When it comes to your website reporting, it’s important to know exactly what you’re tracking and what the metric means.
If you’re using HubSpot’s Marketing Analytics tool, you may have noticed the following metrics in your dashboard: page views, page visits, page sessions. So what’s the difference between these three? Let’s dive in.
Understanding Page Views vs. Visits
A page view occurs when a page on your website is loaded or reloaded whether the user was already on your page or came from an external page. A page visit, on the other hand, only occurs when someone lands on your site from an external page, such as Google or another website.
So technically, every page visit is a page view, but the same is not true the other way around.
It’s important to know this difference, as it can greatly impact your understanding of audience behavior and page performance.
Without this knowledge, you might think that high page views is an indicator of a high-performing website but that’s not always the case. You’ll need to look at more metrics, like page sessions, unique page views, page visits, and other metrics to get a full picture.
Now that we broke that down, we’re going to further explain each metric in detail. Before we get there, it’s important to understand what a session is, as that can help your understanding of other website metrics.
What is a session?
A session is a measurement of visitor engagement that groups together analytics activities taken by a single visitor on your website. It expires after 30 minutes of inactivity.
It works by grouping together the actions taken by visitors as they navigate through your site. This includes the pages they are viewing, the elements they engage with (Think CTAs, forms, or events.)
The time-sensitive element of a session allows you to drill into engagement and traffic on your site.
Here’s an example: A visitor lands on your website’s homepage by clicking on a link from a blog post. They spend some time scrolling down the page, navigating to your product page, and even reading your "About Us" page. Then, they decide to leave the website.
Ten minutes later, the same visitor is still thinking about your product and decides to return directly to your pricing page. All of these actions would count as one session.
Even though the visitor completely left your site, they have not been inactive for more than 30 minutes, so the second visit to your website is recorded as a continuation of their original engagement to your site. If the visitor chose to return after that session has elapsed, their visit would kick off a new session.
How to Understand the Page Views of a Website
A page view is when a page on your site is loaded by a browser.
Here’s how it works: HubSpot counts a page view every time the HubSpot tracking code is loaded. If a single page is refreshed multiple times by the same visitor, each refresh would count as its own page view.
So, imagine a user discovers your website on Google. They click on your website and land on the page. That’s where you get your first page view.
But then, as they’re scrolling, you see that some elements aren’t loading because of an extension. They disable the extension and reload the page. As the page was refreshed, that counts as a second page view.
As a result, your reporting tool will show two page views.
What are unique page views?
Unique page views refer to views that are generated by the same user during the same session.
Take this article for instance. When you first landed on the page to start reading, that generated one page view. Say you reloaded the page, that would count as another page view while the unique page views would still be one.
This is because both page views are coming from the same user. As such, it only counts once in the same session.
Why is this metric important? It helps marketers accurately analyze their data without overinflating the numbers.
Imagine if you had a user reload your page 15 times. You could think that means 15 different users landed on your page, which would be inaccurate.
What is a page visit?
A visit is any time a visitor reaches your site from somewhere outside of your website domain. That means the person was on a different site and clicked on a link that took them to your site or entered your website URL directly into their browser.
When a visitor enters your site through an external domain, a new visit begins to track the visitor’s activity across the pages associated with your domain. A visit will conclude only when the visitor leaves your domain by visiting an external site or closing their browser window.
For instance, say a visitor has a problem and turns to their favorite search engine for an answer. They find your blog as a result. When they click on your site, that generates a page visit.
They read an article, don't find quite what they're looking for, and return to their search results. Further down in their search engine results, they come across another one of your blog articles. This one contains the answer they were looking for.
Though the source of these two visits is the same, this would count as another page visit because the visitor left your website. Once they returned yet again from an external referring domain, HubSpot would see this as a new visit.
Understanding your metrics is a key part of measuring your website performance accurately.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in Dec. 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.