More On GA Visitor Loyalty (and Unique Visitors)

December 29, 2007

Can you combine your unique visitor numbers and your visitor loyalty numbers (in GA) to learn more about returning visitors?

That was ultimately the question that faced me when I sat down at my computer today. A few weeks ago, I wrote about GA Visitor Loyalty, and today, read this comment/question from a reader:

I looked at the following:

Unique Visitors (39811 for the last month on my site))
# of 1 times visits (37037)

Wouldn’t this mean that about 2800 different people visited my site more than once?

But no …

For this year, I had 306,810 unique visitors and 305,025 # of 1 times visits. Following my above logic, only 1800 visited my site more than once for the year, but 2800 did so for the month.

Any explanations?

So here is my answer, for this reader, and for anyone else who is interested:

Let’s start with your first question: If you take unique visitors and subtract the one time visits from that, won’t the difference be about equal to the number of people who visited your site more than once in the period?

Answer: No, it won’t. In fact, to make this easier, let’s reformulate the question: Why aren’t unique visitors in the period equivalent to one time visits?

“Unique visitors” measures how many times unique browsers (and we will just call them “people”) visited in a specific time period. But the Visitor Loyalty does something different. It says, “For every visit during this period, tell me the visit history for ALL TIME.” So the first time that I did the testing in this post (the testing that ensured I was the only visitor), I visited once, I went back the next day, and I was shocked to see that in the Visitor Loyalty chart, there was only one visit (no surprise there) and it was in the 201+ visits category (that was the shock.)

Unique visits for any time period are sprinkled throughout the chart. Maybe they visited once this month, but last year, they visited 35 times, and so this one visit, unique this month, or unique this year, is their 36th.

Ultimately, the Loyalty Chart is the wrong place to do this work — you need filters to include just returning visitors, or a filter to exclude new visitors. You might create a new profile with an exclude filter on “Visitor Type” and use the word new— that way, you will only get returning visitors in your profile. And then you can start to learn more. (Need to learn more about creating custom filters?)

– Robbin