Google Analytics Insights: How Users Navigate Your Site

October 30, 2020 in SEO Articles

Written by Anne Fernandez


I use Google Analytics frequently to check our site's traffic, conversion rates, devices used, and bounce rates. Ho-hum. However, our sales team recently wanted to know 1) how users entered our Upskilling landing page, 2) where they traveled next on our website, and 3) did they make it to our contact page from our Upskilling page?
In this article, we will look at three things you can leverage within Google Analytics to get a full picture of how users navigate your site:

  • The Navigation Summary tool
  • The User Flow tool
  • Regular Expressions

Understanding how users navigate your site can help you improve your site's structure, navigation, CTAs (Calls to Action), link text, content, and more.

There is also a 10 minute video version of this article if you would like to view that.

So…how can we tell where users were before they got to a particular page and where did they go next?

Enter Navigation Summary!

Using "Navigation Summary" in Google Analytics

In Google Analytics, go to the tools bar on the left and go to Behavior > Site Pages > All Pages. Then click on the second tab in the top left, "Navigation Summary." You will see on the bottom middle of the screenshot below that the current selection is "/", which means the root, so you will see all the pages in your site.

Google Analytics Navigation Summary

If you click that drop-down arrow after Current Selection: "/", you can choose the area of your site you would like to view. If I want to see all our Upskilling pages, I can type in "/upskilling" into the search box to view all those pages.

Search Site Pages

I choose the main Upskilling page (https://www.accelebrate.com/upskilling) since that is the splash page for all the other Upskilling pages. Here is what I see when I select that page:

Select Page to View

Here is a breakdown of the items on this page:

  • The page you are tracking. In our case, /upskilling.
  • The page from which the user came before landing on the Upskilling page.
  • The next page to which they travel after leaving the Upskilling page.

If you click on any pages you see in the report (on the left or right), that page becomes the Navigation Summary subject, and the report will update. You can also search for another page by changing the Current Selection drop-down; just type in a new path.

From the current view I can see that only 9.21% of users even made it to the contact page. The CTA (Call to Action) we have on that page is a "Request Pricing" button and our goal is for the user to click on it to get to our contact form. Perhaps we need to move our CTA up on the Upskilling page so people can see it better. If you find you have a low percentage of people completing your goal, look at your CTA. Does it have a clear message? Can people find your CTA easily?

Want to take your navigation insights to the next level to see the bigger picture of how users navigate your site?

Move over Navigation Summary; enter, Users Flow!

Using "Users Flow" in Google Analytics

While the Navigation Summary shows the pages that a user visited before and after visiting a specific page, Users Flow displays a visual representation of the full journey. The flow chart includes the pages where the user entered and exited, and any pages visited during their session.

To find the Users Flow tool, go to "Audience" on the left and then down to Users Flow. You will see that the segment defaults to Country; however, you can change this to get very specific within your site.

Users Flow Tool

To see my Upskilling page, I would go the arrow on the green drop-down box on the top left where it says "Country." Then I would go to "Commonly Used" and finally "Landing Page."  That would show a view of all the pages on my site.

To narrow down the list, click on the gear icon next to the green drop-down box in the upper left to customize dimension options. To narrow down my flow to show only our Upskilling pages, I used the default "contains" selection in the drop-down and put in /upskilling in the Expression box.

Customize Dimension

Presto! Now all the Upskilling pages (main Upskilling page and individual Upskilling pages) show up to track the subsequent interactions. You can move the page to the left to see more interactions by clicking the arrows on the white round icon with the house in the middle, under the green Landing Page drop-down box on the top left.

From this view, I not only see how users flow through sessions, but I can see how many sessions there were AND how many people exited our site in each interaction.

Users Flow Sessions

If you hover your mouse over any of the green blocks, you will see the breakdown of the through traffic and drop-offs with percentages.

Traffic Breakdown

 

What if you want to test a group of pages within your site? Do you have any sets of pages on your site that follow a particular pattern? Would you like to pull those out to see how users navigate through the pages in that group?

