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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nenni

How to Measure if Website Visitors are Returning

Updated: May 1, 2020

Dealers spend enormous sums of money driving traffic to their website. The expectation is that the large majority of this traffic represents shoppers, and there are a number of great ways to measure the difference between a website visitor versus a shopper. As I’ve preached many times, dealers should be unwilling to simply pay for clicks and traffic, and instead demand quality visits from vehicle shoppers. A great new way to measure the quality of traffic coming to your site is by measuring how often visitors return. A shopper who returns to the website multiple times in subsequent visits represents a higher quality prospect, but how do we measure this?

I’ve recently been experimenting with a relatively new feature in Google Analytics (GA) called Cohort Analysis. Cohort Analysis is one of the most insightful reports in GA, as it allows you to compare different groups of visitors (cohorts) over time and helps you better gauge the quality of your traffic. First of all, what is a cohort? It is a group of users who share a common characteristic. GA allows you to isolate and report on a number of variables for these cohorts. It sounds complicated, but it is not. GA makes it easy for you to answer a number of very interesting questions. For example, determining what percentage of website visitors return to the site after their initial visit. And once you analyze the returning website visitors, then slicing the analyses up by traffic source (i.e. paid search, paid social, display, etc.) to determine which traffic source is best at delivering shoppers that return to your site over and over.

You can find the Cohort Analysis under the Audience menu in GA.

Cohort analysis in Google Analytics

The only cohort type available today is “Acquisition Type”, though most expect Google will add additional types over time. You can set the Cohort Size, depending on if you want to group users by day, week or month. You can choose a metric to measure, for this article we will simply analyze using the default metric of “User Retention”. And finally, you can choose a date range to analyze. Again, for this example we’ll just use the default of “Last 7 days”. The graph and table that GA will generate will help us better understand what percentage of website visitors tend to return to the website in subsequent days. Here is a look at some sample data using the default settings:

Cohort analysis in Google Analytics

We can see that out of the 1,795 users from the last 7 days, 6.96% of them returned on the 2ndday, and 1.27% returned on the 5thday. Of the many ways we grade the quality of inbound website traffic (time on site, page depth, VDP engagement, lead generation), the Cohort Analysis allows us to measure how often the shoppers are coming back.

A logical next step is to begin layering website traffic segments to determine which sources are better at driving return visitors.

Cohort analysis in Google Analytics

Here is just one example, a look at how organic search compares to Google paid search in driving return visitors for this dealership. We can see that the high quality of organic search traffic not only beats the performance of overall traffic at driving return visits, but it also handily beats paid traffic.

Continuing this exercise, here is a look at how well Paid Facebook campaigns (source is Dominion Dealer Solutions) tend to drive visitors that repeatedly return to the website.

This picture tells a strong story of driving repeat traffic to a dealer’s website. One of the most common problems I help dealers discover is that their paid Facebook campaigns are driving very low-quality traffic. I gauge this traffic by looking at session duration, pages per session, VDP engagement, leads generated etc. Cohort Analysis gives me one more tool to measure traffic quality. Contrasting with the Facebook campaign above, here is a cohort analysis report showing a typical low-quality paid Facebook campaign being run for a dealership:

You can see that while the campaign has driven 631 visitors over the last 7 days, zero percent of these visitors are returning to the website.

I hope you have found this information helpful. If you are an automotive retailer or B2C business, I would love to help you better allocate your advertising funds with a complimentary digital marketing audit, including analyzing your paid search and social media spending. I can help you greatly improve your return on ad spend and gain more transparency with your digital marketing investments.

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