How Long Is the Default Session Timeout Duration in Google Analytics & How to Change It?

On 17 March 2022

If you’re wondering what the default session timeout is on Google Analytics (GA), the answer is simple: it’s 30 minutes. This means that if your website visitor doesn’t take any action during that time, the session will expire. If they do perform some form of action on your site within 30 minutes, Google will automatically log this activity as a new visit from a returning visitor. But, can you change this session timeout duration? And if so, how?

In this article, we’ll highlight the definition of a session and its importance as well as provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to change the default session timeout duration in GA.

What Is a Session?

In Google Analytics, a session is defined by a hit recorded for a user during a specific period of time. This hit refers to the interaction that the user has with your website for which data is then sent to the GA server. These interactions include but are not limited to:

  • A screen view
  • A page view
  • A transaction
  • An event

While the definition of a session will depend on the settings you choose to implement on your account, a session typically includes multiple hits, or activities, during a specific time period. With this in mind, users can generate more than one session in one day, depending on the activities they perform on your website. 

Why Is It Important to Track Sessions?

As with most elements in Google Analytics, tracking sessions is an important factor when gathering data about users. This feature allows you to track, understand, and evaluate a user’s behavior on your website. In turn, you’ll be able to become more specific in your marketing efforts in order to better reach and convert your target audience. 

Session tracking gives you an overview of the following data:

  1. How many sessions convert
  2. How many sessions drop off the sales funnel
  3. How many times a session leads to a transaction or click

How to Change Your Default Session Timeout Duration in Google Analytics

You can change the default session timeout duration from the Admin section of your GA account. Here’s an outline of the steps you need to take for Google Analytics 4 (GA4):

Step 1: Go to the ‘Admin’ section of your GA4 account and click ‘Data Streams’

Step 2: In ‘Data Streams’, click on your URL.

Step 3: Once in the ‘Web Stream Details’ section of your GA account, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on ‘More Tagging Settings’

Step 4: In ‘More Tagging Settings’, click on ‘Adjust session timeout’.

Step 5: In the ‘Adjust session timeout’ page, you will be able to adjust the expiration time based on your individual preferences. You can adjust both the hour and the minute settings.

Step 6: Adjust the ‘Timer for engaged sessions’ section. This is the amount of time it takes for a session to be seen as an engaged session. Click ‘Save’.

How to Check the Average Session Time in Google Analytics Reports

It’s important that you change the default session timeout duration to accurately reflect your average session length. For example, if the average user spends one hour on your website engaging with your content, then you should change the average session timeout duration to be one hour. 

Here’s how to identify the average session length so that you can choose the session timeout duration to best suit your individual circumstances:

Step 1: Go to your GA4 dashboard and click on ‘Reports’ on the left-hand side of the page.

Step 2: From there, click on the ‘Acquisitions’ drop-down list, followed by ‘Acquisition overview’.

Step 3: On the ‘Acquisition overview’ page, select the dates for which you would like to create your report. This can be found on the top right-hand side of the page.

Step 4: Once the page has loaded, scroll down to ‘Sessions’ and click on ‘View traffic acquisition’. 

Step 5: This page will give you a full overview of the sessions on your website. By scrolling down the page and then scrolling to the right of the table, you will see ‘Average engagement time per session.’ This gives you an overview of the average time per session from each source of the traffic that comes to your website.  

It’s worth mentioning that in Google Analytics 360, this statistic could be found within the ‘Audience’ tab of your dashboard. This option is no longer available and, instead of being named ‘Average session duration’, it is now termed ‘Average engagement time per session.’

Please note that you can set your session timeout duration to whatever time you would like. However, Google Analytics does not allow you to make it less than one minute or more than four hours. 

Want to Learn More About Google Analytics?

As you can see, Google Analytics is essential to better understanding your website visitors and their behavior. By mastering this tool, you’ll be able to better target your marketing efforts, thus increasing your website traffic and conversions. 

To find out more about Google Analytics, or for help boosting your monthly traffic, contact our customer support team at [email protected]!