The Visitors Flow report in Google Analytics gives a great visualization of what users are doing on your site.  Since we PPC’ers are paying for our traffic, it is imperative that we have maximum clarity into their behavior.  You can investigate your sweet, sweet traffic using all sorts of lenses, and you can use the information that you find in all sorts of ways in this awesome report.

It’s humbly housed under the Audience tab within Analytics, and it boasts a pretty sweet look that is bound to hold your attention.  You can follow the arrows on this report to see how people move through your site on the glorious road to conversion.

visitors flow navigation in google analytics

example visitors flow report

Start by picking your desired dimension, and then watch all of the different ways that those users are moving through your site.  The number of dimensions that are available to you is staggering (I mean, cable provider?  That’s crazy.  And I know it’s available elsewhere in Analytics, too, but there are still moments where you have to stop and appreciate just how cool Analytics is).

When it comes to analyzing your traffic, there are a few dimensions that I favor when looking though my Visitor Flow Reports:

Medium – How do your different channels differ?

Source – Do Bing users have peculiarities in their browsing patterns that differ from organic visitors?

Source / Medium – The visitors flow report got chocolate in my peanut butter!  (In case you missed the reference, this is just two good things combined into one.)

Traffic Type – Comparing organic to paid to direct is a worthwhile thing.

Browser – It’s good to get a reminder that there are still people out there using Internet Explorer.  It helps to keep perspective.  There can be real differences in usage across browsers, though, so keep an eye out.

Screen Resolution – This can let you know just how people see your site (especially if you use this report in conjunction with cool tools that show you your site at different resolutions.  How do those changes in layout affect user behavior?

So with all of those different options (including the numerous and plentiful dimensions that didn’t receive a highly-coveted shout out on PPC Hero) there’s way more information than can be processed in this report.  I fully recognize that.  Luckily, Analytics gives us a number of ways to further segment this information to construct something useful (i.e. not distractingly mind boggling) when it comes to directing our paid search traffic to different places on our site or even designing our site at all.

How shall we segment?  What a great question, THE INTERNET.  I’m so glad you asked.

Analytics is kind enough to give us all sorts of segments to take a look at.  Some of the ones that I find particularly useful from their default segments are Paid Search Traffic (how could any PPC Hero not list this first?), Visits with Conversions, Mobile Traffic, and Tablet and Desktop Traffic (as they are now one and the same {depending on whom you ask, of course}).  Once you select one of these segments, your flow report will contain only the visitors that you’re thinking about at that moment.

Beyond that, you can also create custom segments.  Having been in high school during the halcyon early days of Pimp My Ride, I am needless to say a big fan of customization.  In particular, I am a big believer in all paid search traffic not being the same.

If you’re looking at the visitor flow for paid search, there’s a strong possibility that your branded traffic may be doing a lot of good stuff.  So much good stuff, in fact, that it could be muddling (or the Muddler-ing) the results that you are really and truly curious to see – non-branded search.  Custom segment out those two types of users and see how their behavior differs on the site.  How do people interact that already know you (and possibly already know your site)?  If only we could build a custom segment for branded, returning traffic and compare that to branded, new traffic.  OH WAIT WE CAN. It’s Google Analytics and it’s amazing.

Think about how your PPC account is structured and create custom segments to capitalize on it.   You may be running a landing page test that improved your conversion rate.  Cool.  But how did that test affect the way traffic actually moves on your site?  Compare the Visitor Flow report before and after the change.  Which pages were visited less frequently?  More frequently?  Identify which pages are part of a successful visit and try to get more traffic to those pages.  Maybe you can identify new landing pages that you hadn’t considered before.

There is so much information that you can get from the visitor flow report.  So much.  But here are a couple of useful functions built right into it that you can use to make it even clearer.

Highlight Traffic

Click on any of the nodes in your report (yes, these are referred to as “nodes,” which I find enjoyable) and choose the option to “Highlight traffic through here.”

highlighted traffic in visitors flow report

Explore Traffic

You can also go super in-depth on certain pages and select “Explore traffic through here,” which will show you the steps leading up to that page and the steps leading away from that page.

exploring traffic in visitors flow report

Add Extra Steps

You can also go as deep down into the rabbit hole of this report as your data will let you by adding additional steps to the right of your existing steps.  You can use the buttons next to the home icon to navigate and follow your traffic all the way until its conclusion.

adding steps to visitors flow report

Get familiar with this report and its many options.   Decide just how Frida Kahlo-y you want to get with your Level of Detail. You can go really crazy and see all sorts of squiggly lines on your report should you choose to do so.

level of detail in visitors flow report

There are tons of options available to you on the Visitors Flow report – it’s all about using them to ask the right questions to make your PPC campaigns better.