One of the things I’ve lambasted over the years in Google Analytics is the new vs. returning visitor ratio. In aggregate, it tells you nothing useful, because as far as marketing objectives go, you want more of both.
However, is there a time when these ratios might be useful, might give you some insight? The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes: when you’re looking at individual channel performance. Let’s look at an example.
Here’s my overall site new vs. returning visitor ratio.
This is not super-informative. I can see that on a big picture level, 4 out of 5 of the visitors to my website are new, but without the context of whether traffic is increasing overall or decreasing overall, this doesn’t tell me much other than my site is attracting new visitors fairly well.
However, what if I apply some segmentation and look at channels such as email, social media, organic search, and referrals?
Now we’re getting somewhere. Above, I see that email marketing is a loyalty tool: 1/3 of the visitors it brings in are returning visitors. The same is true for social media: it brings significantly more returning visitors than referral traffic or organic search traffic.
This tells me that if I want to increase loyalty, I should focus on email and social. If I want to increase new visitors, I should focus on search and referrals.
Let’s dig deeper into social media:
We see above that LinkedIn drives more new than returning users, so even though it’s lumped into social, it behaves more like referral and organic search, an important distinction if we care about driving new visitors.
We also see that Twitter drives an astonishing amount of returning traffic. If I care about engaging my audience more, Twitter is the place to do it for me. Conversely, if I care about getting new audiences, Twitter may not be the place to be, not as much as LinkedIn.
These charts can now inform my social media strategy, helping me to understand what I should be doing on each channel.
Drill down into each of your channels and understand what’s contributing to your website traffic, using the new vs. returning ratio. While you always want more of both, it’s helpful to dig into your traffic composition to gain more insight about how people are finding you.
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