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I am confused as heck. When looking at a few individual pages, I am seeing weird results I hope someone can help explain.

I am doing manual standard reports, and not creating or using a widget. For each of the two tests below, the metrics I am using are visits (not visitors) and unique visitors. I am using Page as my primary dimension and Page Title as secondary. I am filtering to include certain Pages.

Example 1 - Looking at a single page... I see 731 unique visitors and 169 visits. How is this possible? Does google just flip them around for some reason?

Example 2 - Looking at several pages combined... If you examine the timeline below , you can see that the numbers are all over the place. How is it possible to have more unique visitors than visits? What am I missing? I would suspect that if things were just flipped around, then I should still see one line that is always below the other line. Anyone clue me in to what may be happening here?

I also notice that the visits column (just out of view) adds up to the total, but the unique visitors column clearly doesn't.

graphic here

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I think you need to distinguish "visitors" from "visits". Your first metric is "Unique Visitors" not "Unique Visits" (which doesn't make any sense). –  Lèse majesté Mar 3 '12 at 0:35
    
There is no unique visits metric... I am using Unique Visitors and Visits. Why doesn't that make sense? –  Dallas Mar 3 '12 at 4:58
    
Question title: "How can # of unique visits be more than # of visits?" ... "the metrics I am using are visits (not visitors) and unique visits" ... "I see 731 unique visits and 169 visits" ... –  Lèse majesté Mar 3 '12 at 9:22
    
Done. Now on to pondering the impossibilities... :c) –  Dallas Mar 3 '12 at 17:44

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I found what I believe is the answer in the link below.

http://www.michaelwhitaker.com/blog/2010/04/23/unique-visitors-0-visits-and-pages-in-web-analytics/

To detail the answer is quite lengthy, but in summary - for purposes of attribution, google credits a visit at the page level to the first page visited in a single visit. However it credits every page viewed to a unique visitor.

So basically what the visit metric stands for in the report you showed is how many visits started their visit on that page. To find out how many actual VISITS went to a particular page use unique pageviews since it counts pageviews only once, for every visit.

Confusing...yes. However it appears to be the reason.

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Link only answers aren't good answers. If the link ever moves then your answer becomes worse than useless. Please summarise the post here and use the link as a reference for further reading. –  ChrisF Mar 14 '12 at 12:23
    
Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this. I'll have a close look shortly. –  Dallas Mar 16 '12 at 3:11
    
This is also the reason why in your report if you add up visits it is the same as the total on the top of your report. Whereas unique visitors (when added up for every page) is more than the total, since this is showing unique visitors on each particular page. The unique visitor number at the top of your report is deduplicated to show the actual number of unique visitors for all of those pages in your segment/report. –  Eric Mar 16 '12 at 12:19
    
Nice find! Many thanks. –  Dallas Mar 17 '12 at 1:38

Looks like Google has posted Why a custom report shows more Unique Visitors than Visits in their Help pages.

If you use either a page level dimension (like Page or Page Title) or the Hour dimension in a custom report, you might see the count of Unique Visitors is greater than Visits.

To capture the number of sessions that included a visit to a given page, use the metric Unique Pageviews instead of Visits.

They also give a more in depth answer that explains the details.

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Lone link is considered a poor answer (see faq) since it is meaningless by itself and target resource is not guaranteed to be alive in the future. It would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. –  j0k Feb 26 '13 at 22:41

The overall point is that you are looking for unique visitors and visits for a specific page. Normally you will not see more visitors than visits on a generic report but if you go to report "how many visits and visitors a single page gained" then you can encounter this "confusing" problem.

I know, as Eric stated with the article, that GA counts visits for a page only those that started with that page and not all visits (sessions) that "really" viewed it.

Use unique pageview and you are sure to count ALL sessions/visits that embed at least one pageview of that page.

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Visits vs. Visitors

Analytics measures both visits and visitors in your account. Visits represent the number of individual sessions initiated by all the visitors to your site. If a user is inactive on your site for 30 minutes or more, any future activity will be attributed to a new session. Users that leave your site and return within 30 minutes will be counted as part of the original session.

The initial session by a user during any given date range is considered to be an additional visit and an additional visitor. Any future sessions from the same user during the selected time period are counted as additional visits, but not as additional visitors.

http://support.google.com/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=57164

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Exactly. One person, within the time frame, might count extra visits, but not visitors. I still fail to see how visits could be less than the # of visitors, unique or not. Each visitor, unique or not has to register at least one visit... no? –  Dallas Mar 4 '12 at 19:11

I suspect this might be due to users who have cookies blocked.

If cookies are blocked, then each time the user loads a page, they'll be registered as a new visitor. However, even though GA can track page views when cookies are blocked, it can't connect their page views together to reliably identify different sessions/visits, so it probably doesn't add new visits.

However, I can't find any official word from Google on this. I did come across one promising-looking vblog entry where a GA user asked some Google employees about this exact phenomena, but the Google staff members ended up answering a completely unrelated question (why pageviews would be greater than visits).

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I would still be interested in reading this, if you have the link. –  Dallas Mar 4 '12 at 19:12
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@Dallas: This is the link. Personally, I didn't find it very helpful. I don't think even these two GA experts really understand what's going on. So it's possible this could even be a long-standing bug (reports/complaints on it have been recurring on the web and GA support forums for some time now). –  Lèse majesté Mar 4 '12 at 20:28
    
One of the comments referring to unique visitors vs. visits is helpful...."There are a lot of talks about it in the help forums, yet none of them have an answer. It looks like a bug that needs to be debugged so that us users can trust the numbers google analytics is producing." –  Dallas Mar 4 '12 at 21:53
    
The most striking thing is that there are references to this issue going back to before 2009. One suggested workaround was to use pageviews and unique pageviews as a metric, which don't seem to have the same inconsistencies. –  Dallas Mar 6 '12 at 4:04
    
There were also mentions of issues with custom var's (which we aren't using). It seems to me that the numbers go wonky when you select anything other than All Visits... aka the numbers don't add up or make sense. In other words, if you look in Advanced Segments, you should deselect everything other than the first one. –  Dallas Mar 6 '12 at 4:05

Have a look at this google support article

  • Visits represent the number of individual sessions initiated by all the visitors to your site. If a user is inactive on your site for 30 minutes or more, any future activity will be attributed to a new session. Users that leave your site and return within 30 minutes will be counted as part of the original session.

  • The initial session by a user during any given date range is considered to be an additional visit and an additional visitor. Any future sessions from the same user during the selected time period are counted as additional visits, but not as additional visitors.

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I have read this page before... but I'm still not sure how this could cause the # of unique visits to be more than visits. Either way, new session or not, there should be a visit recorded every time. Given the above description, this would just cause the # of unique visits to drop, but not visits to drop below the # of unique visits. I still fail to see how this is even possible. –  Dallas Mar 3 '12 at 5:04
    
I can't edit the above comment, but I meant to say unique visitors instead of unique visits. –  Dallas Mar 3 '12 at 5:24

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