When a visitor browses through your website, she pays attention to the design, ease of navigation, content, visual appeal, and all other details she can see and experience. Her behavior on your website depends upon the impressions she gets.
If your website is intuitive enough, she’ll continue browsing from page to page looking for more information. If, on the other side, the website doesn’t have what it takes, the visitor will bounce off before she understands what your site is all about.
By analyzing the behavior of your website’s users, you get some hints on the aspects that need improvement. In this article, we will analyze four indicators that help you understand user behavior. Then, we’ll advise you how to use those insights to boost the conversion rates and improve the overall effectiveness of your site.
1. Popular User Paths
What exactly are your visitors doing on the website? What actions do they take after going through the landing page?
As most other website owners, you’re already using Google Analytics to understand how your online project performs, right? However, there is an aspect of Google Analytics most people neglect: the Behavior Flow report.
This is a complex chart that demonstrates how the users move from one page of your website to another, and what actions they take during their time on your website. It’s a lot of information to process, but it’s really important for understanding users’ behavior.
This is how you’ll find your Behavior Flow report:
- Sign into your Google Analytics account
- Select the Reporting tab, which you’ll find at the top of your Analytics page.
- Find the Behavior Flow in the sidebar.
Once you access that page, you should select the type of view you want to see: pages, your content grouping, events, or pages and events.
This report will give you a visual presentation to the length of time visitors spend on your website, and the final destination they visit before bouncing off. Basically, you understand the path of the visitors from one page to another. When you click on a path, you can see an isolated section of the traffic.
It’s important to analyze the Behavior Flow report in order to reveal potential issues with user experience at your site. If you notice that a certain page is commonly listed as the final place the users visited before leaving, then you might need to improve it. Don’t assume there is always something wrong because it was the last place they visited.
Let’s go over some common scenarios and what you can do to improve them (if need be):
- The visitor got what they came looking for and left. Again, sometimes there isn’t anything wrong with people leaving a page. Perhaps you want to take these pages a step further and get your visitor to subscribe to a newsletter or visit another page. In that case, consider adding call-to-actions to direct traffic to a particular goal.
- They bounced because the visitor didn’t find what they were looking for. This is common with visitors that came from search engines. One way to solve this problem is to use a survey tool like Qualaroo and ask your visitors questions like: “Can’t find what you’re looking for? Please let us know so we can help!”. If you run the survey long enough, you’ll usually get great feedback you can use to improve these pages.
- The visitor left in the middle of an important funnel. Whether it’s a sign-up or a sales funnel, visitors that leave the middle of a funnel are a problem. In this case, you might want to A/B test different variations of your funnel and do some qualitative analysis to figure why people are leaving. You should probably sign up for a service like Unbounce, A/B Tasty, VWO or Optimizely to conduct proper A/B testing.
2. Popular Sources of Traffic
The Behavior Flow does enable you to identify the most popular landing pages, but you should figure out where that traffic came from. Your users discover your website through social networks, search engines, paid ads, blog posts, and many other sources of traffic. You need to understand those sources in order to improve your website.
Google Analytics gives you information about the traffic sources in the Acquisition section (previously known as Traffic Sources).
Under Overview, you’ll find out how much of your traffic comes from organic search and paid search, referrals, social media platforms, direct visits, and other sources.
If you notice that you’re not getting much traffic from organic search, then you have to work on your SEO strategy. Here’s a no-BS action plan to boost your website SEO:
- Press is king. This should be the cornerstone of your entire marketing strategy. How are you going to get talked about? How are you going to get in front of the right audience? If you’re building a SaaS product or serious online business, then use HARO (help a reporter out) to start your press machine. Also, try to contribute to influential blogs. The more press you get, the more authoritative backlinks you’ll earn, which will create a powerful SEO boost.
- Discover relevant keywords and implement them in high-quality on-page content. This is your typical and uber-obvious SEO strategy. Make sure you create the necessary content on your website to attract search traffic for the keywords that best describe your business. Each product, service and use-case you provide should have a dedicated URL for it. Make sure the main keyword for each page is in the webpage title tag.
- Launch a blog. Blogging helps you earn longtail traffic. Usually, the more great content you create, the more your site traffic will grow. Usually thorough “how-to” and educational articles are sure bets when it comes to creating content that builds traffic. Short, “newsy”, update type posts – don’t carry much weight.
