Don’t track New/Repeat Visitors!

In a rare case of development on my part, I am today going to tell you to not follow the advice in an article I wrote some time ago. I’m talking about Plugins: New/Repeat vs VisitNum.

At the time I told you to do your friendly marketer a favour, track visit number for her instead of just new/repeat visitor.

Today, I’m going to tell you to track neither.

There is simply no need anymore.

These days, you can use segmentation, plus derived metrics.

Segmentation

One reason to track visit number or new/repeat is to be able to analyse new visitors separately from those who visit repeatedly.

Adobe Analytics has a built-in “Visit Number” metric. Using that metric, you can build any kind of segment.

  • “First Visits” — a Visit container with “Visit Number” = 1
  • “Newbie Visits” — the same, but with “Visit Number” < 5 (or whatever your idea of a Newbie is)
  • “Regular Visitors” — a Visitor container, “Visit Number” > 5

Note that the latter includes all visits by those people, even their very first! If you only want to know what visitors do in their 6th visit and beyond, use a Visit container.

If you want to know what those who became regular visitors did differently in their first 5 visits, you can use a Visitor container with “Visit Num” > 5, then embed a Visit container with the same rule, but set it to exclude. Bam! Compare this with “Visitors who have not yet had more than 5 visits” and see if there are any fundamental differences.

Before SiteCatalyst 15 (am I revealing my age here?), we used the getVisitNum() or getNewRepeat() plugins to track the same information. At the time, we didn’t have the ability to segment in the back-end that we have now.

For segmentation, these plugins are obsolete.

You can combine segments, too, so there is no reason why you should stop at this point.

  • Use segments based on (micro-) conversions along with visit numbers.
  • Use segments that take into account time between actions.
  • Speak with your colleagues in finance and marketing, learn what they consider successes or interesting segments.

Metrics

When you’re done with a segment, it might be time to create a derived metric that goes along with it.

Here’s an example: on your media site, regular users usually land on the home page, then go off to read a bunch of articles. New visitors mostly come from Google, land directly on articles, and mostly leave after having read what they wanted.

For a given article, it might make a lot of sense to show not only the “Article Views” metric, but also “Article Views (regular users)” and “Article Views (new visitors)”. Helps understanding which articles appeal to whom, and whether there is anything that is more likely to help convert a new visitor to a regular.

You could do the same for the article authors. Are there people on the content team who are good at growing and holding an audience? Who writes the best articles for new visitors? And who manages to keep them coming back?

The fun bit: there is no extra tracking needed!

You can make derived metrics using the segments we saw above, plus the “Page Views” metric.

Doing so effectively turns the “Page Views” into “Page Views, but only those in the segment”.

Notes

It is likely that someone, somewhere uses the getVisitNum() or the getNewRepeat() plugin for a completely different purpose. If you are that person, let me know! It might still be possible to get rid of the plugins!

Why would you?

Well, pruning is good!

You’ll free an eVar or a prop! You’ll slightly reduce your maintenance overhead. And you’ll reduce the cognitive load on your stakeholders by removing what they likely think of as “yet another confusing duplicate (yet not quite the same) metric”!

Simplicity wins every time!

About

German expat living in Switzerland (formerly UK and France). Consultant and member of the Multi-Solutions Group at Adobe, working with the Digital Marketing Suite. Father of 4 girls.

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Posted in Opinion, Tips
5 comments on “Don’t track New/Repeat Visitors!
  1. Mubarak Damiel says:

    Agreed, dropped reporting on New/Repeat plugin a long time ago and when built in Visit Number came along we dropped getVisitNum(). Furthermore as Visit Number is based on visitor’s entire history rather than reporting time frame we find creating a segment with Visitor container and Visits “is greater than or equal to” x is more relevant in most circumstances ie. with Visit Number as user who started visiting the site 6 month ago on visit no 20 is treated the same as someone who started visiting 2 weeks ago and is on visit 20

    Like

  2. mitchellt2 says:

    Thanks as always for this post! I never liked the New/Repeat plugin ever since I tried it and suddenly every visitor was “new” because the plugin wasn’t rolled into my analytics implementation since the site was launched. That was “it” for me, I never used it again. The plugin was not smart enough when I tried it, to determine that a visitor already had a cookie, so until it’s cookie was well propagated, everyone was ‘new’. Not cool and it degraded confidence in the data until it was removed.

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    • Jan Exner says:

      Hiya,

      Understandable.

      There are, as usual, technical reasons why the plugin wasn’t able to use the s_vi cookie in the olden days. Coincidentally, those reasons are much less prevalent now that we don’t need the plugin anymore anyway.

      All is well that ends well 😉

      Like

  3. As such these replace the unreliable plug-ins used, but the way I use them is to have e.g. weekly visit number or monthly visit number. These are not possible with segments, as Adobe’s segmenting still lacks configuration options compared to e.g. Google’s.

    I do however question the usability of the metrics I mentioned, so as an end result they might be obsolete anyway.

    Like

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