GA4 Users Complete Guide: New, Active, Total, And Returning Users

Note: Empower yourself and others by sharing this insightful article on LinkedIn or social media. Let’s build a well-informed community together. Need help? Reach out anytime. 


Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is where you start when it comes to understanding the performance of your website. It is a tool that provides insights into your website’s performance using metrics such as New Users, Active Users, Total Users, and Returning Users. In GA4, a “user” is defined as someone who has interacted with your website or app at least once within a given time period.

Types of Users in GA4


GA4 categorizes users into four groups:

New Users

Active Users

Total Users

Returning Users


New Users:

In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), “New Users” represent individuals who visit your website or app for the first time. Calculating new users involves identifying unique users who have not visited your site or app during the selected time frame. This is logged as a ‘first_visit’ or ‘first_open’ event.


How to see new users in GA4?

You can view your new user metrics by going to Reports > Acquisition. You’ll see an overview that shows you how many new visitors your site is attracting.

You can also gain valuable insights from the User Acquisition Page, which shows you exactly where your new users come from — i.e. through direct (by entering your URL into the search bar), organic social, or organic search.

Active Users:

In GA4, active users are either new users or users with engaged sessions. An engaged session is where a visitor stayed on your page for over 10 seconds (by default), had more than one pageview, or at least one conversion.


Note: Any time you see ‘users’ listed in Audience Overview, User Explorer, Realtime Reports, Custom Reports, or Events and Conversions, interpret it as ‘active users.’


How to see active users in GA4?

You can view active user metrics by going to Reports > Reports Snapshot. You’ll see an overview that shows you how many users are active on your site.

You can see more activity of active users In Engagement > Overview. Once you’re in the Engagement reports, you see an overview with user data like:


Average engagement time: the time an active user has your site in focus or your app in the foreground.

Users in last 30 mins: for real-time user activity, broken down by page.

User stickiness: to compare active user engagement in a narrow window with a broader one, i.e. the ratio of daily active users (DAU) to monthly active users (MAU).

User activity over time: to chart the number of active users over the past 30 days, seven days, and one day.

Total Users:

In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), “Total Users” represents the cumulative count of unique individuals visiting your website or app. Unlike “New Users”, which only includes first-time visitors, and “Active Users”, which considers engaged sessions, “Total Users” provide a holistic view of all users over a chosen time frame.


How to see total users in GA4?

To find your total users, go to Reports > Engagement. Then, click on Events. (In Google Analytics, an event is a specific interaction a user has with your site or app. For example, they might start a session or scroll down the page.)

Returning Users:

In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), “Returning Users” are users who have visited your website or app and are returning for another session within the specified reporting period. These users have interacted with your digital platform before and are revisiting it.


How to see returning users in GA4?

To access an overview of your returning users, click on Reports > Retention.


To find additional metrics about returning users on the user engagement chart on the Retention Overview page. The chart shows you how well your site or app engages returning visitors.



Explore the different ways Google Analytics classifies users through user metrics.

To summarise, Google Analytics 4 has more user types than Universal Analytics. The main one is the “Active users” metric used across all standard reports in GA4. The table above presents all user types and their definitions.




New Users

The number of distinct users who triggered the “first_open” or “first_visit” event.

Active Users

The number of users who 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 which means, they have spent at least 10 seconds on your website/app or had 1 or more conversion events or 2 or more page or screen views.

Total Users

The number of distinct users who triggered any event on your website or app.

Returning Users

The number of distinct users who visited your website or app before. 



  • What is the difference between new users and total users in GA4?


    New Users

    Total Users


    Individuals visiting for the first time

    Cumulative count of all unique individuals


    Users who are new or haven’t visited in the period

    All users, whether new or returning, in the period


    Attracting and reaching a fresh audience

    Overall reach and impact over time


  • What is the difference between UA users and GA4 total users?


    Universal Analytics (UA) Users

    Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Total Users

    Tracking Model

    Session-based: Users associated with sessions

    Event-based: Focus on individual user events

    User Identification

    Relies on cookies for user identification

    Uses User ID (if available) and anonymous identifiers for tracking users

    Cross-Device Tracking

    Limited accuracy across different devices

    Aims for better tracking across sessions and devices


    Less flexible in adapting to modern tracking needs

    More flexible and adaptable to evolving digital landscapes

  • How does GA4 report on users?

    In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), reporting on users is organized into the “User” section, providing insights into different aspects of user behavior and engagement. Given below are some key components of how GA4 reports on users:

    • Reports Section: The “User” section can be found in the left sidebar of the GA4 interface. It is where you access various reports related to user metrics.
    • User Overview Report: The “User Overview” report provides a snapshot of key user metrics. It includes data on New Users, Active Users, Total Users, and Returning Users. This report allows you to quickly assess user engagement at a high level.
    • Audiences: GA4 introduces the concept of “Audiences”, which allows you to create custom segments of users based on specific criteria. This feature enables more in-depth analysis of user groups and their behaviors.
    Lifetime Metrics: GA4 provides metrics related to the lifetime of users, such as the total number of sessions, average engagement, and revenue. This helps you assess the long-term value of your user base.

About Author

Ananya Seth is a dynamic and skilled IT Professional specializing in Web Analytics and Data Visualization. Serving as a tech consultant, she is dedicated to solving technology-related business problems with innovative solutions. Ananya's expertise spans Core Java, Scripting Languages, Database Administration, Front-End Web Development, and Web Analytics Technologies. In the ever-evolving landscape of information technology, her interest in learning more ranges from Data Analysis to Networking to Cyber Security to Technology Research.

Share This Article:
Table of content

Related Stories

Revamping the Landing Pages Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a strategic endeavor that can...
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) real-time reports offer a dynamic and instantaneous window into the current activity...
In the dynamic realm of digital marketing, Google Ads Conversion Tracking stands out as a pivotal...
Dive into the realm of advanced analytics with Cross-Domain Tracking in Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This...