How to Track User Behavior on a Website Using CRO Tools

by Neil Patel

Last updated on September 6th, 2018

how-track-user-behaviour

You have the ability to compile more data than you could ever need about your website visitors using conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools. But why should you care about user behavior?

After all, CRO is just about maximizing clicks, conversions, and sales, right? Why should it matter what happens in between those actions?

I’m here to tell you that it matters — a lot.

User behavior gives you insight into how your website visitors act, think, and make decisions. While they’re contemplating a decision — for instance, about whether or not to sign up for your email newsletter — you need to know how they’re behaving. And that’s where CRO tools come in.

If you don’t know that a particular blog post garners tons of engagement and contributes to a high percentage of your conversions, you can’t optimize that post to make it even more effective. The same goes for every other element on your website.

That’s a shame. Lots of business owners are missing out on incredible data and insights, but I don’t want that to happen to you. Here’s how to stay ahead of the competition by tracking user behavior.

What Is User Behavior?

User behavior refers to the activities in which website visitors engage after they land on your site. It can involve clicks, scrolling down pages, reading blog posts, taking quizzes, and more.

Think of your website as a brick-and-mortar store. You launch your website, which opens its doors. Customers can come in and out at will.

User behavior tells you how they act once they’re inside. It’d be like tracking customer patterns inside an actual store.

what-is-and-how-track-user-behaviour

In a physical store, you might want to know which end caps prove most effective at moving product, how signage figures into customers’ decisions, and which aisles turn off shoppers. This data would help you rearrange your store for maximum sales.

Your website works the same way. With the right CRO tools, you can understand the user behavior of all your website visitors so you can optimize each page for a desired action.

User behavior and psychology go hand in hand. People behave based on what motivates or resonates with them.

Take a call-to-action phrase, for instance. Changing just one or two words can impact user behavior based on how your visitors perceive that phrase.

how-track-user-behaviour-call-to-action

Check out the two CTAs above. If you A/B test the two, user behavior might mark one as the clear winner.

For instance, if “Join Today” prevails, you might surmise that the word “join” has a more positive psychological effect on your audience because it suggests inclusivity and a welcoming atmosphere.

It’s not just about the clicks, though. What if your user behavior tests reveal that visitors think something is a link, but it’s not actually hyperlinked. Your visitors are getting frustrated because they click on an image or a phrase, but nothing happens.

You can use that information to optimize your website for a better user experience.

The Importance of Tracking User Behavior on Your Website

You’ve heard of the Pareto principle, right? It states that 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your efforts.

how-track-user-behaviour-pareto-principle

Viewed another way, it also suggests that you need to optimize your site for 80 percent of your visitors rather than the 20 percent, which constitute outliers.

User behavior can vary widely among consumers, even when they’re visiting the same website. Consumers have their own preferences and patterns, many of which you can’t predict without solid data.

You can’t optimize for everyone. Your goal should be to please the majority of your visitors.

First, though, you need to know how that majority behaves.

I meet business owners all the time who make off-the-cuff decisions about things like web design, homepage design, landing page design, and more. They’re making assumptions about what their target customers want.

That’s a huge mistake. No matter how well you think you know your target audience, they’re capable of surprising you.

The way to compensate for that fact is to make assumptions — or, more accurately, hypotheses — and then pay attention to user behavior so you can adjust specific website elements based on data.

Ideally, those decisions will come from the vast majority of your visitors. In other words, what do most people do while they’re on your site.

If you know that, you can help nurture your visitors toward a conversion.

How to Track User Behavior on a Website Using CRO Tools

user-behavior-cro-tool

I once hypothesized that I could skyrocket my rankings and improve conversions by writing these long, extremely detailed articles. We’re talking about 30,000-word monstrosities.

They cost a lot of money, too. I not only wrote them, but had them illustrated. They were beautiful, but after several months, I realized my hypothesis was wrong.

First, the people reading those articles weren’t necessarily my target customers. They were brand new business owners without much cash, so they weren’t in the market to hire my marketing agency.

Second, most people don’t have time to read a book-length article in one sitting. To consume these articles, visitors would have to bookmark the pages, remember where they stopped, and come back later.

Finally, while my rankings might have improved somewhat, I already had good presence in the Google SERPs. Writing those huge articles didn’t have a noticeable impact on my customers’ ability to find me online.

However, I wouldn’t know all that if it weren’t for user behavior testing. I might have continued to pump out those huge articles, spending tens of thousands of dollars on a project that wouldn’t yield commensurate results.

So how do you track user behavior? And what do you do with the information you collect?

Watch how users engage with your site

User behavior reports are key to understanding what people do when they arrive on your site. It doesn’t matter what pages they visit or whether they’re new or returning visitors. How do they behave?

Set user behavior reports to run for a couple months. Pay careful attention to clicking, scrolling, and form engagement.

You’ll also want to check referral sources. Where does the majority of your traffic come from?

For instance, maybe you get 70 percent of your traffic from Facebook posts. What does this tell you? It’s time to put more energy into Facebook.

Consider boosting posts, running Facebook Ads, and initiating contests or giveaways. When engagement improves on Facebook, your posts find their way to more people organically.

But don’t jump the gun. Wait until you’ve collected a solid chunk of data before you make any decisions. You’re anxious to optimize your site, but getting ahead of yourself will only slow down the process. Leave your site alone until you have enough data to act upon.

