Sessions vs. Pageviews: Which Metric Should You Measure?

4 minute read

Team Localytics

sumall_mobile_data_big_trendlinesThe rise of mobile app usage has lead to an overhaul in the traditional metrics marketers measure. Coming from a web-centric mindset, it’s easy to assume the same metrics apply, but in your mobile strategy you want to dig into a deeper set of app-specific analytics. Most of what’s tracked in Google Analytics has no relevance for your app, and new KPIs have entered the game in response to mobile user behavior.

It’s no surprise that most key app metrics are still foreign to many modern marketers, particularly sessions, which are critical to judging mobile success. Here, we highlight the difference between sessions and pageviews, and which one you need to measure as a mobile marketer.

Tracking Sessions

A session is tracked from app open to app close, or when someone backgrounds the app for 15 seconds or more. It is the foundation metric underlying usage data and the key to retention, and serves to identify the steps a user takes while interacting with your app. Still fairly new to marketers, sessions are critical to analyzing and improving app value.

Length and interval are the two primary components of measuring user sessions. Session length is the period of time a user spends in the app per session, whereas session interval is the time between the user’s first session and his or her next one, showing the frequency with which your users open the app.

Understanding the habits of your users during their sessions opens the doors to creating valuable interactions, both in improving the app itself and in conducting successful marketing campaigns.


Tracking Pageviews

Pageviews are triggered when a page is requested by a browser, and signify the total number of pages viewed, including repeat views of a single page. Typically used as an indicator of patterns in traffic and most popular pages, pageviews help marketers decide which pages to target with calls-to-action, regularly update with fresh and relevant content, and include in creating visitor funnels.

Here’s where pageviews fall short today: they don’t actually measure how engaged your users are. Engagement is a moving target, and there are countless ways to define and track it, but the simple truth is pageviews don’t cut it. There are too many variables at play, and taking a pageview at face value is misleading; did your users visit a lot of pages because they were interested, or because they couldn’t find what they were looking for?

Complicating the situation further, a page is no longer just a page. Filled with widgets, ads, and various other marketing elements, pages are no longer clearly defined, nor clearly tracked.

The Value of the Session: Contextual Information and Why That Matters

Sure, pageviews continue to be a valid metric of traffic and site usage, and when correctly interpreted can be beneficial in identifying your visitors’ areas of interest. But when it comes to mobile marketing and the rapid growth of apps, deeper engagement analytics are necessary to determine and drive value. Tracking session metrics allows you to tailor your app to the user, improving the experience, bolstering retention and increasing ROI.

By using session length and intervals as baseline metrics you as a marketer gain insight into recurring behavior, follow up behavior, and in-app behavior for given time periods and across audiences and verticals. Within session tracking, you can customize reporting to identify results within different dimensions, like session length by purchase frequency, device or role.

Localytics News App User Data 1 Aug 2013

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As I mentioned, sessions are the foundation of app analytics. Elements like:

  • Tracking key actions (or events) taken with your app
  • Following funnel behavior
  • Pinpointing lost users
  • Measuring user engagement and loyalty
  • Pushing out effective marketing campaigns

Are all dependent on identifying session metrics. Analyzing sessions as an overall part of usage data gives marketers the foundation for mobile success and to boost ROI.

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