Using Website Metrics to Find Functionality Problems
Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
- Are my top landing pages (found under Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages) directing traffic to my target site pages?
- If my top page is a surprise (like a blog post that went viral-ish), how can I improve it to direct traffic to my key pages?
- Am I linking to my key site pages prominently in my other content to move them up this list?
Average Time on Page
Go through your top pages and your key pages individually and evaluate how much time people are taking on each one. Are they spending just seconds on pages with lots of content? Are they spending far too long on pages simply meant to direct them to their end goal?
Average Time on Page numbers that don't add up indicate problems with user experience, especially unclear navigation and poor formatting. Visit these page and put yourself in the visitors' shoes. What can you do to make their experiences more intuitive?
The Entrances metric is the number of times visitors entered your site through a specific page. Pages with high Entrance rates are great opportunities to review and optimize layout, formatting, calls to action, and other elements that impact conversions.
It's also a good idea to review pages with high entrance rates to make sure that new visitors are getting the right impression of your brand. If it isn't clear to them who you are and what you do, they're less likely to convert to another page.
Google Analytics defines bounce rate this way:
A bounce is a single-page session on your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.
Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server. These single-page sessions have a session duration of 0 seconds since there are no subsequent hits after the first one that would let Analytics calculate the length of the session.
Bounce rate isn't always bad, and it can mean a bunch of different things. Some pages will naturally have a high bounce rate, while you should be concerned if others do (like your home page).
It's important to pair bounce rate with Average Time on Page*, because since bounces only ping the analytics server once, they don't record a session duration. Average time on page (calculated from page views that are not bounces) can help you understand how long most people are spending on the page and therefore whether the page is accomplishing its goals.
*Note that Google adjusts the "Average Time on Page" metric to account for its inability to track time on bounces and exit pages. The Average Session Duration metric is not adjusted, and will be more heavily affected by high bounce rates and high exit rates (source).
Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages
The Exit Pages report tells you what volume and percentag of people leave your website from each page. There are two important pieces of information to be gleaned from these metrics:
- Pages that shouldn't have high exit rates, but do
- Pages that are good opportunity to capture leads before they leave
People are going to leave your website eventually, so exit pages are unavoidable. However, some pages—like your home page—are designed to direct users to other material, and for them, a high % exit is worrisome. Look at how you might improve the page to better direct users to relevant content.
For pages that are more understandable exit points, look at how you might capture leads or direct people to key content before the opportunity is lost. If you hesitate to add an exit modal to your site as a whole, you could consider doing one only on these pages to get the most value with the least-invasive use case.
Behavior > Site Speed
You probably know that how quickly your website loads is important, but you may not have known that Google Analytics offers incredibly granular information by page, device, browser, and different types of content.
Is your site performing notably worse in a certain browser? Which pages take the longest time to load, and what can you do to fix that? Under Behavior > Site Speed > Speed Suggestions you can even find—wait for it—suggestions for improvement.
Behavior > Site Search
If your site includes (as nearly every site should), the search data is a great way to identify which pages your visitors are having trouble finding. On our site, for example, searches for "SEO tips" and "how to come up with blog ideas" are natural, but searches for "contact" or "address" would be a real warning sign. You can also use the Site Search report to explore which pages people are on when they search.
Audience > Overview
This is a great place to check in with metrics like Pages per Session and Average Session Duration, though you can dig deeper into both elswhere in the Audience section. Are visitors converting to other pages? Are they spending time on your site? Looking at these metrics at the page level can help you judge how well your content fits the buyer's journey.
Audience > Technology > Browser & OS
With this report, you can compare bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration across a range of different browswers, as well as a number of goal metrics if you have conversion tracking set up. Once again, take note of and learn from any outliers.
Audience > Mobile
Under the Overview tab of the Audience > Mobile section, you can easily keep track of the devices that most of your visitors are using, as well as the breakdown of new and returning sessions on each. For example, if mobile devices have the highest % New Sessions, make sure to review your mobile UX so that you're delivering a strong first impression.
You'll also want to check out your bounce rates and session duration on different devices, though it's important to interpret those metrics in context. Depending on the nature of your business, people may be using their phones to find information quickly (e.g. looking up your address or hours) and thus a higher bounce rate and lower session duration may not necessarily be a problem. If you're a fully online business, however, it might indicate an issue.
If you have radically different numbers on individual devices, especially if you get a lot of traffic from that device, you may want to explore why—perhaps your supposedly responsive site is performing poorly at a smaller size, or an interface element like a button or *shudder* shopping cart icon is disappearing or resizing strangely.
Audience > Benchmarking
Depending on the nature of your business, comparing your performance to other sites in your category can help you see where you're falling behind and where you're thriving. Then, visit competitors and look for what is causing them to earn different results in those metrics.
Audience > Users Flow
This section may be short, but user flow is one of the most valuable tools in Google Analytics. User flow is a visualization of how traffic arrives at and passes through your site, including what percentage of people take each action at each stage.
Under a drop-down menu at the top of the diagram, you can sort for a wide range of different segments to help you narrow behavior to a specific group. You can also reach essentially the same functionality through Behavior > Behavior Flow if you prefer.
Audience > User Explorer
Once you've reviewed all these other metrics, you may feel a little overwhelmed by a range of competing statistics. That's why I love User Explorer so much—it allows you to look at the behavior of individual users, identified by anonymous user IDs.
You can see the original aquisition date and channel, their return visits and what pages they viewed during each session, how long they were on them, where they went next, what device they were using, and more.
Individually, each experience is anecdotal, but they can add context to the other metrics you're looking at and help you understand problems with your UX through the eyes of a real person.
If you see a bunch of single-page sessions with durations of 00:00, don't worry—that's because Google Analytics can't track the time on page for exit pages and bounces, like we discussed above.