Unlike Universal Analytics, there are four user types in GA4: returning, new, active and total users. In order to make correct decisions using Google Analytics 4 data, it’s viable to understand what stands for each of them. This article will explain them in detail and answer all your questions.
User Types in Google Analytics 4
As mentioned above, GA4 has four primary user types used in its reports. You can find these metrics in standard reports and apply them as metrics in GA4 Explore.
One of the most misleading metrics on the GA4 standard reports is the number of users -> “Users”. Because many people who don’t have much experience using GA4 or used it for a bit of time can consider this metric as “Total users”, but it’s not. This metric presents the number of active users.
The active users metric shows the number of users engaged with your website or app. It’s important to clarify what stands for “engagement”. By “engagement”, GA4 understands
- Every user had a session with a “first_open” or “first_visit” event. GA4 collects this event automatically whenever a new user opens your app or lands on your website. Therefore, we can consider it as “every new user”.
- Every returning user that had engaged session. To consider a session an engaged session, the user should stay more than 10 seconds actively engaged with your website or app. It’s determined by the “user_engagement” event and “engagement_time_msec” parameter described in another article. 10 seconds is the default setting that can be adjusted in Data Stream Details settings.
Active users = new users + returning users with an engaged session
Therefore, whenever you build GA4 explorations, you can always find that the number of active users is always more significant than the number of new users.
The total users metric shows the number of users who took any action on your website and GA4 registered it. So whenever someone visits your website scrolls the page or makes a purchase. The distinct id of this user will be counted to get the “Total users” metric.
Perhaps, it’s the most accessible GA4 user-type metric to understand because it has no hidden restrictions or rules.
This metric isn’t shown in GA4 standard reports, you can use this metric in the custom reports build using GA4 Explore. For instance, you can use a free table exploration to visualise a daily number of total users.
As mentioned in the article section about “Active users” metric, GA4 “New users” metric is calculated based on “first_open” and “first_visit” events.
Whenever a new user lands on your website or open a mobile app, GA4 automatically collects this event, and the new user is detected. If the returning user visits your website using another device or browser, this user will be detected as a “new user” by default. However, you can configure User ID in GA4 and activate Google Signals to track the same user using multiple devices as the same unique user.
When the user visits your website for the second time, this user becomes a “returning user” in GA4.
Returning user is the opposite of the new user. Whenever someone lands on your website, and GA4 doesn’t generate “first_open” or “first_visit” events (because this user has GA4 data stored in cookies), this user is considered as returning user. In a nutshell, everyone who visits your website not for the first time will be labelled as a returning user.
It’s also worth mentioning that “New users” + “Returning users” don’t equal “Total users”. It happens because the same user can visit your website multiple times within the observed time interval (day, week, month), and the users who did it will be counted as a “New user” and “Returning user” as well.
To summarise, Google Analytics 4 has more user types than Universal Analytics. The main one is “Active users” metric used across all standard reports in GA4. This metric presents the number of users engaged with your website, spending more than 10 seconds, and new users.
|Active users||The number of users which follow these rules:|
1) “first_open” or “first_visit” automatic event was triggered (New users)
2) returning users who have at least one engaged session. They spent at least 10 seconds on your website or app actively engaging in it.
|Total users||The number of distinct users who triggered any event on your website or app.|
|New users||The number of distinct users who triggered “first_open” or “first_visit” event.|
|Returning users||The number of distinct users who visited your website or app before.|
The table above presents all user types and their definitions. If you have any questions or need help with GA4, don’t hesitate to reach out or comment below.
Frequently Asked Questions
GA4 have four types of users: Active, New, Returning, and Total Users.
In order to select new or returning users, create a segment in GA4 Explore and select “User” folder, “New/Returning” dimension and select the type of users you want to analyse.
Active users are: new users + returning users who spent at least 10 seconds on your website or app actively engaging.