Make space Users Flow; here comes Regular Expressions!

Using Regular Expressions

Regular Expressions, also called RegExes, is a concise, powerful syntax for describing patterns within strings. Regular expressions not only detect whether your string matches a certain pattern, but can also extract particular pieces of that pattern (for example, validating that a string contains a properly formatted date and then extracting the month and year from that date). They are often used for form validation because input fields like phone numbers and email addresses need to follow a specific pattern. We can use RegExes in Google analytics to pull out the data for a group of pages with the same URL pattern.

For example, we have hundreds of course pages and dozens of technology landing pages and city pages. The URL for each group follows a certain configuration. For example, all of our training pages follow the pattern "/training/coursename";  e.g., https://www.accelebrate.com/training/python-advanced is our Advanced Python course page.

There are many guides out there if you are new to Regular Expressions and I found this one especially useful: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1034324?hl=en. For testing regular expressions, https://regex101.com/ is especially powerful.

Let's break down how we would use a RegEx to match the string:

"/training/python-advanced" matches the RegEx

^/training/[a-z0-9]*(-*[a-z0-9]*)*$

  • ^ is an anchor that allows no characters prior to it. So I know that the first characters in any match will be /training/
  • [ ]  matches enclosed alternative characters. Unless we put a frequency modifier after it (more about this in a moment), this will match a single lowercase letter a-z or a digit 0-9.
  • * matches the preceding expression 0 or more times. In this case, we are saying that we are looking for 0 or more occurrences of a lowercase letter or number, since this frequency modifier falls immediately after expression 2. (In our URL, this matches "python".)
  • () is used to logically group expressions together in sequence. In our case, we are matching 0 or more hyphens, followed by zero or more characters a-z or 0-9 in any order. The whole group in parentheses should show up 0 or more times. (in our case, we get a single match: -advanced)
  • $ is an anchor that allows no characters after it.

If we just had "/training/python," this would also be fine because the part in the parentheses matching "-advanced" can occur 0 times.

To integrate this with our User Flow, click on the gear icon to see the customization box. Change the drop-down in the box that says "contains" to "regexp," put in your Regular Expression string, and click apply.

Cusomize with Regular Expressions

Bam! Users flow for all our class pages.

Using Regular Expressions to View Users Flow for all Pages

You can use RegEx in other places in Google Analytics as well. When I want to check our traffic and goal completion stats in general, I go to Acquisition > Channels and choose the "Organic Traffic" link from the list. From there, I click on the "Landing Page" link from the Primary Dimension list of links on the top left of the stats table. Then I put the RegEx in the field on the right and click the search icon.

Other uses for RegEx in Google Analytics

Voilà! All our course pages (and only our course pages) load into the table and we can see the numbers for users, bounce rate, conversions, and other data.

Using the Navigation Summary and Users Flow tools in Google Analytics, we can glean valuable insights about what pages keep our users interested (and complete our goals), and which pages are duds or cause users to exit our site. We can also see how a user navigates our site. Using RegExes can filter our results to just the parts of our site we want to analyze. With these tools (Navigation Summary, Users Flow, and RegExes), we can get insights on important questions, including:

  • Where do people go after viewing a blog post?
  • How many people go to my contact form after viewing a landing page?
  • What pages do people view before they convert?
  • Are there any pages where people almost always drop off?
  • How many pages do users typically visit in a session and which ones are they?
  • Is my navigation structured well?
  • Should I bedazzle my jean jacket? (Ha, just seeing if you are paying attention!)

Answering questions like these can help you optimize your pages, get people to convert, and ensure that your visitors have the best user experience possible. Have fun using these tools and good luck getting the traffic and conversions you desire!


Written by Anne Fernandez

Anne Fernandez

Anne is the web content specialist and instructor manager at Accelebrate. She manages digital marketing initiatives and search engine optimization, makes regular updates to the website, and oversees all instructor travel.
  



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