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What Return Users Can Teach You About Your Website

By Nadav Shemer
Monday, June 17, 2019

If you visit your Google Analytics dashboard, you’ll find a breakdown of New Visitors vs. Returning Visitors. Return users are those visitors who actually came back to your website for a second (or more) look. And if you are like most marketers, you are not capitalizing on these golden opportunities just waiting to convert.

So what’s the secret to converting return users?

Roey Parush, Analytics and BI Director at Natural Intelligence, understands the importance of analyzing each part of the marketing funnel and optimizing it for those who came back for more.

Parush and his team are responsible for analyzing dozens of B2C comparison sites dealing with everything from business loans to DNA kits. Across all these websites, the team can control 3 key parts of the marketing funnel:

1.   Target audience (who visits the website). The team must determine the optimal cost-per-click (CPC) to attract high-intent users to a site. Too high and they are overpaying. Too low, and they will attract low-intent users. The point of analytics is to recognize users that fit into our site.

2.   User experience (what the visitor sees when they land on the website). A large enough pool of visitors can be segmented into different groups based on a shared characteristic. Each segment will see different content and receive a slightly different experience. You must learn how to identify the level of intent of the user. Only then will you be able to give them the optimal customer experience to help them make a purchase decision.

3.   Post-visit (after the user clicks out). The analysis doesn’t end when a user leaves the site—quite the opposite, in fact. If a user leaves without converting, it’s your cue to investigate how the user interacted with the site and which brands they clicked on. Understanding these users is helpful in preparing for both return visits and the next round of first-time visitors.

Return Users Present Opportunity to Test Small Changes to Website

The majority of visitors to Natural Intelligence’s comparison sites arrive via Google Ads or Facebook Ads campaigns. Roughly 5%-10% of these visitors are repeat users—people visiting the site for a second (or third or fourth, etc.) time.

We’ve recently observed that a handful of Natural Intelligence’s comparison sites—typically the ones focused on industries with low brand awareness, such as online dating—were losing money on return users. Parush and his team set out to investigate.

The first thing a user sees when they land on one of Natural Intelligence’s comparison sites is a chart of the top service providers—partnering brands—in that particular industry. On the dating site, for example, they see brands like Match and EliteSingles.

When Parush and his team took a deep dive into the small number of loss-making websites, they observed that many of the return users were clicking on the same brands as they had the first time.

“What we understood from the data was that the value of the second click was being reduced dramatically. If these users click on the site again, that’s a negative return on investment.”

Parush and his team ran A/B tests on these websites. They showed half the return users the comparison chart and the other half the same chart plus several new brands. As a consequence of showing repeat users an enhanced chart, the average revenue from these users increased by 73%. This came about because although the clickthrough rate of repeat users decreased by 17.5%, the conversion rate more than doubled.

In other words, Natural Intelligence was doing a better job of meeting user intent. As a result, it started earning a positive ROI on return users on websites where previously it was losing money.

If Changing the User Experience Doesn’t Work, Reduce the PPC Bid

What would Natural Intelligence have done had it kept making a loss on repeat users even after the A/B test?

The answer is: lower the media costs by reducing its PPC bids for those sites.

A PPC bid (or keyword bid) is a bid placed in a pay-per-click (PPC) auction to get an ad placed at or near the top of search results. The more popular a keyword, the more a company must bid to reach the top of the search engine results page.

Keywords related to consumer finance products are the most expensive on Google Ads in terms of CPC, according to digital advertising consultancy WordStream.

Here’s an example: keywords related to car insurance, such as “auto insurance price quotes” and “CA automobile insurance” cost up to $54.91 per click. Keywords related to non-consumer finance products or services, such as meal delivery services, are much cheaper to bid on.

If exposing paid visitors to new information the second time around still doesn’t get them to convert, the cause may be the visitors themselves and not the website. When that’s the case, the best course of action is to lower the bid on return visitors or drop the bid altogether.

If the earning per return visitor is lower, but ROI is still positive, the best strategy is to keep bidding on that type of visitor. But if ROI is negative and you’re losing money, you’re better off not having that specific user. If we can’t give that user a better experience and bring us more value, it’s better not to bring them in at a cost.

When Your Site Attracts Mainly High-Quality Users, Everyone Benefits

Ultimately, all these analytics exercises aim to bring in high-intent users and ensure those users are satisfied.

By reducing PPC bids on certain keywords and changing what different visitor segments see, Natural Intelligence brings benefits to its users and its partnering brands, and itself.

The users are shown information that assists them with their purchase decision. The brands are introduced to high-intent users that are likelier to convert. Natural Intelligence gets more bang for its buck by deterring window-shoppers and attracting visitors with high purchase intent.

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