Google Analytics - New vs. Returning Report

Google Analytics New vs Returning Visitors Report is a simple report that provides valuable information regarding your website's audience by comparing the number of new visitors to your site against the returning visitors. It is very effective in determining the success of marketing/advertising campaigns at driving new traffic to your website, and how engaging your content is for both new and returning visitors.

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The success of campaigns aimed at driving visitors to your site can be determined by looking at the percentage of new visitors you are experiencing. A high percentage of new visitors would indicate that your SEO/SEM or any other advertising campaigns are successfully generating traffic.

The number of return visitors is often a good indication of how engaging the content of your website is. A high percentage of return visitors would indicate that your audience finds your site engaging. This coupled with bounce rates, time spent on site and average page views per visit offers you fantastic insight. This data is easily accessible by clicking on the drop down box in the second column of the table and selecting which metric you would like to use.

The goal conversion tab shows you which visitor type, new or returning, is contributing the most to the achievement of the goals you have set in Analytics. This information can then be used to tailor your site to extract the greatest number of conversions from the different audiences you appeal to. For example, if your company's sale process is quite long, encouraging return visits might be of most benefit to your organization. This can be achieved by providing incentives for visitors to return, such as a news section which is regularly updated or a member login area.


Considerations

Google Analytics is able to determine if a visitor is a new or returning user by embedding a 'cookie' (small fragment of code) on their computer. Any computer accessing your site that doesn't have this cookie is automatically considered a 'new' user. However, this method is not full proof. If a user has cookies 'disabled' on their computer or has cleared their cookies, then the code will be missing and they will be defined as a new user.

Because cookies are computer and browser specific, Google Analytics cannot follow a user across several computers. So, if a visitor was to access your site from their work computer, their home desk top, and their laptop, they would be counted as three new visitors, despite the fact that they are the same person. The number of visitors shown in Google Analytics, and many other web analytic tools, are therefore more of an approximation. Webmasters should avoid getting bogged down in the raw figures the New vs. Returning Report generates and keep a closer eye on visitor trends over a longer period of time which still provides very useful insights.

If Google Analytics is not properly implemented, anyone within your company who is regularly checking your website for accuracy or information will artificially boost your return visits. This can be rectified by setting up Google Analytics to ignore certain IP addresses, therefore neutralizing the disruptive effect on data this kind of traffic can have.

Also, a website that has only recently had the GA code inserted on it will initially have 100 per cent new visitors. The longer you have tracking enabled, the more accurate this report becomes. However, this initial lack of returning visitors can help determine the time frame return visits begin to accrue i.e. frequency of return visits.

New visitors often bounce, but if returning visitors are bouncing more than new, this usually means one of two things:

  1. The user has bookmarked the site and is returning to only one page frequently, or
  2. There is something wrong with your main landing pages.

It is therefore suggested that you consider other Google Analytics reports in combination with the New and Returning Visitors reports, such as average time per visit, to help figure out which is occurring.

Benefits for Different Sectors

Multi-National & Domestic Corporations

  • Measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns
  • Measures brand loyalty and engagement

Medium

  • Identify the relative value of new vs. existing customers

Membership Based Organisations

  • If your returning visits are not making up the vast majority of your visits, then your membership base are probably not visiting your site as much as you would probably like. You could therefore alter your site to better suit them.

Public Sector

  • See how often citizens are referring to your site for policy information. If the number is very low, perhaps a spend in driving web traffic or other communication mediums is necessary.

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