Timeout Is 30 Minutes for Sessions But Only 5 for Real-Time Active User Count

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The Active Users count goes back five minutes.

A user drops out of the Active Users count in the Real-Time Overview report after five minutes of inactivity.

This calculation can be somewhat surprising, since a Google Analytics session terminates after 30 minutes of inactivity.

In either case, each hit that a visitor sends back to Google Analytics refreshes the visitor’s active status for another full five minutes and the session for another 30. Similarly, the expiration of the _ga cookie, which identifies a unique user, is refreshed for two years with each hit, and the campaign timeout is refreshed for six months. (You can override the default user and campaign timeouts in the property admin, but you’re probably fine to stick with the two-year and six-month defaults for most implementations.)

More about campaign timeout in an upcoming post.

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Spot-Check Your Google Analytics Events in Different Browsers

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Using your Browser & OS report as a reference and Real-Time reports for testing, you can verify that your events execute in different browsers.

Different browsers can behave quite differently. When you add code for an event or a virtual page to your site, it can be helpful to verify event execution as follows:

1. Refer to the Browser & OS report report.

2. Select Browser as the primary dimension and Operating System as the secondary dimension (or vice versa) to display the most-used browser/OS combinations for your visitors.

3. Preferably in a testing/development environment for your website, and using a Google Analytics profile that is filtered to display activity only for the hostname of the testing/development environment, visit the site and perform the activity that is coded to generate the event.

4. Check the event in the Real-Time > Events report.

The following browser/OS combinations account for much of the traffic to many websites:

• Firefox on Windows

• Firefox on Mac

• Chrome on Windows

• Chrome on Mac

• Internet Explorer on Windows

• Safari on Mac

• Safari on iOS (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch)

As explained above, refer to your Browser & OS report to view the browser/OS breakdown for your own visitors.

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View and Test Events in New Real-Time Report

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Events are a recent addition to the Real-Time reports.

Did get that event right, or did I forget an apostrophe?

With the addition of Events to the Real-Time reports, you can now easily check that your events are firing correctly.

And, of course, once you have determined that your events are working, you can use this report just to see the events that users have generated in the last 30 minutes.

It’s always interesting to see activity on your site as it happens, so the Real-Time Events report adds a new point of interest to Google Analytics.

For more on the Real-Time reports, see 5-Minute Inactivity Drop-Off for Real-Time Reports, 30 Minutes for Session.

For another way to verify event coding, see Check Pageview and Event Tracking with Chrome Developer Tools

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5-Minute Inactivity Drop-Off for Real-Time Reports, 30 Minutes for Session

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Visitors drop out of the Real-Time reports after 5 minutes of inactivity.

The Google Analytics Real-Time reports are mesmerizing. There is perhaps nothing more fascinating or visceral in Web analytics than seeing how many people are visiting your site right now, where they’ve come from, and what they’re doing.

But just how long does a visitor count as active in the Real-Time reports?

5 minutes. That is, after 5 minutes of inactivity, the visitor is no longer calculated into the active visitor count.

Contrast this with the Pageviews timeline that also appears in the Real-Time Overview report, which displays pageviews that have occurred over the last 30 minutes. If a visitor viewed pages 6, 15, 18, and 28 minutes ago, these pageviews will count towards the Pageviews Per Minute chart, but this visitor will not count towards the giant active visitor tracker.

Contrast this also with Google Analytics sessions, which end after 30 minutes of inactivity. That is, if a visitor views page A on your site, does nothing for 31 minutes, and then views page B, Google Analytics considers the second pageview to start a new and separate visit.

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