Cohorts vs Funnels – KPI Matchup

Jason Brewster - October 13, 2015

Funnels are a longtime staple of web analytics. Ecommerce websites utilize them frequently to great effect. But what should a web property use if they are content providers without a sales funnel?

Introducing Cohorts: User Retention

Cohorts are groups of users identified by a common start date. This form of analysis allows for a more broad understanding of the user journey on your site.


The above example chart is a cohort analysis which shows this website retained about 1% the users who visited it on the week of August 23rd 2015 during the following 6 weeks. The strength of the retention compared to other weekly cohorts is illustrated by the color of the cells. The darker the color – the larger the percentage of retention. This weakening of the retention rate can be attributed to the content on the site or a drop in promotional activity.

We can also use this technique for other metrics like goals per user, revenue per user, total pageviews, etc.

Cohorts with Segmentation

It is possible to zero-in on a specific cohort using Google Analytics’ powerful segmentation on this Cohort report. The below report shows that the majority of goal completions occur within the first week – but that the cohort of users from the week of August 9th had completed significant goals 5-7 weeks later – and because we used segmentation, we know that these users are in-state and using their desktops.


Cohort Analysis is powerful way to determine the long term effect of your content and promotions. By utilizing this new report you can more effectively determine the success of your efforts.

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