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New vs. Returning Visitors

New Visitors are visitors who are deemed to have never visited a site (or page, depending on the report) before whereas Returning Visitors are those who have already visited a given site (or page depending on the report). Sounds simple, right?

How does Google know if a visitor is new or returning?

Every time a visitor goes to a site being tracked by Google Analytics, GA places a cookie on the person's browser. This cookie lets Google know that they have visited the pages or sites that they have. When a visitor returns to a site, Google knows they are a returning visitor because the cookie tells it that they were there before.

Can a New Visitor actually be a Returning Visitor?

Yes. If a person deletes the cookies from their browser, the next time they go to a site they were at before, Google will not be able to find the cookie that was previously placed in their browser. Because Google is placing a new cookie, it considers the visitor to be new.

What's better: New or Returning Visitors?

It's actually a good idea to have a balance of both:

  • New Visitors indicate fresh interest in your site;
  • Returning Visitors shows that people continue to be interested in the content you are providing.

New Visitors are also an opportunity to increase your page views: these are people who have not seen your content before and may check out more of your content if it seems to be relevant to their needs.

What if I have a lot more New than Returning Visitors?

This may indicate that visitors are not finding what they are looking for when they initially visit your site. Some suggestions for how to find out what may be wrong:

  • First off,  check out your Bounce Rates: if your Bounce Rates are high, it's a good indication that the people who are finding your pages / site are not finding what they came for.
  • Next, check out what Search Terms people are using to find your site. Do they coincide with how you perceive your content? If not, then consider how you write your content and if there's a way to write it that better reflects what you are trying to communicate.
  • Finally, check out what pages or sites are referring most of your visitors: are the links misleading? are visitors only expecting to check out a single bit of information?