_invisibleman • 237 Marketing + Web

Surfing the web using the “incognito” or “private” feature on your browser can be a really great option, say, when you are planning a surprise vacation to Hawaii for your family. You can look around all you want, and the URLs you visit won’t show up in your browsing history or install cookies on your computer.

But have you ever considered what private browsing means for you as the owner of a business website? Are people visiting your site while browsing incognito even showing up in your analytics? If they don’t, are you getting an accurate reading on who’s visiting? If they do show up, how does that affect your numbers? Let’s take a closer look at how private browsing works and how it affects your site analytics.

The definition of private browsing

First of all, consider the definition of private browsing. It’s important to mention that each browsing platform – Safari, Firefox and Chrome – have different terms for this type of online use. Some call it incognito. Others call it private. Regardless, the concept is the same: The sites that users visit don’t install cookies on their computers for easier access later, and the URLs aren’t listed in the browsing history. No files are put in the cache for speedier loading later; in fact, no local files are stored at all.

What does that mean for Google analytics?

To answer our initial question then, site visits using private browsing DO count in your Google analytics. But not in the regular way. Because users’ devices don’t store local files, it means the computers believe the person is visiting your site for the very first — every time. Incognito visitors will appear in your “new” visitor analytics instead of your “returning” visitor stats. Really, that’s not too much of a big deal, because new vs. returning numbers can be skewed for a variety of reasons. But it’s important to know when assessing your site analytics that private browsing could be affecting the number of new visitors you get each month.

Your bounce rate

You may also wonder if private browsing affects your bounce rate, or the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing just one page. The answer is no. No matter what kind of browsing status a site visitor is using, their impact on your analytics will be counted. However, if your site stats show you have a very high bounce rate, you should be thinking hard about how you can improve the content on your pages to keep visitors around longer.

If you want to expand your content offerings or need assistance understanding your website analytics, we can help. Or, you can check out our previous blog posts about the fundamentals of site statistics.