The success of your online business depends on the activities of your users, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter whether you have an e-commerce platform selling products directly to end users, a service-based B2B company looking to build a reputation, or a local business just trying to get your name and address on the web. How your users interact with your brand and where they go on your site will spell the life or death of your company; if your users never get to the contact page, they’re never going to contact you. If they can’t find the products they’re looking for, they’re never going to buy.
Understanding how your users are interacting with your site is a good first step to the problem. Without this understanding, you’ll be blind to any potential problems your online presence currently faces. But you’ll have to dig deeper than that, and find out why your users are acting the way they are. Only through understanding your customers’ behaviors and motivations will you be able to make a meaningful change.
Fortunately, there’s a tool that can help you answer both of these questions, and it’s completely free to use.
Where to Find Behavior Flow
Behavior Flow is an analytic tool found under the umbrella of Google Analytics. Hopefully, you’ve got an Analytics script installed on your site. If you do, you can log into Analytics and head to the left-hand column under the “Behavior” tab.
Once you’ve got it open, you’ll see what appears to be an intimidatingly complex chart. Don’t worry; it’s simpler than it appears. The green boxes represent pages. The gray lines between the boxes are “connections,” which demonstrate users flowing from one page to another. The red lines flowing away from the green pages are “bounces,” people who leave the site at that point. Each page is grouped into columns based on what stage of the process a user is in, with a user’s point of entry on the left and a progression moving toward the right.
The Point of Entry
The point of entry, which Google calls the “Starting Page” is going to be the first page your users see. Depending on your most popular type of acquisitions, this could be your home page, the blog page, or a specific landing page that you’ve set up. Understanding the point of entry can help you determine how or why your users continue on with the site.
For example, if your two primary starting pages are your home page and a featured blog, and you notice a lot of home page visitors leave while featured blog visitors continue on to other pages, you can infer that your home page doesn’t do a good job of calling your users to action while your featured blog does. Comparing your starting pages should give you a clear idea of which pages effectively draw users further into the site.
The First Engagement
The first engagement, or “interaction” as Google calls it, is the first page your visitors hit after their initial page. For example, after viewing your featured blog, your users may venture deeper into your other blogs, or after visiting your home page, they may check out your store.
This first interaction should closely align with your goals. If you’re looking to sell products as fast as possible, you’ll want the most popular first interaction to be your online store, so people have an immediate opportunity to convert. If they’re going somewhere else, you’ll need to make adjustments to properly redirect them. Similarly, if your goal is to build your reputation, you’ll want people to head to a blog, testimonials, or case study page.
The Second Engagement and Beyond
If your first engagement doesn’t get your customers where you want them to go, your second engagement should pick up the slack. For example, if 60 percent of your users head to your goal destination on the first interaction, the majority of that remaining 40 percent should head to your goal on the second interaction. Again, if they aren’t, you’ll have to take a closer look at how you’re funneling your traffic.
If you notice your users are getting to a third, fourth or even higher interaction without ever getting to your intended final destination, you’ve got a serious problem with funneling; your users clearly don’t know where to go.
The Bounce Factor
If you notice an overwhelming percentage of users leaving your site after visiting a specific page, that should be a red flag that there’s a problem with that page. It could be a lack of compelling information, an egregious design flaw, or a lack of links or calls to action that draw a user to continue. Bounce rates can be your biggest problem, but they’re also one of the easiest problems to detect and fix. Pay close attention to the bounce rates of your individual page interactions, and make critical improvements to the most notorious offenders.
Making Meaningful Adjustments
Of course, understanding the information and gaining insight on your user base is only the first step of the process. You’ll have to make meaningful changes to your site if you want to improve. Take a look at your most successful pages — the ones that have the lowest bounce rate, and the ones that lead the greatest number of users to your ideal destination — and compare them to your underperformers. What qualities do your high-performing pages have that your underperformers don’t? Is it a unique call to action? A design element that’s different? More copy? Better information? If you have trouble making a determination based on these criteria, consider implementing user surveys or heat maps to track down the root of the problem.
Apply your findings to all your underperforming pages, and monitor the results over the course of the next several weeks. You should find that your adjustments correlate to real, measurable changes in the behavior of your users. If you still find a page to be underperforming, it could be due to the nature of the page; consider restructuring your site and navigation to better suit your customers’ goals.