Google Analytics Users type is divided into two groups: New Users and Returning Users. In a more simplified way users(people) who visited the website/app first time and those who have before and have come back. The other types like Active users, total users, etc are derived from these two. That is the basic idea behind the metrics.

How Google Analytics Identify New Vs Returning Users

It’s a bit technical so let’s make it easy. Suppose someone told you about a new dating website, You heard the name not visited it yet, as you type the URL in the browser and hit the enter button, the google analytics script (if GA script is already in that website) will generate a Unique Client ID and placed it in cookie value in your browser’s local data. Client ID holds a unique random number and the first timestamp

When you visit the same website next time.The same google analytics script checks for the Client ID and if it is present you will be considered as returning user and start a new session. if the client id is not present google analytics will consider you as a new user and generate a new Client ID.

Hope you get the picture behind the scene. Let’s dig into it more!

Thus, Client ID holds a unique random number and the first timestamp, Here timestamp is the time when you first visited. in technical term time when Google Analytics Cookies was first set for you!

New vs Returning Users

There are two main metrics you can see in the google analytics (GA4) account.

Returning Users
Understand New vs Returning Users in Google Analytics 4 3

New Users

A ‘new user’ is a visitor who has never browsed your site before and is initiating their first session on your Site/app.

If you are browsing a website using your desktop computer and again visited the same website using your smartphone then google Analytics would record you as 2 new users (Desktop + mobile = 2)

Returning Users

Returning users are those who have already visited before. Google Analytics will count as returning user only if it found the client-id stored in the browser.

Google sets a 2-year expiration date for New Visitors as the timestamp. If someone has visited your website within the past two years and returns from the same device and same browser, they are marked as a Returning Visitor in our Google Analytics.

If it has been more than two years since someone has visited our site, the next time they return they will be counted as a New Visitor again

Note: Google Analytics does not report returning users’ KPI in the Dashboard!

Is Google Analytics Data Could Be Wrong?

Google Analytics offers useful data that can help you make important decisions about your business’s presence online.

Keep in mind that, in data, accuracy is directly proportional to the volume.

Suppose your website has only 100 visitors per month, It will be very hard to draw any firm conclusion.

On another hand, if your website received 2,000 visitors per month for the last year, you can draw some meaningful insight, that can help in forecast, growth plans, Content strategy and many more.  

There are some scenarios where google analytics can miscalculate users’ data.

  • When visitors visit your site/app from a different device like a tablet, mobile, etc. Google Analytics will count each as a different user.
  • when visitors have multiple browsers on the same device then google analytics will assign separate Client IDs to each.
  • When a visitor deletes or blocks cookies on regular basis then every time he/she comes back to your site after will be counted as new.
  • When Visitors use Incognito or Private mode on their browser will always count as new users. as the browser won’t save cookies and/or site data

inconginto 1
Understand New vs Returning Users in Google Analytics 4 4

To sum up, Google analytics data will always be silent different as it shows as KPI in your dashboard. The main reason behind it is different devices, browsers, and privacy settings and options.

And that you can ignore !

Now that you’ve read this post, you know exactly what New Vs Returning Users are. Read similar blog posts on google analytics?

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