The Audience section of Reports is all about your website’s visitors: where they are from, what devices and browsers they are using, and general collated data about how long they are on your website, how many pages they have viewed etc.
The Audience Overview report provides a very useful general snapshot of your website’s visitation and activity, in the selected date range (and comparison period if selected).
If the comparison period is selected, additional percentage change data will be shown for all metrics, either positive or negative.
The main metrics shown on the Audience Overview report are:
Users (previously called “Unique Visitors”)
Users are the individual visitors to the websites, some of whom have visited multiple times (as can be seen in Sessions). This is based on IP address, and will be registered as a new “unique visit” if the same user clears their browsing history / cache.
New Users are the number of users who visited the website for the first time during whatever the selected time period is (or have reset their client ID).
The first time a device (computer, tablet, smartphone) or a browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer) loads a page from your website, Google Analytics creates a random, unique ID called the Client ID.
Each time a new ID is detected, Google Analytics counts a New User.
When Google Analytics detects an existing client ID in a new session, it counts as a Returning User.
If the user deletes their browser cookies (e.g. by clearing their cache), the ID gets reset, and the next time they visit the website (or visit it from a new browser or device) a new ID is created and they are then counted as a New User again.
Sessions (previously called “Total Visits”)
The concept of a session in Analytics is important to understand because many features, reports, and metrics depend on how Analytics calculates sessions.
A session is a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example a single session can contain multiple screen or page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions.
A single user can open multiple sessions. Those sessions can occur on the same day, or over several days, weeks, or months. As soon as one session ends, there is then an opportunity to start a new session. There are two methods by which a session ends:
Number of Sessions per User
The total number of Sessions divided by the Total number of Users.
An individual instance of a page being loaded (or reloaded) in a browser. Pageviews is a metric defined as the total number of pages viewed.
Pages / Session
The average number of pages viewed during each session (Pageviews / Session).
Avg. Session Duration
The average amount of time spent by each visitor on the website during their session.
The percentage of visitors who leave the website after viewing only the single page that they landed on.
With this metric, the lower the percentage, the better!
Location provides a number of geographical dimensions, such as City, Country, Continent, etc. The values for these dimensions are automatically derived from the IP address of the hit, which is convenient but also has a few drawbacks:
IP-based locations are approximate.
Values for standard geographic dimensions are localized into the user’s preferred language, possibly making it complicated to share the data with users who speak other languages or use other tools.
Many businesses operate in arbitrary regions that make sense to them but that don’t appear on a map. For example in North America, you might operate in East, Central, and West groups of states or provinces. In Europe, companies might operate across North, Central, and South groups of countries.
As an alternative to IP-based regions, you can create your own custom regions by mapping them to a set of geographical ID dimensions. These dimensions are based on widely used standards, so sharing the data with other users and applications is simpler.
The Mobile report outlines what device visitors are viewing the website from.
In the Overview report, this information is broken down by:
The Devices section provides more detailed information about the actual device being used, such as Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, iPad etc.