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The New vs. Returning Visitor report does pretty much exactly what it says; shows you data for new visitors compared to returning visitors. The behavior of a new visitor can be quite different from that of a returning visitor. The insights gained from reviewing that data can be valuable for understanding your customers and tailoring your site to their needs.

The default view shows you Visits in a pie chart. But you can select other options from the drop down box (1) above the pie chart. Alternate views (2) such as a bar graph (2a) and comparison to site average (2b) are also available.

If you have goals and/or e-commerce (3) set up you have even more options to analyze your visitors.

In order to use this report effectively it will help to understand the distinction between these two types of visitors and some of the challenges associated with gathering 100% accurate data.

A visitor is recorded as a New Visitor when there has not been a cookie set for them previously.

They are recorded as a Returning Visitor when the cookie has already been set for them.

Simple enough, but there are a few things that could throw this off.

When you first install Google Analytics, ALL of your visitors will be new visitors. The cookies can’t be set until the GA code is installed and capturing data.  Keep that in mind before you worry that no one comes to your site more than once.

In addition, sometimes a returning visitor will get counted as a new visitor.

This is can happen when someone deletes their cookies or turns off cookies altogether.

Or, many people use multiple machines; a laptop in the living room, a desktop in the den and another computer at the office. They will often visit the same sites from each different machine.  But since cookies are machine and browser specific, that one person will be counted as new the first time they visit from each computer or if they use different browsers on the same machine.

Up Next: Visitor Reports – Languages

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