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In Google Analytics Essential Training, Corey Koberg shows how to use the Google web analytics platform to generate and evaluate information about the visitors to a web site, including data on site traffic, user behavior, and marketing effectiveness. This course covers the out-of-the-box functionality, from account creation to reporting fundamentals, and explains how to glean insights from the vast array of data available.
One important clue we can utilize as an analyst is whether a visitor is familiar with your site through previous interactions or whether this is the very first time they've visited the site. Through the use of browser cookies, which are just little bits of information your browser keeps on your computer to remember your previous visits, Google Analytics is able to determine whether this person has previously been to your site before. That information is held in the New vs. Returning report in the Visitors tab. Here we see the visitors broken into their respective segments: New and Returning. As we can easily see in both this table and the corresponding pie chart, the overwhelming majority of visitors to the site are first-time, or new, visitors.
I am looking at this data and you may be tempted to think returning visitors here in green are approaching becoming an insignificant segment of traffic. Once again, I would caution that we have not revealed the whole story because we're just examining a single metric in isolation, visitors. When we change to the Ecommerce tab and use Revenue as our metric, the chart updates from being based on visitors to show how much revenue each segment accounted for. You can see that despite making up just a sliver of the visitors, the Returning visitors actually account for the majority of our revenue, which sheds an entirely new light on that segment.
It's important to peak under the hood a bit and see when Google Analytics considers someone a new visitor. It essentially boils down to whether or not they have an existing set of cookies from a previous visit still in their browser. This means that if someone uses a different browser, they will create a whole new set of cookies and be considered a new visitor in the eyes of Google Analytics, even if they've already visited the site. Also, if you delete your cookies, Google Analytics will have no way to know that you where their prior. Also, if you would have visit the site from your work computer, then go home and visit again and then visit again from a different computer, even in the same house, such as your kid's computer, those would all have their own fresh new set of cookies and therefore a single visitor will be counted as three new visits.
While you can't assume new or returned visitors are necessarily more valuable to your site than the other-- that depends on your individual site-- it is critical to understand the breakdown of these two very different segments: how many there are of each, how valuable they are, and how they may be changing over time.
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