You Ask, I Answer: Returning Users Original Sources in Google Analytics?

Andy asks, “How would you see how your returning visitors originally got to the site? not just how they got there when they returned?”

This requires a fair amount of customization to Google Analytics. Watch the video for the complete walkthrough, including an explanation of different measurement levels (users, sessions, hits) and how Google Analytics returning users works out of the box.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

In today’s episode, Andy asks, how would you see how you’re returning visitors originally got to the site, not just how they got there when they returned? So this is a good question. It requires a lot of customization to Google Analytics. Because this is not something that Google Analytics can effectively really track. Well out of the box. It requires understanding how Google Analytics measures things. There’s a hierarchy of users, sessions and pages, pages of the individual pages that somebody browsers a session is the total number of pages that they that they visit during of a continuous period of time. And the out of the box, it’s 30 minutes, you have to measures as many things as you do before and inactivity period of 30 minutes. So if you go and browse a bunch of pages here, go out, grab a cup of coffee, and come back and 15 minutes to keep growing around. That is still one session. Even if you browse on 20 pages. If you go out and grab a cup of coffee and takes 31 minutes, and you come back now you are you returning user because you’re outside of that 30 minute window. And you can customize that in the admin panel. And then at the highest level is the user that those human being as best as Google can tell, and all the things you’ve done all the sessions that you’ve, you’ve come back to. So in order to answer and his question, and we have to measure at the user level. So let’s go ahead and go into Google Analytics. We’re going to go into the acquisition menu. And he said, he cares about where do people come from. So that’s the source media menu. And we’re going to do

start with returning users.

hit Apply.

Next, we’re going to add a secondary dimension. And we’re going to use account of sessions.

And we want the count of sessions for these users to be equal to one meeting their first session.

And now let’s take away all users

Oh,

we have returning users equals zero. Why? What happened? Well, remember what I said Google Analytics measures things, occasionally, a little bit quirky returning users is a segment that is tagged by a user being flagged as returning user, it’s a loser says type returning user has nothing to do with the number of sessions that they have browse. So what we’re going to need to do now is we’re going to need to create a a returning user segment that specifically counts the session. So let’s do it. Returning users

with greater than one sessions, okay, do a condition here, we’re going to filter, remember, we’re filtering at the user level, we care about the person, not the session

and count of sessions is greater than one, hit Save.

Now, you’ll notice we come up with exactly the same number of users 491, right. But now look what’s happening here, the returning users says zeros, but returning our segment, our customer segment has real data. So let’s go ahead and get rid of the default segment. Because it’s clearly not working for us.

And here we are, we see in the first session, the first time this user came to the site, where did they come from? They came from Google organic being to, and so on, and so forth. And so this sec segment, even though you would think it would be identical to the built in returning users, it is not this is now everyone who’s had more than one session filtered down to what’s happening in their first session. So this is how you get to that answer. This is, again, this is one of those are a little things about Google Analytics. I’m not sure why it does it the way it does, why the designers made that choice to have a flag for returning user, instead of just counting the number of sessions. And if I had to guess it was probably a choice in the early days, when servers and computers and chips and stuff were much less powerful than they are today. Because remember, Google Analytics fundamentally, is an application that Google acquired in 2005, and it was older existed as a company called urgent prior to that. So the urgent team, probably in the early days, you were talking about the early 2000s,

you know,

could be as as as early as 20 years ago, had much less computing power. And so it may be more memory efficient to store that returning user as a flag, rather than just using the session count. But this is one of those hacks that you’re going to want to implement in your own Google Analytics account. If you care about what did that what did the most loyal users returned from very, is where did Where did the new audiences come from,

in this case, my loyal users, the folks who have come back

have come predominantly from search. Now, the other thing you can do with this, which is nice is you could take that instead of being one return visit, maybe make a two or three or four or five. So you could do something like that, you know, people who have come back at least five times to the website, maybe they’re very highly qualified, where do they come from? You can you could make additional sessions, additional segments to do that, to do that comparison. So you can start drilling down into like, who are the super users? Who are the the folks who are just hanging out with us all the time? What do they have in common from a source medium perspective. So really powerful stuff that you can do with this. And this is, by the way, is only in one week time frame, you could extend this out and you should extend this analysis out much longer, I would say at least 60 days, if not more, so that you get a in a much better perspective on where do all these users come from? Here we see organic search, let’s swap this to bar graph just to make it a little more visually impactful. Yep. 70%, almost 70% of my returning users coming from organic search. So that tells me from a marketing strategy perspective, hmm, they’re coming back for more stuff. So there, maybe it’s favoritism and the algorithm maybe they remember to search for my site but definitely a one of those things where at this there’s a lot of stuff we have in there and interesting social media number five is the first social media source so the audience that I have from social media is not especially loyal so that’s something to consider too is maybe need to change strategies there but great question Andy. Probably more complicated than you are expecting it to be again because those quirks and the application but implement this fall this the saddest procedures and you’ll be well on your way to to being able to make those determinations. As always, please subscribe to the YouTube channel and the newsletter I’ll talk to you soon want help solving your company’s data analytics and digital marketing problems. This is trust insights.ai today and let us know how we can help you


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