Written by: Megan Stubblebine
In my role, I feel like I consistently get asked this question, “where is traffic going on my website?” From junior level marketing assistants to C-suite level marketing executives, the question is standard fare; and as a marketing professional I can assure you that you will want to know the answer! While this report can simply be pulled from Google Analytics, the data can be a bit buried.
Conversely, maybe you are familiar with Google Analytics but are just looking for a better way to understand the traffic flow on your website? I am personally not a fan of the user flow report that can be found in Google Analytics. The page pathing analysis is a clear and concise alternative.
To perform a simple page pathing analysis, I can assure you that there is no need to be an analytics expert just follow these simple steps to get started. This is a set of steps worth memorizing.
Keep in mind that while the data may be easily accessed, organized and exported the analysis of the data is the crucial piece to finding hidden problem areas on your site. SEO and CRO is a bit like Alice in Wonderland allow yourself some time to fall down those rabbit holes and really explore how the traffic is moving through your website.
Steps To The Visitor Pathing Report
Step 1: Access Google Analytics and select the profile that you will be reviewing.
Step 2: Navigate to Behavior on the left side bar.
Step 3: Select “All Pages” or another applicable view.
Step 4: Towards the middle of the page select “Navigation Summary” (let me guess – you never noticed that one).
Step 5: Select your traffic segment (all sessions, organic, direct, referral etc.)
Step 6: Under current selection drop down select the correct starting page.
Step 7: the data will be displayed below. Showing pages visited before the selected page and pages visited after the selected page.
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Revealing Areas of Concern
I love this report but there are definitely some shortcomings, depending on the story you are ultimately searching for. What are some areas of concern we can identify with this type of analysis?
- Issues with the login process: perhaps you notice users logging into their accounts but then immediately going to the home page. Is the login process retaining their previously entered information? Is the login process dropping them at the beginning of the funnel rather than on the page that initiated the login? Imagine how frustrating it would be to have a shopping cart full of items, enter your login credentials, only to lose all those items.
- Any area with a larger than expected drop off rate: Maybe you are directing traffic from your homepage to an “about us” page, believing it gives your users the information they are looking for, but instead you find that users following this path have a 70% drop off rate! This is a good indication that they are not finding what they are looking for and not willing to continue to explore the website to find it.
- Large amount of coupon code errors: Recently I discovered an account where almost every person who entered a coupon code received an error (code expired, invalid etc). While the invalid code is not necessarily a bad thing, the error message that resulted was! It completely removed the user from the checkout process, requiring them to re-initiate the checkout.
- Overall visitor confusion and uncertainty: When we look at our own website we often see a clear and logical path that we want users to follow. To the website owner it “makes sense” and the conversion funnel is clear. Sometimes we see users move from the homepage to an about page, then back to the home page, then to the pricing page, then back to the home page. Seeing this lateral movement often indicates that the call to action is not clear and that the user is unsure of how to get more information.
- Opportunities for conversion funnel optimization: As mentioned in the prior bullet when we see lateral movement or a “confused” user, it’s a clear sign that the conversion funnel has not been optimized. It is now time to map out the desired path for your users and begin testing page design, copy, calls to action, forms etc in order to capture those sales or leads.
This is a great, useful report worth memorizing how to access. It can be a simple yet effective part of your marketing tool box, allowing you to make crucial decisions about what parts of the website need more attention or where you are losing potential conversions.