Background: We are a non profit site only really acquiring traffic through paid ads. Our SEO is only just getting started so we don't get a high level of organic traffic.

Recently we've seen an increase in organic traffic since some improvements however there is a big discrepancy between users and new users

Example last three months for organic traffic we've had 280 users but only 40 are new users.

Why would there be such a big discrepancy on Google Analytics for these metrics?

  • 2
    There should be a section of Google Search Console where they tell you what exact search queries people are typing in to find your site in search results. You might be able to glean some information from that depending on whether most of the searches are more targeted, like your exact company name, or less targeted long tail queries. Oct 9, 2018 at 3:54
  • This isn't that unusual for a new site. After a new site is developed people often jump on to view the site. And the less internet competent those people are, the more of them will type the URL in Google search instead of the location bar of their browser.
    – garth
    Oct 10, 2018 at 9:14

1 Answer 1


Google Analytics metrics

First of all, you need to understand how Google Analytics calculate those metrics:

  • User: Users who have initiated at least one session.
  • New user: First-time users during the selected date range.

In your data, you have 280 users but only 40 are new. I don't think that's strange in any way. As you have been told in a comment, you can check Google Search Console > Search Analytics Report to know exactly how many people clicked on your organic results. That should be close to 280 for the same period.

enter image description here

Google Analytics uses the ClientID stored in the cookie to keep tracking of users. That's how we can know if it's a new or return visitor. By default, the cookie (_ga/_gid) expires in two years. If the users delete the cookies, we lost track and will be considered as a new user again.

You can use Analytics User Explorer to analyze the behavior of your users. This tool will help you to understand how people navigate through your site and make sense of the metrics.

Data accuracy

In theory, total users should be the result of new users + returning users but in real life, we can check that this is rarely happening. The main reason is that new users over several days may contain duplicate counts for sessions that cross over the midnight hour. It is a sum of daily new users. Google Analytics restarts sessions at midnight, so a single user (and session) could be counted twice.

Also, keep in mind that Google has made some changes in those metrics during 2017 and also that some reports could use sampled data.

In early 2017, Google Analytics began updating the calculation for the Users and Active Users metrics to more efficiently count users with high accuracy and low error rate (typically less than 2%)


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.