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22 Nov 2011

Flow Visualization: Visitor and Conversion Reports in Google Analytics

Flow Visualization - Visitor and Conversion Reports in Google Analytics

Beginning with version 5 earlier this year, Google has been rolling out some major changes to Analytics. Features like multiple dashboards, event goal tracking, in-page analytics and more have made data analysis more robust and easier to track.

One of the newest features in the process of being rolled out is Flow Visualization. This new flowchart view provides a cleaner and much more intuitive way of depicting how visitors are moving through your site. Currently there are two Flow views: Visitors Flow and Goal Flow. Let’s take a look at how they’re used.

Visitors Flow

In the Standard Reporting tab under the Visitors menu is the Visitors Flow link (don’t worry if you don’t see it yet, Google is rolling out the feature over the next few weeks). The Visitors Flow report is a customizable view that shows how visitors are moving through your site – where they click through to, where they jump back, and where they are dropping off. Here is a sample Visitors Flow report:

Google Analytics Visitors Flow Report

As you can see, the report is organized by “interaction,” representing each page a user clicks through to. These are called nodes, and they are linked by connections. At each node you can see the most popular destinations, and how visitors continue to navigate your site. The red bands represent drop-offs, where users leave your site. You can click any connection to highlight it and trace what pages have led to that connection, and view where it goes.

One of the nicest features of the flow reporting is the Connections slider that lets you refine your view from just the most popular connections to the more exhaustive, spaghetti-like accuracy:

Google Analytics Visitors Flow Connections

Goal Flow

Located under Conversions > Goals, the Goal Flow report looks very similar to the Visitors Flow, but is focused on tracking conversion for goals and multi-step funnels. Here is a report showing how different types of traffic move through a funnel:

Google Analytics Goal Flow Report

Here I’ve highlighted organic traffic and can see how successful I am at moving visitors of that type through the steps of my goal funnel. The thickness of the connections from node to node make it easy to see at a glance where visitors are abandoning: the large drop-off from Step 1 to Step 2 may indicate a poor call to action, asking too much of the visitor, or other conversion-stifling problems.

Likewise paths leading backward point to users backtracking to previous goal steps. This may be something as simple as an ecommerce customer updating their cart, or it may point to a confusing or inefficient checkout process. Whatever goals you’re tracking, the Goals Flow report gives you an easy, visual way to understand how visitors are using your site, and how to improve your conversion.

Segments and Filtering

As with most reports in Analytics, the best value comes with segmenting  and filtering your data. In both Flow reports, the green drop-down allows you to organize data by common criteria like visitor location, browser or computer versions, traffic sources, ad campaigns and more. Above that, is the segment dropdown, set by default to “All Visits.” With that you can opt to select useful segments, like New Visitors, or Paid Search Traffic, or custom segments you’ve created.

Additionally, in any Flow report, you can select one of the displayed options to view it as a segment. For example, in the report below I was viewing a Goal Flow organized by browser types. I then clicked on the Android Browser segment and selected “View only this segment.”

 Google Analytics Flow Segment Mobile

By being able to quickly drill down into specific segments, it becomes much easier to view my goal conversion for specific criteria. In this case, I can see that my drop-off for the Android browser in Step 1 is fairly high. With that information I can look into if my goal pages have been properly optimized for mobile traffic.

A Useful Visual Tool

Data is only as good as our ability to understand it, and with the Flow Visualization reports, Google has taken a big step toward answering users’ needs. By providing an intuitive visual format and creatively pulling together the different data tools, they’ve removed a lot of the pain from identifying issues and understanding how visitors use our websites.

How do you like the Flow Visualization reports? Still waiting to get yours? Let us know in the comments!