Google Analytics is probably one of the most widely implemented tools across the entire digital landscape and is used by both small and large companies. However, some of its most powerful functionalities are often overlooked, as most marketers are only able to scratch the surface.
In this article, I’ll be going through some of my personal favorites and “go-to” reports in the site diagnosis phase, when assessing site performance and identifying those nasty conversion killers
Site Speed Report
There is no doubt that site speed is more important than ever and is strongly correlated with bounce rates – the slower the site, the higher the bounce rate. Most users have zero patience with slow loading sites – and neither does Google, as site speed is also a critical component, when optimizing for both SEO and Google Ads.
Despite of all these factors, the site speed report is probably still one of the most underutilized reports in GA.
So where do you find this report? Just go to Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings. There you will find an overview of all pages and their respective page view count along with the average site speed across all pages, which in this example, is 4.32 seconds.
On the right-hand side, you will find a breakdown of how each page measures up to the site average, as a percentage score (higher or lower than average).
So in the given example we see that page #8 has a page load time of 7.26 seconds, which is 68.84% worse than the site average. This is a very significant difference and an obvious red flag, also given that it’s based on a large enough dataset of 93.500+ pageviews., we probably should take a closer look at this.
So now that we have identified this page, what steps can we take to identify the issues that are potentially hurting user experience and conversion rates? Well, Google Analytics actually does a very good job at trying to help us solve some of these issues. By going to Behavior > Site Speed > Speed Suggestions, we find the site speed suggestions report as highlighted in the image below.
On the right-hand side you will find page speed suggestions for each page. Once you click on a suggestion, Google will take you to another site that details the issues affecting page speed for that particular page.
At this point, you might want to have a more technically skilled colleague, or whoever manages your website, looking at these suggestions, as they can be a bit challenging to interpret for the average person.
So, there you have it, a solid report that gives you valuable and actionable data that can immediately help alleviate some serious conversion blockers. Believe you me, not many people would stick around for 7+ seconds waiting for a page to load. I know, I wouldn’t!
Assisted Conversions Report
Many companies have a hard time identifying the channels that contribute to their online conversions. You might think that Google Ads, Facebook, SEO or Email are doing wonders for you individually, but the truth is online conversions do not happen in bubble. Modern day online shoppers interact with several channels before deciding whether to purchase from you. Multichannel marketing is therefore important for the simple reason that you must be where your customers are. And they are everywhere. So even though Google Ads or Facebook might be telling you they are responsible for the majority of your sales, there’s a much bigger picture missing.
Here’s where the assisted conversion report comes in. This report looks at all the conversion actions that you have already setup in your GA – both macro (goals) and micro conversions (transactions) – and attempts to outline the number of conversions each channel provided in the conversion path.
To give an example, imagine you’ve setup a conversion action on your website, let’s say product purchase. A customer goes in and writes “yourwebsite.com” in their browser, lands on your website and then leaves without buying. Next day, the same customer comes back, but this time via a Facebook retargeting ad and decides to make a purchase. In this scenario the conversion path would consist of “Direct” and “Facebook, and since the assisted conversion report only counts the channels preceding the final conversion channel (Facebook), Direct would get the assisted conversion.
To use the report:
- Navigate to Conversions >> Multi-Channel Funnels >> Assisted Conversions
- Remember to set the date range to the period you’re interested in
- Make sure to select the goals you’re looking for in the dropdown area – you can choose custom goals, transactions or both. I prefer to look at them separately.
At this point you can either choose to look at the number of “assists” each channels has provided or you can sort the assisted conversion value table by highest value – this would require having ecommerce tracking setup beforehand. Based on the dataset we can see that Direct is bringing in by far the most value, in terms of assisted conversions, 6.5x what Organic Search is bringing in.
Obviously the figures would be different had we looked at a different ecommerce store, but I’m fairly confident that in most cases we would see a similar relationship between Direct traffic and conversions, compared to all other channels. Because in most cases it reflects the nature of how we buy. You see an FB ad, while using your laptop (Social) >> Click on the link >> Land on the advertisers website >> You go back to whatever you were doing, before seeing the ad >> Now on your mobile phone, you visit the same site, on the way home from work (Direct) >> Next day, you get hit with a Display retargeting ad on the way to work and end up buying.
Obviously, this is only an example, and the customer journey could be much longer or shorter than this. But it illustrates one of the reasons why Direct is so often involved in the buying journey. There are also more technical explanations as to why Direct traffic would appear as often in GA. One of them being that Google Analytics treats Direct as a placeholder for unknown traffic sources. Meaning when GA has no clue how a session arrived at your site, it reports the source as direct. The best way to solve this is by using UTM’s, which you can read more about here.
Behavior Flow Report
Another one of those underrated reports, that I enjoy using – especially when dealing with ecommerce – is the behavior flow report.
This report deals with the user journey within your website and is a great starting point for UX research. It’s an excellent place to look for trends such as, which pages are most often visited and in what order, how many users are dropping off from a given page and what is their next choice of action.
You can pick any given page as the vantage point for your analysis, from homepage to product pages. I personally prefer starting from the homepage, when doing research for a new site, to get a sense of the overall user experience from start to finish.
You can click on each element/page in the report, to highlight traffic from that particular source. The thicker the lines between pages, the more traffic there is.
To get maximum value from this report, try using segments to analyze specific subsets of your users for a more nuanced analysis. You could for instance look at users that are on mobile devices, to get an idea of the mobile experience, or you could investigate new vs returning users, just to name a few.
Site Search Report
The site search report is a great report for websites that use site search, particularly ecommerce websites with many product SKU’s, where site search is used often to find specific products.
There are a lot of hidden benefits to this report and it can be used to optimize a variety of areas including conversion rates, UX and segmentation.
By clicking on pages, you can see the pages where searches occurred the most. This can tell you something about whether there might be critical content missing from those pages, if users are landing on a given page and then searching for something else, they probably where looking for something else. So now that you know this, you can go in and possibly add this item to that page.
Another thing you can do is click on search terms, there you will find all the terms users are typing into your search box, which can also give you an opportunity to see how well your users are at spelling… It also tells you about, how good your search tool is at discerning misspellings. What happens If someone types Ipon instead of Iphone, is it able to recognize that and recommend the right product? If you’re trying to optimize conversion rates, you would want to decrease friction as much as possible, especially with users that are highly intent on finding specific products.
Working with Google Analytics can seem like a daunting task, given the wealth of available data and reports, especially if you’re just starting out. Nevertheless, is it an incredibly valuable tool, that can help kickstart business growth, so the sooner you dig in the faster you’ll learn. Hopefully this post has given you a few ideas of where to start.