A question came to my mind the other day:
How is a visit treated in Google Analytics (GA) when you move across synced devices? As a new visit or is the cookie shared, keeping the session alive?
My first thought was that the cookie wasn’t shared, although I wouldn’t of been surprised if at least users with Chrome’s Tab syncing feature could be tracked. Simply because they need to op-in to their Google Account (and Google owns GA) to be able to use the feature which basically could identify them across devices. But then again, even if this was possible, I wasn’t sure if this metric would be available to GA to distinguish the users. So I wrote the following tweet:
How is a visit treated in GA when you move across synced devices? As a new visit or is the cookie shared, keeping the session alive?
— Christofer Vilander (@c_vilander) March 21, 2014
Nobody seemed to have an answer, so I decided to ask the question on webmasters.stackexchange.com. 10 days later, I’ve only received one answer saying that the visits are most probably treated seperately and if I’m looking for cross-device tracking I should upgrade to Universal Analytics (UA). Even if the answer gave me some valuable insights regarding UA it didn’t answer my question really, so the next step was to test it myself …
I created a new website and implemented GA-tracking. The reason for this was to make sure that no other visitors would access the site during the test. I then enabled iCloud Tabs and Chrome’s Tab feature on my Mac and iPhone. Visiting the website with Chrome and Safari (desktop versions) gave me two active visitors in GA and when I enabled each tab in Chrome and Safari on my iPhone the Real-Time data in GA showed four active visitors, which later also turned out to be four unique visitors.
So according to my small test it seems that GA treats visits across synced devices separately (Visits 4, Unique Visitors 4).