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Start simple right? And what is more simple than a pageview? Wait… what exactly is a pageview?


This is something that’s been daunting me for a while. Pageviews are unlike a lot of stuff in Analytics in that they aren’t counted in cookies, nor really in the utm.gif. A pageview is defined by the loading of a page but we all know that it’s not REALLY that. Nothing in analytics is ever REALLY what it seems to be.

Quick refresher: how does GA get your data?

  • The page load activates the tracking code…
  • …tracking code writes to the browser cookies…
  • …the browser cookies provide data for the utm.gif query…
  • …and the utm.gif query is recorded by Google.

Actually, it ends up there’s slightly more to it than that.

Google doesn’t know when a page loads. They know when  _trackpageview() [eg. _trackPageview(‘/product334a/learn-more’)] sends a query to their system. From that they can extrapolate that a page was loaded. Then, each time the this code is executed, it creates a time stamp on Google’s servers. Simple right?

You wish.

So a page was loaded. Which page? What was it’s title? Where were they coming from? What host served it? A pageview itself is meaningless without other data and that’s where the very concept of a “pageview” gets confusing.

So let’s say Google knows that the tracking code was called, how can they determine a particular pageview?

A pageview comprises a LOT of data in the gif request.

We have the usuals:

  • Version (utmwv) 4.9.1
  • Host id (utmhid) 1234567890
  • Account (utmac) UA-10000-1
  • Unique Request (utmn) 608131070

And we have the following which are more specific to the request:

  • Title (utmdt) Analytics Settings – Google Analytics
  • Referrer (utmr) (only on the landing page)
  • Page URL (utmp) blog/what-is-a-pageview-ruga-part-3

And of course a few which we will get into in later posts:

  • Encoding (utmcs) UTF-8
  • Screen ResolutioN (utmsr) 1680×1050
  • Color Depth (utmsc) 24-bit
  • Language (utmul) en-us
  • Java Enabled (utmje) 1
  • Flash version (utmfl) 10.2 r152
  • Hostname (utmhn)
  • utmu DI
  • Domain hash(__utma) 173272373
  • Visitor token(__utma) 96242600
  • 1st visit start(__utma) February 1, 2011 5:56:12 PM
  • Previous visit start(__utma) February 21, 2011 5:58:31 PM
  • Current visit start(__utma) April 1, 2011 10:35:37 AM
  • Visit count(__utma) 3
  • Domain hash(__utmz) 173272373
  • Traffic source(__utmz) 1298339911
  • # of responses(__utmz) 2
  • utmcsr
  • utmccn (organic)
  • utmcmd organic
  • utmcct [values from cookies]


Let’s take a closer look at the values specific to this request:

  • utmdt – This is the page title, URL coded.
  • utmr – This is the URL of the referring page (populated only by the landing page)
  • utmp – This is the page request


And there is actually one more hidden in here:

utmt – this is the type of request being made. Normally this would designate an event, transaction, item or custom variable. However, in the case of a pageview this field just doesnt appear – pageview is the default type of gif request.

And there you have a pageview. Not as simple as it seems.