Google Analytics, Visitor Flow and Troubleshooting Website Problems

Written by Michael Walmsley  |  25-03-14

Google Analytics is now a “must have” for many website owners. It provides an incredible amount of data that you can use to help identify activity that takes place on your website. Many website owners never get past the overview reports that can tell you things such as:

– How many visitors your site has received
– How those visitors found your site (e.g. search engines, social media, links from other websites)
– How many pages a user will visit on average

These are all very useful pieces of information but Google analytics can provide you with so much more valuable information if you know where to look and what you are looking for. Today I thought I would tell you about one of the most useful reports, the Visitor Flow Report.

What is a Visitor Flow Report?
This is a great report for helping you to troubleshoot problems within your website. Perhaps you are wondering why you do not convert more of your website traffic into sales or why people are not taking a particular action such as filling out a contact form. The Visitor Flow report shows a visual representation of the journey that your customers take through your site, the pages they visit, the order that they visit them in and where they leave your site.

Where Do I Find the Visitor Flow Report?
Once you have signed into your Google Analytics account then you will find the Visitor Flow report is the last sub menu item under Audience on the left hand side of the page.

What Does the Visitor Flow Report Show?
At first glance the Visitor Flow report can appear a little overwhelming, but once you know how it works it is easy to interpret. As previously stated the Visitor Flow report gives you a very visual representation of the customer journey that your users are taking through your websites. It is split into a series of columns. The first column is the dimension that you wish to collect data on. By default it is set to “Country/Territory”. Down the column you will see the countries that most of users are in and they are handily in order of popularity. You will then see lines of various thickness going from each country to the second column which shows you the most popular entry pages to your website (Your homepage is denoted by a “/”). The thicker this line is the more of the traffic took this route.

The process is repeated between the second and third columns showing you which page users went to next. You will also notice that there are also red lines that lead nowhere, this indicates the number of users who left the site after viewing that particular page. The thicker the red line the more users left the site at this point. By default you will see the user activity for the first four pages that they have visited.

How Can I Interpret the Visitor Flow Report?
The major factor to look for is where people are leaving your site. Once you know which pages people leave from then you can start to look at the content of that page and try to analyse why users leave at that point. You can also change the dimension that the report is based on. If you have the default report set up then above the first column there will be a box that says “Country/Territory”, if you click on this you will see a list of the other dimensions that you can use as a starting point for your report. There are a large number of dimensions that you can compare but some of the most popular ones are:

– Default Channel Grouping: Shows the visitor flow for Direct traffic, Referring websites, Organic search, Paid search and social media. This can help you to work out where your most valuable website traffic originates from.
– Browser Type: This can help you troubleshoot whether particular pages cause particular problems to users of different browser types.
– Browser Version: Can identify issues that affect a particular browser version.
– Mobile (including Tablet): Mobile users generally use the web differently to desktop users. Pages that are slow to load or are difficult to read can lead to users leaving your site. Use this dimension to see how mobile friendly your website really is.

Once you have the report you are interested in (e.g. Default Channel Grouping to see how direct, organic, paid, referral and social traffic compare) you can then look at a particular subset of data by clicking on the specific dimension (e.g. social traffic). You will see a new box open with options that include “Highlight traffic through here”. Select this option and suddenly you can see even more clearly how users who came to your website via social channels behaviour compares with other type of traffic.

The Visitor Flow report in Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool that website owners should take full advantage of to help them identify problem areas within their sites. I hope that by using this report you are able to improve your own visitor flow through your site and that you are able to provide a better user experience for you site visitors.


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