Google Analytics Traffic Change? Here Is Why.

Aug 16, 2011 - 9:23 am 12 by
Filed Under Web Analytics

Google Analytics LogoLast Thursday, Google announced how they have made a change to how they define a session.

Before Thursday Google Analytics ends a session when:

  • More than 30 minutes have elapsed between pageviews for a single visitor.
  • At the end of a day.
  • When a visitor closes their browser.

Now, Google Analytics ends a session when:

  • More than 30 minutes have elapsed between pageviews for a single visitor.
  • At the end of a day.
  • When any traffic source value for the user changes. Traffic source information includes: utm_source, utm_medium, utm_term, utm_content, utm_id, utm_campaign, and gclid.

So what impact is this having on your traffic reports in Google Analytics? It has been enough time to see the complaints in the threads.

But first, look at the comments in the post:

Confirming what others have stated: This change is wreaking havoc on our data. It looks like non-paid search traffic is up 30%, but corresponding pageviews are down 30%. And all gains in traffic are Repeat Visits -- which would suggest the second pageview from a paid source (utm_xxxxx=yyyyy) is creating a new session, and dumping the visit data into the wrong channel.

Good Grief, less then a 1% change! "Based on our research" I would love to know how you conducted this research.

I am seeing 20% increase in visits, I though I had finally broken free of Panda!

How I am supposed to evaluate these new metrics on steroids vs my previous metrics?

Today vs Yesterday Visits (+19.59%) Pages/Visit (-17.66%) Bounce Rate (+13.80%) Avg. Time on Site (-22.62%) % New Visits (-18.03%)

Same here, since this "update", organic traffic has so-said doubled and my Adwords traffic is now around twice as high as the number of clicks on adwords which can only be wrong.

There are also complaints in the WebmasterWorld forums and at Sphinn.

Are you upset? Did it make significant changes to your reports?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld and Sphinn.

Update: There was indeed a bug. Google wrote:

We identified an issue responsible for unexpected traffic changes following our recent update to how sessions are defined in Google Analytics. A fix was released at 2pm PST Tuesday August 16th.

The issue affected some sites using the following configurations:

1. If a user comes to a customer’s site with a space in some part of their traffic source data, then revisit the same landing page during that session by refreshing the page or later pressing the back button, a new session will be created for every hit to that page. (Clicking a link elsewhere on the site that leads back to the page should not matter.)

2. Google Analytics implementations using multiple trackers (an unsupported configuration) are also affected when a space is included in the traffic source data. These sites will see fewer visits from new visitors, and more visits from returning visitors (with some variation due to different implementations).

Again, a fix for this issue was released yesterday. Please let us know if you continue to see unexpected traffic changes. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support.


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