how much is a return visitor worth? the answer may be in your analytics account!

By Steven LaLonde – PPC Manager at DragonSearch

Clients and PPC managers alike often wonder: what’s a return visitor worth? After all, if you’re running a PPC campaign, chances are that some of the visitors you drive to your website, may return on their own in the future, to make more purchases. There is certainly some major value here, but nobody knows how much. Return visitor value varies so much from campaign to campaign, site to site, and client to client.

It can be hard for Search Marketers like us to say to our clients “Hey, and don’t forget, there’s likely some significant value in the return visitors that this PPC campaign generates”, without actual proof. And the fact is, we may never have perfect proof, as an original PPC visitor may revisit the site one year down the road to make a purchase. Or five years down the road. There’s no great, easy way to track this information perfectly.

What we can do though, is take a peek at retired campaigns, to sometimes find insights into return visitor value. This data isn’t perfect, but it can show you significant insights into return visitor behavior.


Take my example. We were running a pay per click campaign for a certain client with an Ecommerce website. Within Adwords, we renamed and significant restructured an old campaign a few months back. Since AdWords and Analytics are linked, we can see return visitors, who originally came to the site through our old campaign, and returned to the site over the next few months. They’re represented by the slight bumps in visitors after mid-July. These are return visitors.

Why are these return visitors still showing up, even though the old campaign was paused? This is because the original campaign cookie was retained on their computers. This shows these return PPC visitors, who originally clicked an ad before mid July, and then came back to the site again, often directly, after the campaign was paused.

We didn’t pay for these return visits, but many of these visits did generate sales. See below, Ecommerce data for the paused campaign. This demonstrates ecommerce performance for PPC return visitors. Pretty cool!


As you can see, you may have some interesting data if you happen to have recently paused or renamed an AdWords campaign. But remember, this data is not 100% accurate. Some cookies may have expired. Others may have been cleared. Still more return visitors surely revisited directly via a different computer (no cookie there).

In other words, this data may be missing several more return visitor purchases, from individuals who revisited via different computers or with expired/cleared cookies. A data discrepancy, but a not-so-bad one, as your data is likely under-inflated. Chances are you may have driven even more return visits/sales than reflected here!

In our particular case, note that return visitors generated very positive ecommerce figures, as is often the case with return visitors. There’s some significant value here. Don’t take the numbers as gospel, but do realize that these people return to make purchases. (12.31% ecommerce conversion rate).

Looking at recently retired campaigns, to get a peek into return visitor behavior, can be a real confidence boost to clients and PPC managers alike. This data often confirms that there is significant value in return visitors. Remember this before you take current ecommerce figures as absolute values; there’s often more -return- value in good traffic than meets the eye!

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