Let’s talk about another important indicator of user behavior – how many visits do you get from social media? If the answer is “not enough”, then you have to pay more attention to your social media marketing campaign. Here’s how to do that:
- Get in the conversion. Simply disseminating content on social media isn’t enough. Perform searches to find the conversations where your brand is needed. Once you find these conversations, be a resource. Don’t sell. Provide helpful answers and solutions. This helpful energy will attract more followers and website visitors.
- Blow them away with images. Nothing captures attention like great imagery. Be a brand known for providing beautiful image content. This will earn likes and the attention you need to start conversations.
- Be of service. If you make a commitment to respond to questions and concerns on social media, you’ll show the real human side of your online brand. This attention to real people goes miles. Remember, marketing is about touches. These initial first touches are key to building long-term customer relationships.
The Paid Search parameters are also important. If you’re maintaining an AdWords campaign, you clearly want to know how effective it is. If you’re not happy with the results, you’ll need to work on the paid search ads and make them more attractive for your target audience.
3. Likes, Shares, and Comments on Popular Content
When you analyze the analytics, you’ll notice that some of your pages are more popular than others. That’s usually the case with trending news or evergreen content. That’s an indicator that tells you what your target audience wants to see.
If, for example, you notice that infographics are getting more likes and shares than listicles, then you should gravitate towards that type of content for future publications.
You can keep refreshing and promoting the most popular content as long as it is relevant. Use social media to remind your users how much they liked a previous post.
Another smart trick is including a special section on your website for content that’s currently popular among your audience. Visitors love it when they don’t have to use the search bar to find trending information.
4. Bouncing Off After Seeing Pop-Ups
Yes, pop-ups make your promotions immediately visible to your visitors, and they allow you to present a clear call to action. For example, you can ask for subscriptions or invite the visitors to check out your latest publication. Pop-ups are also great for featuring paid ads on your website. You can certainly charge more for an ad that all visitors are going to see as soon as they land at your site.
Despite all those benefits of pop-up windows, you need to realize something once and for all: they are extremely annoying. You’ve certainly heard of that bet365 pop-up that appears on random pages. It’s a sign that the user’s computer has been infected with a potentially unwanted program, so it makes everyone paranoid, just like all other pop-ups do.
Even clean, appealing pop-ups won’t achieve good results. For example, let’s say your Facebook followers like a post you share and they click on the link to visit your site. Then, they see a pop-up that asks them to subscribe, or they have to watch an ad before accessing the post itself.
That’s a nice way to lead the users to behavior you don’t like: leaving the website. Statistics show that the first reason a user would block a website from a search is “too many ads”.
Pop-ups can be effective if you present a nice offer, such as “subscribe to get a free eBook.” However, you have to make sure not to use them for presenting annoying ads and useless calls to actions to your visitors.
Pay attention to the bounce rates. If they got higher after you started using pop-ups, you should take that behavior as a clear sign that your users don’t like heavy marketing. If that’s the case, then you should allow them to find what they are looking for without disturbing them with flashy ads and calls to action.
Here’s a pro tip: Use annotations in Google Analytics. If you don’t remember when you first started using pop-ups, turn them off for a week. Make an annotation in Google Analytics to indicate the day the pop-ups where turned off. When you decide to switch them on again, make another annotation to indicate when they went live. Wait a couple of weeks and review your bounce rates before and after your pop-up campaign. Did your bounce rate increase or decrease? Did your pop-up conversion rates increase or decrease? Weigh the value of the pop-ups based on this analysis to see if they are effective for your overall marketing strategy.
Remember: it takes a lot of work to make a website successful. When you learn how to analyze and understand the behavior of its visitors, you’ll identify the strength and weakness of the website and the overall promotional strategy. As a result, you’ll make it much better and you’ll keep attracting more users on a permanent basis.
About the Author: Stephanie Norman from Sydney has been a contributing blogger and professional writer for 4 years already. She writes creative content covering online marketing, writing, and inspirational issues. Also, sometimes she provides editing services as a freelancer for Australian Writings, a company that offers assignment help for students. You can follow her at Facebook and Google+. You can follow her on Facebook and Google+.