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I'm looking in Google Analytics at Audience > Behavior > Frequency & Recency for a property I manage. My histogram looks like this:

Frequency and recency

Something's fishy. The official docs say I should read this histogram like so:

Analytics counts sessions for this report in the following manner:

  • User 1 engaged 1 time during the time frame.
  • User 2 engaged 2 times during the time frame.
  • User 3 engaged 3 times during the time frame.
  • The first row of the report (1 session) has a count of 3 (one each for user 1, 2, and 3).
  • The second row of the report (2 sessions) has count of 2 (one each for user 2 and 3).
  • The third row of the report (3 sessions) has a count of 1 (one for user 3).

...

Regardless of the time frame, you're likely to see that users who come only once outnumber everyone else.

OK, so I think I see what's happening here. The "Sessions" column in the chart above is actually a count of "users" or "uniques", and therefore this site had 123,649 users during the specified timeframe, and 2,419 users who visited the site 8 times.

But how many visitors visited the site more than 8 times? The buckets beyond the single count of sessions make this tough to read.

Am I reading this right?

  • I think you have it right. Sometimes how Google presents data defies logic. Not to be critical, but it seems to be more of a Google view of what people want other than a real-world view of what people want. Some of it quite frankly does not make sense to me. But I am pretty sure you have this just right. – closetnoc Oct 17 '14 at 15:06
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"Count of Sessions" is "The number of visitors with X sessions during this time period".

You have far more than 123,649 users during the specified time. You had 123,649 users that visited exactly once (one session) in this time period. You had 2,419 users who visited the site exactly 8 times.

To get the number of visitor who visited more than 8 times, you would have to add up sessions for "Count of Sessions" greater than or equal to 8.

I'm pretty sure that the documentation for how it works is wrong. In the "interpreting the histogram" section they say that user 3 visited 3 times, they would count in each of the first three lines of the graph. If that were true, then the "sessions" number in the first line would be equal to the number of unique visitors for the same time period. Here is the data from one of my sites for a time period:

 Count of Sessions  Sessions
                 1     5,100
                 2       671
                 3       249
                 4       105
                 5        61
                 6        40
                 7        24
                 8        22
              9-14        69
             15-25        39
             26-50        72
            51-100        81
           101-200        68
              201+        94

Google Analytics reports that me website received 5,546 unique visitors for this time period. If the "Count of Sessions: 1" were "at least 1 session" than the sessions on that line should be 5,546. Instead it is 5,100.

If the "count of sessions" were interpreted as "visitors with at least this number of sessions", you would also expect the sessions reported to be monotonically decreasing. But in your graph and in my data, there are plenty of cases where the "Sessions" is larger than on the line above it.

Of course, I would also expect that sum of all the sessions in the graph should equal the number of unique visitors. But in my case it equals 6,125.

  • This seems to contradict the example provided by Google, which suggests that users 1, 2, and 3 -- all of whom visited at least 1 time -- would count for the first row. – samthebrand Oct 20 '14 at 15:57
  • I added more to the answer, including why I think their documentation is wrong. There does appear to be some funky math going on with this report. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 20 '14 at 18:38
  • Thanks @stephen, this is helpful. And yes, that last line is confounding. There definitely seems to be something wrong with the documentation, and maybe the counting method for the chart, too. – samthebrand Oct 20 '14 at 20:44
  • "The histogram gives you a sense of the rate at which sessions and page views decline, as well as the optimum intersection of sessions and pageviews. For example, you may see a precipitous decline after two sessions, but find that people who engage five times tend to view more pages." support.google.com/analytics/answer/… – perry Oct 20 '14 at 22:09
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    The reason there are lines with more than the line before is because they are aggregate lines: Count of 8: 22 Sessions; Count of 9-14: 69 Sessions. If that line was broken down into the individual counts of 9, 10 11, 12, 13 and 14 you would see a continuation of your monotonically decreasing scale. – Zhaph - Ben Duguid Oct 24 '14 at 19:21

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