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Return Visits Show Site’s Value to Its Audience

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Online audience measurement

Return visits is an important metric in website analytics because it reveals the value of a site to its visitors.

Visitor who come back to the site are indicating it has given them more than one reason to engage with it.

Site publishers find it challenging enough to get visitors to a site in the first place. Competition keeps skyrocketing every year. Multiple sites publish content about the same subject. Visitors have many options for choosing which site to visit based on their search engine results.

But visitors arrive not just because of search engines. They arrive because of other marketing tactics such as branding and social media.

How to Identify Return Visitors

Return visitors are easy to identify in an analytics program such as Google Analytics.

Click on Audience / Behavior / New vs Returning. In the center of the screen, note two data points: New Visitor and Returning Visitor.

The default time frame in Google Analytics is usually one week. Change the start and end dates in the calendar at the upper right to 30 days, the most recent month or some other length of time that is quite a bit longer than just seven days.

The result will show a different breakdown in percentages between new and return visitors. Most likely the return visitor rate for 30 days is lower than seven days.

Returning visitors are more likely to have a lower bounce rate and higher pages per visit. Those important metrics are another example of why return visitors are so important. They consume more of the site when they arrive than new visitors.

Site Content and Brand Matter

Someone who has access to more than one site may notice that the return visitor rate varies between one site and others. The content of the site is a major factor in return visitor percentages.

A local news site usually has a much higher return rate than a travel site. People have an interest in local news on a regular basis, even daily. They don’t have a daily interest in travel except for short periods of time.

Brand has a similar impact on return visits. For example, within the travel category, a major national site such as Frommer’s is more likely to have higher return visitors. People may own Frommer’s books or simply see its website mentioned or linked more often online. The same can’t be said of a small regional travel guide.

Regardless, site publishers should regularly use analytics to check the return visitor rate of their websites. They can use tactics such as email newsletters, social media postings and regular content updates to attract more return visits.

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