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‘% New Visitor’  is an overlooked metric for retargeting campaigns, but one that can tell you lots about how hard your campaign is trying to reach dormant prospects.

Marketers have made enormous strides in understanding key marketing success metrics. Our latest State of the Industry survey, for example, found that approximately 80 percent of marketers were confident in their ability to track and analyze attribution—assigning credit to the right marketing efforts— 10 percent more than the previous year.

However, with a dizzying array of marketing tools, platforms and philosophies, it’s easy to miss out on tiny details that may have a large impact.

Today, we’re highlighting one metric in Google Analytics that will help you determine if your retargeting campaign is convincing dormant prospects to buy, or if it’s only reaching prospects who would have likely bought anyways: % New Sessions.

It’s a little complicated, but bear with us. We promise it’s knowledge that will help you better understand your campaign’s impact on your audience.

First, what’s a session?

Google Analytics defines a session as an interaction a visitor has with your website within a given time frame. This includes multiple page views, social interactions, purchases, etc.  

What does ‘% New Sessions’ represent?

This is Google Analytics’ estimate of the percentage of sessions from first-time visits. This essentially is trying to tell you how many visitors are new to your site, and how many have visited before. However, there are circumstances, like when users switch devices or browsers, where it’s possible for returning users to appear as new in Google Analytics.

These “lost” users are actually a net positive to your campaign. Since Google Analytics lost track of them due to the time they’ve spent away from your site or because they moved to another device, like their phone, these users were unlikely to convert on their own. However, your retargeting campaign was still able to reach those users and bring them back.

Conversely, a very low percent of New Sessions means a higher percentage of the visitors brought back by retargeting were still being tracked by Google Analytics, maybe even while they still have your site open.

So, how should percentage of new sessions factor into the evaluation of a retargeting campaign?

If you see the percentage of new sessions in the low single digits, it means you’re spending almost all of your budget on a campaign that’s only reaching the most recent, and easily accessible site visitors. These visitors have a higher likelihood of converting, and may not need to see as many ads before they decide to buy. Essentially, it’s going for the lowest hanging fruit. While there’s certainly value in targeting these visitors to keep them engaged, it shouldn’t be the sole focus of your retargeting efforts.

What percentage should I look for?

Given that you’re only targeting users who have already visited your site, the percentage of new sessions will always be quite low. However, a percentage of new users in the 10 to 20 percent range indicates a more balanced campaign.


These campaigns are not only effective at driving the most recent, high intent users through to the funnel, but also re-igniting interest from dormant users who may have visited your site weeks or even months ago. For them, that extra push from retargeting could be what finally brings them back to your site to complete their purchase.

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