Find out why users leave your website

Analyze all the data you collect

Once you have solid data, examine it to figure out how obstacles might influence user behavior in negative ways.

For instance, do visitors stop scrolling early on your blog pages? Have you noticed that visitors from a specific source, such as social, spend less time on your site than visitors from other referring sources?

Write down your observations and what the data says. Don’t draw conclusions yet — you have to test your hypotheses to see how they pan out — but make educated guesses based on the user behavior reports in front of you.

A possible list might look like this:

  • Conflicting CTAs on the homepage get approximately equal clicks.
  • Many people click on the author photo, which isn’t linked.
  • More people click on blog headlines than on the CTAs.

Once you have those observations, you can do something about them.

Set specific, attainable goals

Your goals have to align with past performance. If, for instance, you’ve only been getting 10 conversions per week, you wouldn’t want to set a goal of 1,000 conversions next week based on a few tweaks.

Decide what goals you want to pursue first, such as email conversions or sales, so you can align your strategy with them. That will impact the metrics you’ll track as you proceed, which I’ll get into below.

Choose what elements you should test

Let’s look at our short list of observations above. Based on what the data told us, we can make a few changes on the website to help guide user behavior more effectively through the site. As a reminder, here they are:

  • Conflicting CTAs on the homepage get approximately equal clicks.
  • Many people click on the author photo, which isn’t linked.
  • More people click on blog headlines than on the CTAs.Based on these observations, we can create tests to see how variations on the original might perform better among website visitors:
  • Remove one CTA to focus the visitors’ attention on the most ideal next step.
  • Link the author photo to the author biography page.
  • Increase the size of the CTA on the blog (such as in the sidebar) to attract attention.

Once you’ve created your variation, you’re ready to test them against one another.

Start A/B testing right now

Define the main metrics that matter for your goals

The metrics you decide to track should be directly impacted by your goals. For instance, let’s say you want to increase conversions by 10 percent by a certain date. You might want to track bounce rate, time on page, overall traffic numbers, and traffic referral sources.

When you’re hoping to increase email conversions, you don’t need to worry about metrics like revenue, profit, or customer lifetime value. They’re not relevant to your current goal.

Other metrics to track could include conversion rate by source and top pages. You’ll find this information in Google Search Console. Top pages are your best-performing pages, so you’ll want to optimize them for conversions. Plus, if you know which referral sources give you the highest conversion rates, you can focus on them more heavily.

Set up your A/B tests

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Once you’ve set up your campaign, from data analysis and goal setting to setting up variations and defining key metrics, set up A/B tests for the pages you want to test. For instance, you might test an alternate CTA on your blog pages to see if it helps boost clicks.

Start Improving User Behavior Patterns Through Educated Changes With Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg gives you the tools necessary to understand how your users behave on your site and to test variations on pages that might help increase conversions, sales, and other KPIs.

Use our tools to see exactly where your visitors click, scroll, and otherwise engage with your site. That way, you’re not making decisions based on guesswork.

Recordings

You’ll love recordings because of their depth of information. They allow you to look over your visitors’ virtual shoulders and watch how they interact with specific pages on your site.

how-track-user-behaviour-recordings

Using this information, you can determine whether you’ve designed the page for maximum flow and purpose. If people are engaging with every element except the CTA, for instance, you might need to make the CTA bigger, bolder, or more attractive.

Heatmaps

You can use Crazy Egg to generate several types of heatmaps, each of which communicates information in a slightly different way. The traditional heatmap uses color temperature on the page to show you where visitors engage the most.

The other user behavior reports can give you information about scrolling, referral sources, percentage breakdown of clicks, and more.

A/B Testing

Keep in mind that user behavior reports need to come before A/B testing. While you can run A/B tests whenever you want, you’ll enjoy more success if you base each variation on data collected from heatmaps and other user behavior reports.

Run A/B tests for continuous optimization. When one test ends, begin another. Only test one element at a time so you know exactly how that element impacts your KPIs.

Conclusion

user-behavior

Does user behavior matter? Absolutely. But you can’t understand user behavior without the right tools.

CRO tools are different because they’re focused on collecting information about your website visitors with the specific goal of increasing conversions. It doesn’t matter if you want visitors to convert on a lead magnet or a product for sale. You need to know how people behave on your site.

I’ve mentioned many times before that user experience matters more than just about anything else when it comes to conversions. If consumers don’t enjoy their time on your site — and if they don’t find what they want or need — they’ll leave.

It’s as simple as that.

But you have control over whether that happens. Designing a better user experience depends on your willingness and ability to monitor user behavior and make changes based on the data you collect.

How do you start? Begin with user behavior reports. Heat maps, scroll maps, confetti reports, list reports, and others can help you pinpoint how traffic moves through your site and what consumers do when they land on a particular page.

Set up recordings, too. Get a look at how people engage with elements on a specific page. Where do they click? Do they come back to the same element multiple times? What’s the end result?

Once you have this data in your back pocket, there’s no stopping you.

Start using the best tools now!

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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.

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Really easy to understand the user behavior with the new @CrazyEgg reports! @qubitTV #UX #prodmgmt

Francisco Mingote

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What makes people leave your website?