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Cohort analysis acquisition date, New vs Returning visitors (I am not sure I understand)

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# 1
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I am not sure if I fully understand what the Acquisition Date defines in the Cohort Analysis. It says:

The Acquisition Date is the first time a user is recognized as interacting with your content. When selected in the Cohort Analysis report, the cohorts are grouped based on when users started their first sessions.

Is this first time as in:

a) first time ever; or
b) first time within the selected time frame.

The reason I  am asking is because I am using the Cohort report to compare the behavior of New Visitors compared to Returning visitors. The retention numbers are much much higher for Returning visitors and this is something I would expect.

But I just want to make sure that I am seeing real data and not confusing myself or GA. If it is a returning visitor, then obviously it is not the first time ever the user is interacting with the content (a). But it might be the first time the returning user is interacting with the content within the time frame of the Cohort Analysis (b). So I assume it's B

Can someone with more experience tell me if I am right or wrong?

Thanks for reading!

1 Expert replyverified_user

Cohort analysis acquisition date, New vs Returning visitors (I am not sure I understand)

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor

it is a) first time ever...or more accurately, it is when GA detects that there is no previous user cookie stored in the browser. Every user is at some time a New user, then they are Returning users (have an existing cookie). The same user can be both in a report if they have 2 sessions during the time period.


New visitors will visit at least once in a cohort report, but may not return and so may not appear more than once.


Returning visitors always return, so they would appear (in the appropriate cohort where their first ever visit was), and also appear later in the report, so it makes sense that the returning visitors have 'higher retention'. This report simply removes the single-visit visitors.

Mike Sullivan, Google Analytics Top Contributor
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