Getting % New Visit Trend in SiteCatalyst

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.

Percent new visits

[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:

Percent New Visits - GA

% New Visits on Google Analytics dashboard

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.

Percent new visit ranked

% Visits ranked by Visit Number in SiteCatalyst (1st Visit = New Visits)

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.

Percent New Visit Trend

% Visits by Visit Number Trend in SiteCatalyst

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 What?

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. 🙂

Omniture & New Google Referrer String: Position Report, New Patch

The past couple of weeks have seen some announcements from Omniture Industry Insights blog that are of interest and importance to SiteCatalyst users.  These items relate to the new referrer string that Google is rolling out, which carries richer information about the search conducted.  The announcement back in April on the Google Analytics Blog of the upcoming change showed the following example of the new referrer string:


Two things to note:

1. Introduction of a new parameter, ‘cd=7‘, in this case identifying that the site was in the 7th position on the page for the search term ‘flowers’.

2. Due to the extra detail in the query string, the ‘q=flowers’ that identifies the search term appears much later in the referrer string than in the past.

Correspondingly, there are 2 implications for SiteCatalyst:

1. On May 8, Jordan LeBaron explained how users can take advantage of SiteCatalyst’s new ability to track organic keyword rankings in Google for your site.  He provides a screenshot of the report, although this is an early iteration and Omniture is “actively testing new advanced solutions to make this data more actionable…”  There is no extra cost for this reporting, but you will need to talk to your account manager to get it set up.

2. On a separate but related topic, Ben Gaines blogged on May 15 about a patch that Omniture is recommending SiteCatalyst users apply to their Javascript code file in order to avoid potential loss of the search query term caused by the new Google referrer string.  Due to the length of the new referrer string, sites with long URLs may find that the query term in the referrer string ends up past SiteCatalyst’s 255 character limit, thus preventing SiteCatalyst from identifying the search term that visitor has used.  Result: search term won’t show up in the Search Terms – Natural report under Traffic Sources.  The patch ensures that the search term is captured from the query string.  There are a few steps involved, but Ben provides what looks like thorough instructions.

As Ben points out, there is no need for SiteCatalyst users to panic, as this new referrer string is being introduced gradually by Google (currently being used on an estimated 10% of searches) and in any case most sites shouldn’t have a problem even without the patch.  Also, sites that employ a version of the SiteCatalyst code that is H.20.2 or later won’t need the patch, as this functionality to deal with the new Google referrer is built in.  Good excuse to upgrade your SiteCatalyst code!