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Katelyn Staaben

Senior Digital Marketing Strategist

Katelyn is a social media strategist and digital marketer with a background in developing strategy for B2B organizations. Certified in conversion writing through Conversion XL and Google Analytics, she supports the Northwoods digital marketing and account teams by contributing ideas to web design projects, social media, SEO, digital strategy consulting, and content management implementation.

5 Ways to Learn How Users Navigate Your Website

December 22, 2021 | Katelyn Staaben, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist

5 Minute Read

Do users interact with your website as you intended? If they don’t, can they still find what they seek? What links prompt them to click? Do they see your calls to action?

Data is at hand to help answer these key questions about what visitors actually do on your site. Here are five methods for gathering that data.

Method One: Behavior Flow Report

The simplest high-level way to see how users interact with your website is through the Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics. Find it under the Behavior tab in GA.

This report shows the paths users took as they traversed a website. It shows the page locations of first interactions, where users go from there, and where they exit the site.

A screen shot of a behavioral flow report in Google Analytics

This report takes a big first step toward understanding user journeys. It provides a nice high-level viewpoint but doesn’t dive into the details of any one path.

Method Two: Landing Pages & Exit Pages

Also under the GA Behavior tab, you can access additional detail about those key pages where users begin and end their journeys through your site. The Landing Pages and Exit Pages reports reside under Site Content, just below Behavior Flow.

Image showing the Behavior Flow tab in Google Analytics

The Landing Pages report tells you what pages users visited first. Typically, that’s the home page. More importantly, the pages listed below the home page will provide the greatest value.

If you’re running digital advertisements – and they’re working – the landing page for those ads will show up high on the list because the ads are driving visits to your website. A blog that ranks well in organic search might appear in this report, which offers insight into how well that blog attracts traffic.

Study traffic on these pages, user dwell time, and bounce rates to draw a fairly detailed picture of how users interact with this content.

Just as the title indicates, the Exit Pages report tells you about the last pages users visit before leaving your website. Ideally, these pages house your key calls to action. Do you have a contact form that redirects to a thank-you page when someone submits the form? Expect to see that thank-you page high on the exit list. If this isn’t the case – if visitors are bailing from pages early or in the middle of the journey you have mapped for them – you might need to make some adjustments.

Method Three: Navigation Summary

The navigation summary report in Google Analytics shows not only how often users entered or left the site on a given page, but also what pages they came from and where they went next.

The navigation summary isn’t easily accessible from the main menu. Navigate first to the Behavior tab, open the Site Content dropdown, then click to view the All Pages report. On this report, note the link to the Navigation Summary, next to Explorer and above the Pageviews graph.

An image of the Explorer tab and report in Google Analytics

Once in the Navigation Summary, you can enter a date range and a specific page to get more information about how users interacted with that page during that date range. The image below shows data for the home page. The / dropdown next to Current Selection allows you to choose the page path you would like to analyze.

Image of a report that shows entrance traffic on a website

The above report first provides the percentage of traffic that entered the site on that page; in this case, 78.67% entered the site on the home page. It also shows what percentage of traffic came from some other page on the site; in this case, 21.33%. Below that, it breaks down that 21.33% by specific internal pages, listing them most to least visited.

The right column provides the same information for site exits and next pages. It first lists how many users exited the site on this page and how many continued to another page. The table below those two grayed lines lists those next pages, again, most to least.

This report is incredibly revealing about how users interact with a single page. The report tells you a great deal about calls to action, especially. Do visitors click on calls to action where you want and expect them to do so? Are they digging deeper than you intend before clicking, or clicking prematurely and abandoning half-loaded shopping carts because of it? The Navigation Summary will tell you.

Method Four: Heatmaps

Heatmap tools show how users interact with your pages after they navigate to them. (Many heatmap trackers are on the market. We like Hotjar and Clarity.)

Heatmaps represent hot and cold zones on your web pages. Red shows the most user interactions; blue zones show the least. Heatmaps can track many website metrics, but most site owners and analysts focus on highly clicked areas, areas where users concentrate cursor activity, and the depth of user scrolling.

Image of a website heat map

Heatmaps provide context to Google Analytics data. GA reports show you what pages users are visiting, where they’re going next, and how they’re entering and leaving the site, but they can’t tell you what users do when they get to those pages. Heatmaps fill that gap by visually displaying what users click on and where they look before going on to the next page.

Many heatmap tools also record video, so you can see exactly how long users linger in various temperature zones and where they interact most frequently.

Method Five: User Research

Data alone can’t tell you everything. Even after you analyze these GA reports, some user behaviors might seem to make no sense. Why do users click on that blue button versus the red link? Why do users visit this or that page so often? Sort it out and fill the gaps by going to the source: your users.

Survey your key customers. Ask them what they think of your website, what pages they visit most, and why they want to visit your website. Craft specific questions that data raise but fail to answer.

Even anecdotal, informal user input can help. Encourage your sales reps to ask customers a few quick questions about your website. Your customers are stakeholders; insight from them can inform your decisions, strategy and tactics.

Direct user comment combined with interpreted data can tell you what users think they want, what they really need, and what they do at your website. This information can guide you to an improved site that attracts prospects, converts those prospects into new customers, and keeps your current customers satisfied.

If you need help understanding how your users are using and navigating your website, we can help! Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for assistance.