Repeat Visitors: Tracking Percentage vs Absolute Numbers

Author: Gab Goldenberg

I was out to meet a potential client this week, and after he showed me his list of specs for the proposal, I asked what he wanted to use the percentage of repeat visitors numbers for. How would it be actionable? I was applying the “So What?” test Avinash has taught me to use so effectively. The answer to the ‘percentage of repeat visitors’ vs ‘absolute number of repeat visitors’ question is after the fold.

“Would you tell me please which way I ought to walk from here?” – Alice

“That depends a great deal on where you want to go.” – The cat.

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Hat tip: The excellent 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

In other words, you need to employ different means depending on what your goals are. So this isn’t the definitive answer to the “percentage of repeat visits vs absolute total number of repeat visits” debate, but I think it will address what many folks want to use the metric for.

As it turned out, the lead I was seeing was interested in seeing the company’s growth in mindshare. The idea being that as they published new content, more and more people would return to the site to consume it. In the process, his company would become a thought leader and gain mind share. Pretty smart strategy, I’m sure you’ll agree, and one I’ve been working on do myself (check out these top posts of mine).

At the same time, he and I would be working to increase his search traffic. And with the exception of branded keywords, most search traffic to a website is comprised of new visitors.

So if we tracked the percentage of repeat visitors to this company’s website over time, we might actually find that we weren’t succeeding in gaining mindshare. The increase in generic keyword search traffic (read new visitors) he’d get from working with me would distill the percentage of repeat visits. Yet the website would be performing better from an SEO perspective, and converting a percentage of those new visitors directly into leads!

Therefore, I suggested that we look at the absolute total number, month over month, of repeat visitors to the site. The difference is that even with more search traffic, if a percentage of those visitors got hooked on the client’s content, the absolute numbers of repeat visitors would be greater.

For example, month over month the percentage of repeat visitors could be decreasing by 5%, while the actual number of repeat visits would increase by 1000 – 2000. Over a quarter they’d have 3000 – 6000 more repeat visitors, yet the percentage of repeat visitors out of total traffic would be down 15%.

Obviously, the absolute number of repeat visitors would tell a true picture of the company’s efforts to build mindshare.

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  1. Besides that - important to me is the revenue - no matter there are revisits or not...

    Comment by Andreas Ostheimer - July 20, 2008 @ 6:56pm

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