Using Google Analytics To Tell A User Journey Story

Posted by in Analytics, Search Marketing (SEO) on November 21st, 2012 0 Comments

I have recently been using the standard Google tools far more frequently in the lead up to Christmas, analysing user behaviour and retention, tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are still really quite remarkable for studying metrics. Although quite daunting for a novice user, the updated interface earlier this year has made the navigation cleaner and more linear.

This short post is just to outline how free Google tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools can be so important to your campaigns. With such accurate data and insightful metrics it almost goes without saying that these effective tools are essential for any successful website.

I’ve highlighted several areas that can be hugely beneficial to monitor as they will improve either user journey and/or site optimisation:

Identifying Page Speed Issues

Navigation: Content -> Site Speed -> Page Timings

It was way back in 2010 when Matt Cutts announced the fact that site speed will have a part to play in the meticulous Google algorithm. With that in mind it’s surprising how many website developers and designers forget this simple element.

figure 1 page speed1 1024x796 Using Google Analytics To Tell A User Journey Story

Figure 1

In figure 1, the page timings indicate that the /blog/ has an average load speed of 7.82 seconds, it’s worth noting at this point that this is taking into account all traffic including mobile which can be sluggish at the best of times.You can refine the data excluding mobile traffic through advanced segments (which is relatively easy to do, but that’s another lesson! for now lets look at the page speed). Relatively high page load times should encourage investigation just to see where the page can be optimised further to reduce page load time. In addition, investigating bounce rates and exit rates helps indicate if this page load issue is having an impact on your user journey!

To further investigate additional tools like Google Page Speed Test https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights offers insightful readings and technical advice on optimising your site.

However to summarise, frequent issues that are often overlooked when websites are being developed can be:

Images – correct compression of images, and hosting on DNS can improve image loading time and therefore page load speed.

Pagination – Often you will find that lists can increase page load times, implementing a pagination to your pages, for instance blogs, or news feeds can break pages up and therefore reduce the load speed.

Utilise CSS – Similar to image compression, utilising your cascading styles sheets for website wireframes can help reduce the page load time further.

Avoid Multiple Redirects – Requesting multiple redirects is hugely detrimental from an SEO perspective, not only does it dilute the link equity to a page it also will increase the page load time.

We suggest any particular page with an average page load speed over 6 seconds requires some investigation as these pages could have a detrimental effect in lowering the authority score a search engine rewards your site.

Identfying Platform Issues

Navigation: Content->Site Speed->Page Timings

figure 2 page speed 1024x796 Using Google Analytics To Tell A User Journey Story

Figure 2

Simply clicking on the other drop down and entering browser will promptly display an average page load speed for different browsers, this can be a great way of testing multiple platforms or browsers for their compatibility. In figure 2, as expected, it is evident that mobile traffic from the andriod is slightly higher than the optimum amount.

With mobile browsing becoming a more prominent feature in todays digital marketing and a huge industry moving forward into 2013 it’s really worth while optimising for mobile. For instance, have you ever visited your site from a mobile just to check if it accomodates the platform? Designing sites to be mobile responsive can and will be immensely valuable to your campaign. Examples like BrightonSEO http://www.brightonseo.com/ use site repsonsive mark up in the html that will influence the website to the dimensions of the screen.

Bounce Rates

Navigation: Content->Site Content->All Pages

Another variable that is so often overlooked is the bounce rate. The bounce rate, just to clarify, is where a user enters your site and effectively bounces away without navigating further, common characteristics may be clicking the back button, typing a new URL, closing the browser window, navigating to an external page, etc.

figure 3 bounce rates 1024x574 Using Google Analytics To Tell A User Journey Story

Figure 3

Figure 3 details how once you are on the all pages summary, sort the entries by bounce rate, then to normalise the values, select weighted from the drop down menu highlighted above. This will display high bounce pages in ratio with visits.

In this example we can see that the blog pages hold a high bounce rate, this would be expected as external links are quite often implemented in blog content to help support the story or blog post. However it’s also worth taking into account the average time spent on page as this will help support user behaviour, generally speaking if the bounce rate is high and the average time spent on page is low there might be a navigation problem or the page may not be appropriate for the user journey.

A user journey is integral to both the successful conversion path and also helping optimise your site for search spiders and viewers alike. If a page you expected to be quite authoritative happens to have a high bounce rate and low time spent on page it may be worth investigating. Navigate to the page and treat is as a user, is the user journey clear? Does the landing page make sense from the keyword the user may have entered from?

In Page Analytics

Navigation: Content-> In-Page Analytics

In addition to accommodate the bounce rate insights above, using this tool can reveal some great insights to user behaviour. Identifying pages that may be causing some problems in terms of bounce rates and average time spent on page, using this extraordinary tool you can examine most popular click through navigations. It can also be really insightful to how many users navigate below the fold of the page, therefore prompting you to reconsider site design or structure. Whether it’s pushing contact details or social buttons further up the page perhaps, or making a popular navigation path more prominent.

figure 4 page speed 1024x967 Using Google Analytics To Tell A User Journey Story

Hopefully these insights will be helpful to you and your campaign, I think it’s really crucial that these tools are used on a frequent basis for any campaign strategies or site architecture reviews. We believe a website should follow a storyline:

• Beginning (user enters landing page)
• Middle (user interacts, follows navigation path)
• End (user converts, or is fulfilled with original request)

Ensuring your website has a clear user journey should be essential and fundamentally will help improve your campaign.

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