Flow Visualizations in GA: Bringing Sexy back to Web Analytics

October 19, 2011

Google Analytics is an amazing platform – and the new version has been piling on the sexy features – new interface, word clouds, multi-channel funnels, real-time, premium, and now this… goal flow visualizations.

If you’ve used Google Analytics’ features for Goals and Funnels, or for Navigational Analysis, you’ve probably been left asking lots of questions about how people come to your site and move through it.  Historically, GA has been pretty poor at doing this.  Navigational Analysis reports only show previous/next page paths, Goal Funnels show a linear funnel but don’t allow you to see segment or inbound traffic source information.

Other vendors have their own flavors of tools/methods to analyze navigation paths.  However, these tools focus on content navigation – i.e. “from page A people went to B, C, D, etc…, then from B they went to X, Y, Z, etc…”  While these reports are pretty to look at and look great in a demo from the big expensive web analytics vendor, in reality they’re rather useless because in real-life, content paths fragment to be nearly unique to the visitor after just a few steps.

However, this new feature in Google Analytics addresses the previous shortcomings of its own features and takes on the competition by improving on their weaknesses too!

What the New Visualization Tools Contain

The new flow visualization tools contain three primary features:

  1. Visits flow – look at how visits, sliced by various dimensions, flow through your website
  2. Navigation flow – set any page of group of pages to be a focal point and see how traffic flows in to and out from the page(s)
  3. Goal flow – for any Goal established in your profile, visualize the flow to that goal from a beginning dimension such as Keyword, Medium, Geography, Browser, etc… through steps defined and to the goal.

The Old Goal Funnels vs. New Goal Visualization

First, the old funnel report was quite limited.  If we look at the new goal flow visualization report in Google Analytics it shows us the same thing as the Funnel report, only much better!  Here are two screenshots comparing old vs. new.

Old Goal Funnel

The new Goal Flow does what the Funnel did, but so much more!


New Goal Flow


Example: Goal Flow Analysis by Browser Types

Here’s a favorite diagnosis example using the new Goal Flow tool.

Q: Is you checkout funnel a problem for certain browsers?

A: Run a Goal Flow Visualization looking at Browser as the dimension on focus and analyze the visual and data table.

Case: As you can see in the screenshot below, there is a problem with Chrome.  The abyss where people get lost appears to be between the Start Checkout step and the Complete Checkout step.

Goal flow visualization analyzing browser conversion

Here’s another screenshot using the Navigation Flow analysis to look at where Chrome users are going after the Start Checkout.  Using this tool we can further diagnose where we lose the Chrome visitors in the tracking process.

Navigation flow to look at abandonment paths for segmented data (visits from chrome users)


How to use Goal Flow Visualizations

There are so many ways to use this new tool that showing each would make this the world’s longest blog post.  So, for the sake of brevity, here are a few quick ideas.

  • Basic Goal Funnel Visualization
  • Analyzing Traffic Sources to your site and the flow through content from landing pages
  • Analyzing the Impact of Technology (Browser, OS, Screen Resolution) on flow through your site
  • Analyzing conversion and goal flow by Landing Page
  • Flow by Geography
  • Branded vs. Non-Branded Keywords and how users flow through your site


When Can You Get It?

The new flow visualization features will be rolling out to all Google Analytics users over the coming weeks, so stay glued to your GA home screen to see the change come to your account!  If you just can’t wait see below for an alternative option.

See It in Action

We will be hosting a series of webinars about this and other new features in Google Analytics.  If you would like to participate, simply fill out the form below to get an invitation for these events.