Understanding Session Quality data and report in Google Analytics

Introduction to ‘Session Quality’

In the context of Google Analytics, ‘session quality’ can either refer to the ‘session quality report’ or ‘session quality’ dimension.

Introduction to ‘Session Quality report’ in Google Analytics

By default the session quality data is available in the session quality report.

Follow the steps below to view the ‘Session Quality’ report in Google Analytics:

Step-1: Login to your Google Analytics account and then navigate to the reporting view which has been collecting ecommerce data for the last 30 days or more, with 1k or more transactions recorded in the last 30 days.

Step-2: Navigate to Audience > Behavior > Session Quality:

Note: You will see the ‘session quality’ report in your GA view only when your reporting view meet the minimum requirement for calculating the ‘session quality’ data which is at least 1000 transactions, recorded in the last 30 days.

Session Quality report is available in the Google Analytics Demo Account

If your GA reporting view is not eligible for ‘session quality’ reporting then you can navigate to the Google Analytics Demo account to see the ‘session quality’ report. This report is available there.

Minimum requirement for calculating and reporting on the ‘session quality’ data.

Your GA reporting view must have recorded at least 1000 transactions in the last 30 days for the session quality data to be calculated and reported in your view.

Once your reporting view is eligible for session quality data, you will see the ‘Session Quality’ report in your GA view.

Note (1): Once your GA view reach the initial threshold of 1000 ecommerce transactions, Google Analytics then needs 30 days of data to model. If the number of transactions in the reporting view falls below 1000 per month, then GA uses the last good model to generate data for the report.

Note (2): The session quality data is delayed by 24 hours. So you won’t see session quality data for today. In order to see session quality data for today, you would need to wait till tomorrow (i.e. for next 24 hours)

Introduction to ‘Session Quality’ data in Google Analytics

The ‘session quality’ data in GA is made up of:

#1 ‘Session Quality’ dimension.

#2 ‘Average Session Quality’ metric.

#3 Up to five session quality buckets

Google Analytics use machine learning to compute the ‘session quality’ data for your reporting view, provided your reporting view meet the minimum requirement for calculating the ‘session quality’ data.

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You can see the ‘Session Quality dimension, ‘Average Session Quality’ metric and the five session quality buckets through the ‘Session Quality’ report:

Note: In the ‘session quality report the session quality data is available for up to last 6 months.

Introduction to ‘Session Quality’ dimension

Session quality is a dimension which is an estimate of, how close a particular Google Analytics session was, to transacting (i.e. resulting in a purchase).

It is calculated for each GA session.

Its value can range from 1 to 100.

Higher the session quality score, closer a particular Google Analytics session was to transacting.

Conversely, lower the session quality score, farther a particular Google Analytics session was to transacting (i.e. resulting in a purchase):

If the ‘Session quality’ score is close to 1 then it means the GA session was of very low quality in terms of generating a sale on your website.

If the ‘Session quality’ score is close to 100 then it means the GA session was of very high quality in terms of generating a sale on your website.

Session Quality Score of 100

If a GA session has quality score of 100, it is approximately equal to a ‘session with transaction

Session quality score of 100  ≈ Session with transaction

I used the words ‘approximately equal to’ because a session quality score of 100 does not always mean that it was the GA session in which a transaction occurred on your website:

However when your session quality score is 100 then there is a very high probability that this was the session in which a transaction was recorded by GA.

You can see the ‘session quality’ metric:

Introduction to ‘Average Session Quality’ metric

‘Average session quality’ is the average value of ‘session quality’ score, calculated for all GA sessions, related to a particular Google Analytics dimension, in a given time period.

You can see the ‘average session quality’ metric:

  • in the ‘session quality’ report
  • while creating a custom report

Through ‘session quality’ report you can determine the ‘average session quality’ for all GA sessions, related to a primary dimensions like:

Note: The average session quality score of 0.0 means the ‘Average Session Quality’ metric was not calculated, for all GA sessions, related to a particular dimension, in the selected data range.

The Five session quality buckets

The ‘session quality’ report show distribution of: ‘sessions’, ‘sessions with transactions’ and ‘sessions without transactions’ for each of the following five session quality buckets:

1

2-5

6-20

21-50

51-100

Each session quality bucket (except 1) is made up of GA sessions whose session quality score fall in particular range. For example the bucket ‘51-100’ is made up of GA sessions whose session quality score is in the 51-100 range.

You can open a ‘session quality bucket’ by clicking on the ‘+’ button next to it:

Introduction to ‘Session Quality Segment’

A ‘session quality segment’ is a type of custom segment which meets certain level of session quality.

You can create this segment by clicking on the ‘session quality segment’ button which is located next to a ‘session quality bucket’ in the ‘session quality’ report:

Remarketing audience based on session quality

You can create a remarketing audience from a ‘session quality segment’.

Just right click on the down arrow button next to the ‘session quality segment’ and then select ‘build audience’:

My take on the ‘Session Quality’ data

Google’s focus is still on optimizing for ‘random sessions’ instead of ‘users’.

Sessions don’t make a purchase, users do.

So instead of creating a session quality report they should have come up with ‘users quality’ report.

Though Google claims in its documentation that the ‘session quality’ report determine users’ proximity to transacting, the report itself talk about sessions proximity to transacting.

As the name suggest, the session quality data is actually based on sessions and not users, and hence the report is named ‘session quality’ and not ‘users quality’.

The ‘session quality’ report seem to be based on the assumption that people make a purchase in a single session and no cross device, cross browser and multi channel sessions occur on your website. 

It is based on the assumption that if a session does not result in a purchase or does not happen in close proximity to sales then it is a low quality session, which is quite frankly BS.

Different sessions from multiple devices and multiple channels work together to create a user experience which lead to sales.

So we can’t label certain group of random sessions as low quality or high quality and/or conclude that a high quality session means strong user engagement.

The average quality score is another BS metric.

For example, the average quality score for paid search was 7.2 in the last one month.

Great.

Now what should we do about that?

Should we try to improve this average?

Is it really possible to optimize marketing campaigns for individual sessions?

NO

I would use the enhanced ecommerce reports to create ecommerce segments and remarketing audience than rely on the session quality score where even the session quality score of 100 is no guarantee that a transaction occurred on your website. 

You can learn more about creating ecommerce segments and remarketing audience from enhanced ecommerce from this article: Using Enhanced E-Commerce segments for Remarketing in Google Analytics

The session quality data reminds me of the ‘smart goals’ which are too, not that smart.

I sincerely hope that Google start focusing on ‘users’ instead of individual sessions.

Related Article: Why Google Analytics Show Zero Sessions?

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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

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