I used both predefined segments on GA but they are different. Isn't a returning visitor automatically a multisession user (and vice versa)?

In this case, Returning are 38% of all traffic and Multisession 29%.

  • GA is a mystery! It does not always make sense to me. I recommend that people use a log file analyzer as well. I recommend piwik.org which is not only one of the best out there, but it is also FREE!! That may help to make sense of GA from time to time. You may find that Piwik will be your go to app and GA your second.
    – closetnoc
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 20:07
  • @closetnoc, that does not quite make sense - Piwik is not a log file analyzer. It also does not help with the question. Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 7:57
  • Did you literally ""make" those segments (in which case we would need to see your segment definition) or did you use the predefined segments ? Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 8:05
  • @EikePierstorff I used predefined ones. Returning is "User Type: Returning Visitor" and Multisession is "Sessions > 1". Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:23
  • @EikePierstorff Piwik IS a log file analyzer. It can also be a bug based site performance analyzer. GA, of late, has had some funky metrics that are not possible as well as GMT. I always recommend that everyone analyze their log file and not rely on GA only as it can be misleading. It is a matter of balance and sanity check.
    – closetnoc
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


Returning users and multi sessions are close by definition but they are not the same. It's hard to be explained (for me of course), but the idea is: you visit a website - you are new visitor. You visit the same site again 15 minutes later (a session duration is 30 mins by default) - you are returning visitor and you are not a multi-session user yet. The reverse variant is possible too, as a new user could be a multi-session user.

EDIT: example of a new user session being also multi-session user - the user below is recorded as new user once and as returning user 25 times, making all sessions of the multi-session user 26 (more than returning user sessions). Note, that if the selected period was for example the last 2 weeks instead of month - this user would be reported as returning user only and the numbers would be the same for both multi-session users and returning users enter image description here

  • thanks! i get that, except the part that a new user can be multisession. By default, if you go to the website, you stop being a new user, unless you erase cookies (but that is another story). so how can you be a new user and be multisession at the same time? if you multisession, by default you stop being new. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 3:04
  • the thing is, that when you visit a website for first time and then you visit it again at later point - google analytics report you as 1 multisession user, but also as 1 new user. You can check the example screenshot - all this info is about one user only.
    – ePetkov
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 11:41
  • the idea is, that the segments are showing sessions, not users. In your case you saw 38% of the sessions were from returning visitors, and 29% of the sessions were from multi session users. The difference came exactly from these new visitors, and it depends solely on the chosen time period - if there is a multisession user in the period you are looking for which entered for first time in the same period - his first session is counted as New User session.
    – ePetkov
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 11:47

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