Understanding The Google Analytics Navigation Summary Report

Grant Marlowe - July 19, 2016

The power of Google Analytics comes in its ability to provide insight into many different avenues. From high-level information such as the total monthly sessions, to detailed data like the number of clicks a specific element on the page received between Monday and Wednesday of last week, Google Analytics can do it all.

Questions from many of our clients come in the form of traffic pathing and navigation.

  • “Once visitors arrive on my site and land on the home page, where do they go next?”
  • “We just published our new campaign landing page, where are users navigating to from there?”
  • “Are users exiting the site after completing our registration form or is there somewhere else they are going?”

While there are a few different reports available in Google Analytics that can help answer these types of questions, one of the less commonly used (or perhaps, less commonly known) tools for solving these queries is the Navigation Summary report.

It is possible this report is not utilized as often as some of the other navigation flow reports due to the way you access it. While almost all of the reports you can arrive at in Google Analytics live on the left-hand side reporting side rail, the Navigation Summary report requires you to step through another report first, in order to access it. As a result, this ‘hidden’ report is not used as often as the rest of the standard reports in Google Analytics. To arrive at the Navigation Summary report you:

  1. Expand the Behavior section
  2. Click on Site Content
  3. Step into the All Pages report
  4. Switch tabs from the Explorer tab to the Navigation Summary tab which can be found at about mid-screen right below Segment creation.


Navigation Summary Report - Google Analytics
Compared to some of the other navigational reports such as the Behavior flow report, the Navigation Summary report is a bit more intuitive to operate. For example, rather than viewing the entire user journey for everyone within your date range (which can be slightly overwhelming), the Navigation Summary report drills down to a single URL of your site and the most common paths to and from that URL. So, the first thing you want to do when using this report is to select the page you want to analyze. Let’s say your company just added a new blog article to the site and your manager wants to know not just how many page views the blog article has received, but the previous page a user was on before they arrived on the article, and subsequently, the next page the user visited after the blog article.

Navigation Summary Report - Google Analytics - Page Path

Adjust the currently selected page to match the blog URL you’re looking to examine and let Google Analytics gather the data. The result will be a clean visual presenting a list of the Previous Page Paths sorted by most page views and then on the other side of your screen, the Next Page Path breakdown of exactly which pages users are jumping to next. In addition to the Previous Page and Next Page path tables, the Navigation Summary report also shares the percent of visitors who have entered the site via that URL and how many exit your site from that URL! Leveraging both of these tools, we now have painted a clear picture of the user journey to our blog article.

We can see exactly what percent of traffic views our article by entering the site to the blog article page, as well as any other pages that may have driven the visitor to the blog. We see the percent of visitors who exit the site after landing on the blog page, and the portion of traffic that stays on site. We see the breakdown of pages users travel to, all this insight from a single report!

Navigation Summary Report - Google Analytics - Page Breakdown

For the more advanced Google Analytics users out there, you can also layer on advanced segmentation to this report for even more refined user pathing. For example, we can apply a segment to view only visitors who have arrived to the site via Organic Search and have done so on a mobile device.

When we apply this segment to our Navigation Summary report we can get a better understanding of how our site’s mobile experience is influencing the user journey. Are users coming in from Organic Search on their mobile phones taking a different path than those on tablet and desktop? What are the most common pages this segment of traffic views next after entering the site? This is also a great place to identify any types of UX challenges the site may have.

Navigation Summary Report - Google Analytics - Segment Addition

Using the Navigation Summary report can help to better shed light on the users’ journey, from the percent of entrances via a certain page, to where the majority of traffic goes after viewing your recent blog article. This report is great for getting a clean, concise read on how your visitors are navigating through the different pages of your website.

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