Not exactly cutting-edge SiteCatalyst manipulation, but a basic yet not-so-obvious technique that may be helpful, particularly to new users migrating from something like Google Analytics.
[Wow, long time no blog post. Good to be back at it…all part of the New Year plan!]
Once of the most basic segmentation dimensions in web analytics the differentiation between new and return visits. Understanding the different types of behaviour of new vs return visitors can be critical in understanding how people are interacting with your site and then taking steps to optimize accordingly, based on your objectives. As always, different web analytics tools deal with new vs return visitor metrics in different ways. SiteCatalyst, for one, does not make it easy to tell at a glance your % of new/return visits.
With Google Analytics, % new visits is right there in the default dashboard. In GA v5, it even gets its own pie chart, in addition to spark line, right out of the box:
Meanwhile, in SiteCatalyst (at least up to v14), things are not as clear. This is not to say information on new vs return visits is not available: indeed, there are a slew of reports in the ‘Visitor Retention’ section, such as Return Frequency, Return Visits, Daily Return Visits, and Visit number that provide some great, detailed insight into visitor behaviour. But these suffer from lack of context or unnecessary level of granularity if I’m just trying to gauge the overall balance of site traffic in order to decide where to prioritize my efforts.
Probably the best option is the getNewRepeat plug-in that Omniture offers (search for ‘getnewrepeat’ in the Omniture Knowledge Base), but this requires additional implementation and may not be feasible.
So here is a little tip to demonstrate how to fiddle with SiteCatalyst just a bit to get an easy-access report on % New Visits:
1. Go to ‘Visitor Retention’>’Visit Number‘ – select ‘Visits (Report Specific)’ as your metric (of course this same process could be used for Revenue or other metric). If you select ‘Percent’ in the Graph options, you can see right away that x% of visits are ‘1st Visit’: i.e. NEW visits/visitors. But this is just a snapshot for the selected period, and it is usually more informative to see the trend over time.
2. Using the ‘Trended / Ranked’ option, select ‘Trended’ – now you can see how the % 1st Visit (NEW visits) is changing over time and take action accordingly.
3. Add to bookmark or dashboard for quick access in future and ‘Bob’s your uncle’.
A couple other related things:
- as bonus info, by default SiteCatalyst shows the % of visits for each of the top 5 visit numbers; you can use ‘Select Item’ on the ‘Report’ tab to filter on ‘1st Visit’ only if you want to focus attention, but having the higher visit numbers visible can signal where the increases/decreases in the % New Visits is coming from/going to.
- if you want to look beyond visits to outcomes (which of course we do!), it is simply a matter of selecting another metric using ‘Add Metrics’ and you can see what % of revenue, for example, came from new visits vs 2nd visits, etc.
So now that we are able to quickly monitor our % new visits, the big question becomes: what to do about it? Depending on your goals, starting point, and context of other metrics, the interesting pattern shown in the chart above may be good or bad. If you are prioritizing acquisition of new customers, a declining trend in % new visits may indicate lack of success in your efforts. If you are focused on developing relationships with customers and bringing them back to your site, a decrease in % new visits may be a reason to pat yourself on the back, and continue your visitor retention efforts. It’s all about balance, though: the trend toward the end may be a signal to keep an eye on this metric and watch for the point where it makes sense to step up the visitor acquisition initiatives to fuel longer-term growth.
A company I know was focused on attracting new visitors, and the trends for both new visits and overall visits were up up up. But a quick look at the % New Visits report showing near 80% New Visits highlighted the fact that few of these new visitors were returning: time to re-balance efforts to ensure that new visitors are finding content that will keep them coming back.
So being able to track your % New Visits can be quite useful, and in case you didn’t know how to do this easily within SiteCatalyst, now you do.