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Acquisition Source: New vs. Returning Visitors


One of the most important aspects of web analytics is to measure the website’s traffic acquisition source to understand where your users are coming from and how they are performing.

Traffic sources can be broken down into two types of visitors; new and returning visitors. It is important to segment your site traffic by the acquisition sources and see if those sources are driving new traffic or not.

The majority of the web analytics tools should break down the new and returning visitors within a specific reporting timeframe.

Once you’re able to determine the sources' contribution and understand how prominent those sources and the site are attracting returning visitors, you should be able to make a smarter decision in allocating your money for traffic acquisition.

The following figure shows the new and returning visitors broken down by the acquisition sources, and it's possible meaning.

Using Google Analytics as an example, here is a report you can segment channel sources by New Vs. Returning visitors.

In GA, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Then add secondary dimensions User Type

You’ll find an interesting result as returning visitors from Organic Sources (Referrals and Direct) make up a large revenue. That seems to be the case for Paid Search, as it reaches visitors who have been to the site before, hence converting on their subsequent visits.

This type of reporting is powerful because this can tell you, even do a gut check on whether your ads or marketing programs, in general, are bringing traffic volume or not. Then if it is bringing in traffic, are they engaging with your site and converting.

Once you start seeing something interesting here, perhaps it is a good idea to start thinking about your marketing attribution and take it more seriously, given that most website conversions don’t happen in a vacuum. Meaning, usually multiple touches occur before visitors to your site convert.

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Kris Twitter

As a data journalist, I enjoy curating and analyzing marketing trends, and data. The things that fascinate me the most are the transforming business landscape due to evolving marketing technologies.