How to use Audience Behaviour in Google Analytics – Google Analytics for Beginners

Just as with many other terms, the term “Behavior” is used with different meaning in different places in Google Analytics. The version I am explaining in this article is the option you can click under the main category Audience in the left hand navigation.

Under this sub-menu you can find three different reports that I like to use when analyzing the difference in behavior between converters and non-converters on a website.

Audience Behavior in Google Analytics

In particular these three reports can give me tells as to whether or not the product needs to be explained in more detail before someone decides to convert.

The three sub-reports you can find here are:

  • New vs. Returning visitors
  • Frequency & Recency
  • Engagement

New vs. Returning Visitors Report

The New vs. Returning visitor report tells me how many of my visitors are new vs. how many of them are returning to the page.

Let’s say I am a media website or a social media platform, or a gaming app. Real growth really comes by increasing the number of returning visitors over time. As long as you keep the number of new visitors as many as they are whilst retaining the visitors you have already acquired, you will grow over time.

This is a quite straightforward concept, but something which is quite often forgotten in the seemingly endless thirst for new traffic and campaigns to increase it.

There are several ways in which you can increase your returning traffic. The most important one is to explain to a user how they can use your website, app or service. Also perhaps straightforward, but equally forgotten in most cases. Instead of explaining what a user gets, then we like to explain to them what we want them to do.

If you help a user understand the usability of your web, app, service then you will have an easier time reminding them of this utility and get them to come back.

If the utility is not inherit in the service itself and people need it to solve a problem in their life, you can utilize content to do the same thing. The most common format for this is running a blog, podcast, vlog or other subscription friendly format on your website and giving people the opportunity to subscribe to it.

The more subscribers you manage to turn over in any given period, the more your returning visitors will be and you only have to maintain your media spend for new traffic at a set level and still show growth.

New vs. Returning Converters and how you can interpret the report

However, the most powerful usage of this report I have found when I analyze converters on the website. What I like to do is to create a segment of users that is converters and one which is non-converters. I then look at the distribution of new vs returning visitors for both groups.

This example is not a good one, but it shows you what to look at.

If I see that I have a much higher conversion rate on returning visitors, I might use that understanding to instead of pushing a purchase during a first visit, instead chose to drive the user to convert into a subscription.

What I have found is that some new brands and some complicated products, need a longer time before a user is ready to buy. You need to nudge them to a purchase rather than try to push your product to them right away.

By giving them a much easier conversion decision and pushing this without commitment, you give yourself a much better opportunity to grow fast in the future.

Equally, if I find that most purchases come from new visitors, my optimization challenge becomes quite different. Instead of trying to hook people for a long life time value, I focus most of my attention on acquiring as cheap a traffic as possible. I don’t spend too much money nurturing people in fancy social media and e-mail campaigns, but rather focus on increasing transaction values, basket values and “related product addons” during their first visit.

It is all a game of trial and error over time. But this report alone can give me a lot of insight as to whether or not I should put the majority of my focus on one or another tactic.

Frequency vs. Recency report – How often do the converters come back before they decide to convert

Equally I use the Frequency and recency report to have a look at the same thing. But in this case I rather than look at whether or not someone is new or returning, dig deeper and try to isolate how many times a user has to return before they decide to convert.

Then I try to figure out how I can either get more visitors make as many visits – under the assumption that more visits will bring a person closer to conversion (obviously I also study what the converters actually visit when they come to the website, but that is another report for another post) – or I try to figure out how I can make converters convert with less visits to my website. Ie. how can I get them to convert faster.

Usually this becomes a UX-challenge working with such things as navigation issues, uses of images, more highly converting copy that focuses on value proposition, better landing pages and better win-back e-mail campaigns.

Engagement report – For how long does someone use my website before they do what I want them to do

Again, by utilizing the segment for converters I can compare the difference between how much time a person spends on my website and its different pages before they decide to do what I want them to do.

Page views vs. Sessions vs. Duration on site

There are hundreds of different ways of utilizing these three reports in combination with other reports such as the Cohort report and the life time value report. But I will have reason to return to that in later posts.

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