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.
Today, we’d like to highlight two reports within the Google Analytics platform that are not often used, yet can be highly beneficial for understanding even more about how your visitors consume, digest, and engage with your website.
These two reports are called Navigation Summary and Entrance Paths.
Navigation Summary in Google Analytics is a clean way to view, for any individual page, which pages visitors came from and which pages visitors went to next. It’s a three-page path analysis: the previous page, the selected page, and the next page.
In the new Google Analytics platform, Navigation Summary is bolted on to the Site Content >> Pages report as a tab (This report is found within the Content section of the left-hand navigation menu).
Here’s how this report works. When you click on the Navigation Summary tab within the Site Content >> Pages report, you’ll see two distinct tables below the trending graph. This screen-shot is the left-hand side of that report:
The Current Selection is by default your website’s homepage, but you can change the current selection by clicking on it and choosing any page that you want to use Navigation Summary for. For any selected page, you get to see the percentage of direct entrances to the page, and the percentage of previous pages (for your home page, don’t be surprised if you see direct entrances at 75% or more).
There are no previous pages on your site for any visitor who landed on your current selected page (because, it’s the first page of their visit to your website), but for all other visits, you see a list of the top ten previous pages where visitors were immediately, before your current selected page. This list in under the heading of Previous Page Path in the above screen-shot. You will see (entrances) in parenthesis, and then any previous page with the percentage of page views off of each previous page.
Clicking on any previous page will make that page the currently selected one (for fast analysis), and you can search for previously viewed pages beyond the top ten with a convenient search box as shown at the bottom of the above screen-shot.
On the right-hand side of the report, you see the percentage of exits from your selected page, and a listing of the top ten next pages that visitors went to directly after viewing your currently selected page. You’ll see a listing of next pages and the percentage of page views to each next page:
The data that Navigation Summary uses is based on your date-range, which you can change as you can for any report. You can also apply Advanced Segments to view this data for certain subsets of traffic (for example, all organic traffic from Google, or all traffic from your Email marketing newsletter).
Entrance Paths is somewhat similar to Navigation Summary, but it works differently and shows different data.
Entrance Paths is a tab found within the Site Content >> Landing Pages report in the same Content section off the left-hand navigation menu. Entrance Paths shows any Landing Page (entry point into your website), the next page that someone viewed (like Navigation Summary), and the page that visitors exited the site from (the last page in visitor’s sessions).
Here is the left-hand side of the Entrance Paths report:
On the Entrance Paths report, when you click on any Next Page (under the column of Second Page in the table shown in the above screen-shot), you will see the Exit Page (the last page) that visitors viewed for the selected second page, as shown in the below screen-shot:
Date-range modifications, Advanced Segments, and in-report searches are also available with Entrance Paths.
We are calling Navigation Summary and Entrance Paths “Hidden Gems” because they are seldom used reports. They’re also not available off of the left-hand navigation menu directly, which somewhat hides them from view.
These reports can be excellent in giving you insight into how visitors are using your website pages. Navigation Summary can show you if your website’s visitors are following the paths that you’re looking for them to take to ultimately complete a desired action. Entrance Paths can give you insight into how your marketing landing pages are performing, and the effectiveness of how each entry point into your website is behaving as a conduit for where you’d like your visitors to ultimately wind up.
And remember, each report can be segmented and modified by a date-range, so you can zero-in on any traffic segment for deep visitor analysis.
Start using Navigation Summary and Entrance Paths in Google Analytics to enhance your website visitor knowledge!
Cleaning house and purging old items is very hard to do. Shirts that you haven’t worn in years are tough to throw away, and the new pair of skis that you bought ten years ago and used only once are seemingly impossible to get rid of. But your wife or husband eventually talks you in to doing it, because you know it’s for the greater good, and you’ll have more free space (for more old t-shirts!).
As great as Google Analytics is, there are some reports and features within the interface that just take up space. They are hardly ever used and they cause more confusion than anything.
As much as it pains me to say this, Google needs to purge some reports from Google Analytics. There are cobwebs forming and a thick layer of dust is collecting on top of these reports, and it’s time to donate them to those in need. This will make Google Analytics even more awesome than it already is (yes, it’s possible to make it more awesome).
Hey Google! I think that you should get rid of these five reports:
1. Top Exit Pages. This report shows the pages where visitors leave your site. I can’t remember the last time I’ve looked at this report other than to tell someone that they shouldn’t use this report. Think about it: your web site’s visitors must leave your site at some point in time – they can’t stay on your site 24/7. Eventually, they will have to exit the site, and since most traffic you get is usually on your home page, a logical deduction is that most traffic will leave from your home page. What actions or insights can you take from this report? Struggling to answer? That’s a good sign that this report isn’t so valuable anymore.
2. Service Providers. In the visitors report section, there are a few reports that could be eliminated today and it wouldn’t affect me one bit. One of those is the service providers report, within the network properties sub-section. Do we really need to know which internet service providers (ISP) visitors are using to access your site? Is there some change that you can make on your site if your AT&T service provider traffic has a slightly higher bounce rate than your Comcast cable service provider traffic? I don’t think so.
3. Goal Abandoned Funnels. The metric is useful, but the report is not so much. This report is a simple histogram which doesn’t add any additional insight beyond the metric itself. This metric could simply be available on the goals overview report, or available as a metric option in the trending graph. Since we’re cleaning house, this report can get swept away.
4. Navigation Summary. The sheer volume of confusion behind how this report works is a big reason for my request to have this report removed from the interface. I’m by no means advocating the removal of anything difficult or not 100% crystal clear, but this report has a few long-standing issues that severely limit its functionality. Therefore, do we really need it? Would your analysis life be any different if it wasn’t around? Probably not. If you use it as an important piece of your reporting, well, let’s talk it over :).
5. Site Overlay. By far, this is the one that pains me the most to want to get rid of. I love the site overlay report concept, but I don’t love the site overlay report functionality. Like navigation summary, there are long-standing issues with it and it doesn’t seem to clearly work in a web 2.0 world. Again, I ask myself if this report ceased to exist, how hard it would affect me? The answer is that it would barely scratch my surface, so there you go.
There you have it – five reports that could be removed to spruce up the place, remove clutter, and not affect your phenomenal daily Google Analytics life.