What Is a Cohort Analysis in Google Analytics?

Cohort Analysis is a new beta feature in Google Analytics. This report can be a great way to help you measure the effectiveness of your practice’s marketing efforts.

Since this report is fairly new, we’re going to walk you through how to use it and benefit from the information.

What Are Cohorts, and How Do They Work?

Simply put, a cohort is a group of people that share a characteristic. In terms of marketing, a cohort analysis is a report that analyzes a group of people who interacted with your website in a particular way. It is often used for e-commerce sites to target their marketing efforts by identifying segments of the population with shared experiences who will be more likely to make a particular purchase. Recently, Google Analytics added a Cohort Analysis report, although the only option available for segmentation is Acquisition Date, meaning the day that a person first visited your site.

From there, you can choose a metric that you want to measure for that group of people, including user retention, pageviews, session duration, transactions, and revenue (if you use any sort of e-commerce feature through Analytics). You can view cohorts by days, weeks, or months. The report compares people from the day, week, or month that they first entered your site and compares how (or if) they interact with your site over the subsequent days, weeks, or months. For example, if a company was running a promotion one week, they might want to see an analysis of their traffic during that week as compared to their traffic from the week before and the week after the promotion to see how effective it was.

How You Can Use Cohorts for Your Practice’s Website

If your practice has a blog, a cohort analysis could help you analyze traffic to your site on the day a new post goes live, as well as the days before and after the blog post went live. It would also help you to see at a glance how many people come back to website later on after that initial visit.

A cohort analysis could also be helpful if you are running an ad campaign or social media campaign for a short time, directing people to your website. You could see how many people interacted with your site before, during, and after the campaign, as well as how many visitors you retained out of those who first entered your site during the campaign. If there isn’t much of a difference in sessions, pageviews, or user retention when comparing the data before, during, and after the campaign, it could be a sign that it’s time to rethink your strategy.

It is important to note that you may not have a high number of visitors come back to your site after the initial visit. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People who find your site by searching for information on Google may not return soon after the initial visit. Frequent return visits may be more common on an e-commerce site, but it isn’t always common for medical practice websites. It could simply mean that those users found the information they needed on the first visit, and do not need to re-visit your site.

How To Set Up and View Your Cohort Analysis Report

To get to the Cohort Analysis report, click on the Audience section, and you’ll see the Cohort Analysis option right under the “Overview” option. When the report comes up, it should look something like this:


At the top of the report, you’ll see that you have different options to select. Even though Cohort Type has a dropdown menu, Acquisition Date is currently the only option (although there may be more options in the future). For Cohort Size, you can choose to have a cohort size of a day, week, or month. Under the Metric dropdown, you can select the metric you want to analyze. Here, we’re looking at our user retention rate by week. You also have the option to set set a date range.

Looking at the actual report, you’ll notice that the columns are labeled by day, week, or month, depending on your cohort size. The way the columns are labeled is slightly confusing. The first column contains all of the cohorts you are comparing, while the first row across contains the data for all sessions. The first column of data (the second column from the left) will be labeled “Day 0,” “Week 0,” or “Month 0” depending on the cohort size you chose. This data is from the original cohort. “Day 1,” “Week 1,” or “Month 1” and on refers to each subsequent day, week, or month after the initial visit.

If you want do a cohort analysis of a particular type of traffic, you’ll have to use segments to get that data. Currently, there is no way other way to get that data within the report.

A cohort analysis can be a helpful report if you need to compare user behavior on your website before, during, and after a particular event. If you post blog articles or run ads or promotional campaigns regularly, you’ll want to work this report into a part of your regular analytics review.