Using Visitors Flow to Find Dead End Pages

by Tim Kelsey November 13th, 2012 

Spend 20 minutes playing around with Visitors Flow and you're sure to gain some insight on how visitors behave on your site. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, ask the right questions and dig deeper until you find a solution.

If you spend a lot of time in Google Analytics (GA), you probably love numbers and data. The problem is that, in general, we are pretty bad at dealing with numbers in our heads. That's why things like infographics and other types of data visualization are so popular. They take a jumble of confusing data and organize it in a way that clicks with our brains. That's exactly what GA's Visitors Flow helps us do.

Now, to find dead end pages, we could dig through bounce rates and exit rates, but those numbers don't give you much insight into user behavior and they don't tell you anything about how those pages function within your site as a whole. So let's jump into Visitors Flow and see what can find.

visitors flow

The report can be found under the Audience category – give it a click and you're tossed into a diagram of the most popular pages on your site. By default, you traffic will be segmented by Country, but you have a bunch of options to switch this around and segment by Source, Campaign, Keyword, Browser, OS, etc.

I prefer to start off segmenting by Traffic Type because it groups all your traffic into a handful of categories and keeps your data from getting too overwhelming. But any of the segments will show you which pages are getting the most visitors, how many visitors drop-off from each page and how many visitors continue on to additional pages.

nodes and connections

Looking for Drop-Offs

The obvious place to start looking for issues with your website's flow is with drop-offs. Any pages that have a large proportion of drop-offs to through traffic should send up a red flag. Although a large number of exits doesn't necessarily mean that the page isn't performing its role properly, it's a clear warning sign that it needs to be investigated further.

drop-offs

In this example, we can see that very few people continue on after landing on the MSDS page. By highlighting the drop-offs, Visitors Flow will tell us which sources those drop-offs are originating from and in this case, its primarily organic traffic.

So what gives? The site is getting all this great organic traffic, but it's not providing much value. This certainly requires some deeper research. What keywords are sending traffic to that page? Are visitors bouncing because the page answers their query or because it doesn't provide any useful information? How can we re-work the content on that page to encourage visitors to interact further with the site?

That's a fairly basic example and chances are you could led to the same conclusions by looking at landing page bounce rates, so here's one that takes things a little further.

visitor behavior

In the above example, the Pumps Product page appears in multiple levels of interaction and in each instance, it has a drop-off rate of greater that 50%. In this case, it might not just be a problem with irrelevant search traffic (as with the first example), but rather, there might be something fundamentally wrong with the page.

Is the page loading properly? Is it loading fast enough? Visitors arrive at the page through multiple sources and locations, so they must be interested in those pumps, but why are so many leaving the site? What can we change to improve engagement?

Visitors Flow and Segmentation

In the end, Visitors Flow won't tell you what's wrong with your pages, but it will tell you where to start looking and might give you some clues as to what's wrong. It's an extremely versatile tool that doesn't just limit you to the basic dimensions for segmentation – all of your Advanced Segments are available as well.

visitor behavior

Compare the flow for new vs returning visitors. See if mobile users are running into any roadblocks. You don't need to just look from your loser pages either. Segment by Visits with Conversions or Visits with Transactions to see which pages and sources are most important to your site's overall success.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy How To Find (And Deal With) The Really Crappy Stuff On Your Site

Tim Kelsey

Tim Kelsey is the SEO & Social Media Manager at Pronto Marketing, a web presence management agency. When he isn't digging through mountains of analytics data, Tim spends his time searching for the perfect carnitas burrito.

The Pronto Marketing Blog

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