Take A Walk Down The Conversion Path With Google Analytics

By Rachael Law | @Law_Rachael | Account Analyst at Hanapin Marketing

Google AdWords attributes each conversion back to the campaign that was last clicked before conversion. Even though you see that a conversion has occurred, you don’t get the whole story. It’s like reading the last page of a novel. You get the end result, but miss all the fun stuff in between the beginning and the end.


This post will go through different uses for the Top Conversion Paths report and the dimensions available in it. Key questions are listed with each dimension, to help you pull some insights out of the report and optimize your account.


Channel Grouping Paths


This report can be found in Google Analytics by navigating to “Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths.” Analytics buckets traffic sources into Paid, Organic, Direct, Email, Display, Social, and so on.


Image of channel grouping paths


Take note that AdWords reports conversions attributed to the last AdWords click, even if the user went to the site directly or organically right before converting. For example, a user may search for “red widgets” and click an ad. That user explores the site and then leaves. Two days later the user types in the URL and makes a purchase. AdWords attributes this conversion to the keyword “red widgets” while Analytics gives credit to direct traffic. This means that whatever information you see here doesn’t necessarily impact the accuracy of your data in AdWords.


Important Questions


  • Does your PPC traffic convert immediately, or come back through another channel?
  • How many conversions began with a paid search query?


Campaign Paths


While you are able to see click assisted conversions in the AdWords interface, you are not able to see all other channels that lead to the eventual conversion. Here you are able to specifically see the path each user took that lead to a conversion to gain some insights.


Important Questions


  • Are your non-branded campaigns leading to branded conversions later?
  • What campaigns (if any) are users interacting with before converting through remarketing?


Search Query Paths


If you have structured your campaigns to capture each step in the purchase / lead funnel, this report is for you. By looking at this report you can be sure that queries are getting funneled to the right place. Additionally, it might give you some ideas for keyword expansion.


Image of search query paths


In this example, we see that this user began their conversion journey with a very generic search about how consignment stores work, and then moved down the funnel to eventually make a purchase. If this behavior frequently occurs, we might consider adding a top of funnel campaign targeting users who are new to the consignment world.


Important Questions


  • How are users moving through the search funnel?
  • Do conversion paths start with generic top of funnel searches, and then progress to more specific or branded searches?
  • How can you expand your keywords to capture different funnel stages?


Landing Page URL Path


Say you’re interested in how users are reacting to your landing pages. There are many reports within Analytics that will help you answer your questions (particularly the behavior flow report), but this report might be of interest.


Image of landing page URL path


Important Questions


  • Are your PPC landing pages driving users to convert right away, or are they more likely to convert after visiting additional pages?
  • What kind of impression is your landing page giving?


Conversion Segments


Conversion segments are the (not so) secret weapon to getting the most out of the Top Conversion Paths report.


Conversion Segments


Analytics comes with pre-made default segments, but creating your own gives you much more flexibility.


In the example below, selecting this segment would only show conversion paths that began with a non-branded Google CPC click (provided that your branded campaigns have the word Brand in the name).


Image of segments


Another handy way to segment conversion paths is to use the following.


Image of in-depth conversion segment


Each of these custom segments filters for conversions that PPC or Display had a hand in, but the final interaction was organic or direct. In this particular example, a substantial amount of revenue comes from direct.


If you suspect that your search campaigns are having an effect on your Shopping campaigns, a custom conversion segment can show you exactly how many transactions began with a search ad, then ended (or was assisted by) a Shopping ad. This is important, because it provides the Account Manger with a better understanding of how different parts of the account impact each other.


Notes To Keep In Mind


Path Length


By default, Analytics only displays conversions with a path length of two interactions or more. You can change this to display all, or specify another path length that you want to dig into.


Image of path length


Secondary Dimensions


While these reports are useful enough on their own, adding a secondary dimension adds a lot of value. This allows you to combine data from multiple types of reports described above.


Users with Multiple Conversions


According to Google, each transaction or conversion is reported in a separate path. Unfortunately, things get a little murky when you start to think about users who may make more than one purchase.


Closing Thoughts


The Top Conversion Paths report is a powerful tool in understanding the part that PPC plays in your overall marketing strategy. You can also use these reports to gain valuable insight into user behavior and how the average consumer interacts with your brand before converting. This is also a great opportunity to communicate to your client the importance of PPC, especially in instances where the client isn’t on board with bidding on branded terms.