Google Analytics Flow Visualization

I realized as we were recording Marketing Over Coffee this morning that I’ve never done a blog post on Google Analytics Flow Visualization, so let’s tackle that right away. If you’re unfamiliar with flow visualization, it’s a way to visually map out where people are going on your website. You’ll find it in Google Analytics under Visitors > Visitors Flow.

First things first: the tool defaults to geographic location as the starting point for the flow. I don’t especially care where you live, so I switch this to traffic source right away. This gives me the following visualization:

Visitors Flow - Google Analytics

We can see that Google organic search is the top driver of visitors to the site, followed by people typing in the URL, followed by the blog, then Twitter and Facebook. Pretty good so far. Where do people start, page-wise? The top is, of course, the home page, followed by a Google+ blog post, some archives pages, a tutorial on multichannel funnels, and then the long tail of other pages.

Column 3 in the picture above is the first click: where do people go on the first click? From the home page, they go to the Marketing White Belt book page, the welcome page, and then into blog posts. In column 4, we see what happens on the second click, and the chart goes some distance to the right after that.

So what does this tell me? A few key pieces of information are revealed here. First, people coming in by Google are going to individual blog posts from organic search. This means that I should make sure there are calls to action on every single page of my site, because for the vast majority of that traffic, the first page they see is an individual blog post. If your traffic looks like this, then you should be doing the same.

Second, for people who hit the home page, the top place they’re going is a conversion opportunity for me – in this case, buying the book. I’m very happy about this – this is an intended behavior. If the top page on the first click isn’t a conversion opportunity for you, then you have to make one two choices:

1. Fix your navigation and calls to action across your top entry pages so that they drive traffic to a conversion opportunity, or…

2. Adjust the top page for the first click to be a conversion landing page, since it’s already popular.

Either way, if your top traffic after the first click isn’t a conversion opportunity, and conversion is important to you, then you need to make some repairs and choices.

Third, this is just the starting point. You’ll notice up top that you can choose different segments and filters. Suppose I want to see how my weekly newsletter is doing for me. I’ve already got a custom traffic segment for my newsletter that isolates that traffic in Google Analytics, so I select that to see only newsletter traffic, then switch the filter to campaign view so I can see individual newsletters. Let’s see what this tells me about my newsletters:

Visitors Flow - Google Analytics

Item 1 is the most recent newsletter, followed by other weeks’ issues below it. From there, item 2 is one of my prominent calls to action, hiring me to speak. Item 3 is a conversion opportunity as well, a post that has an affiliate landing page. Item 4 after the first click is the book conversion opportunity. It looks like my newsletters are doing exactly what I want them to do: bringing people to different opportunities for conversion.

Google Analytics Flow Visualization is a powerful tool to diagnose exactly what’s happening on your website, to see where visitors are going at each step. If you know what to look for, if you know where you want people to go on your site, it will tell you in an instant if things are working as intended or not. If things aren’t working as intended, it will also tell you where you need to make repairs as well. Give it a try today!


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  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    I just lost an hour in Google analytics. I blame you.

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      I gladly accept that kind of blame.

  • http://www.i95dev.com Henry Louis

    Oh! It is very interesting. Good informative post regarding Google analytics. Thanks for sharing.