: unique visitors is gone. It has always been odd (in my opinion) that Google would make the distinction between a visitor and a unique visitor, and for years I have created custom reports for clients that make “unique visitors” the hero, because really that’s what clients want to know.
You can see an example of one of my custom reports below, with “Sessions” and “Users” replacing “Visits” and “Unique Visitors.”
Will Marlow is a search engine marketing consultant (specialty in Google AdWords, Bing and Yahoo Ads) who loves helping businesses get found by customers in search results, and he holds four certifications: Google Analytics Certification, Google AdWords Search Certification, Google AdWords Display Certification, and certification as a Bing Ads Accredited Professional. He also spends a lot of time using Excel.