- Consider which metrics to test before you create your experiment
- Use your analytics data to supplement results data
- View important analytics by industry
Mature optimization programs use analytics data to focus their testing and personalization efforts on key opportunities to make an impact.
Behavioral web analytics help you tell a story about your visitors. They show you where to optimize and provide insights that help you ask the right questions about visitors’ experience on your site. Pair web analytics with indirect data such as industry research to generate optimization ideas that generate value for your business.
This article highlights a few ways to dig into your analytics platform for actionable data. The examples we use are in Google Analytics, but you can apply the same principles in other platforms such as Kissmetrics, SiteCatalyst, and more. Many of these platforms also integrate with Optimizely, so you can connect Optimizely experiment results to your analytics data to build a robust picture of your visitors’ behaviors.
Prefer to watch a video? Here’s a one-hour walkthrough on finding the most impactful areas to optimize on your site presented by Optimizely Strategy Consultant, Hazjier Pourkhalkhali.
Know your customer
When you dig into your analytics data, start by connecting visitors’ experience on your site to your company goals.
Who are your customers? What are their general expectations and desires? How do your business, products, and site experience fit into that vision?
A goal tree can help you connect metrics that matter to your company to the tests and campaigns that your program runs.
Connect important KPIs for your program to key insights about your customers.
Your analytics data can tell you:
- Where are your customers visiting from?
- How did they find you?
- Where on your site are they landing first?
- What paths and features do they use the most?
Use these insights to brainstorm actionable strategies and tactics for testing and personalization.
Below, we provide examples of basic and more advanced reports that you can leverage for ideation.
Basic reports provide you with key insights about your different visitor segments, such as who they are and where they come from. Use this data to identify target audiences and consider ways to optimize your site experience for those segments. Basic reports will also help you interpret the results you collect in Optimizely.
The number of unique visitors directly impacts how long it takes to run a test. Testing during traffic surges can help speed up optimization.
- How many unique visitors enter your site at different intervals: a day, a week, or a month?
- When do you see peaks and valleys in your traffic?
- What kinds of seasonality do you see, and where is it generated from?
Consider identifying the number of unique visitors on pages with key goals, such as purchase confirmation pageviews. If you see high traffic, you have the opportunity to run high-velocity tests on the pages directly upstream in the funnel, such as the product details page. Or, you can run more subtle tests on those pages and still see statistical significance.
If you test during traffic spikes, make sure you capture the whole conversion cycle in your experiment.
Compare the conversion rates for new and returning visitors. Is the rate for new visitors lower than expected? If these visitors are performing research in preparation for a later purchase, consider offering social proof on the product details page will help lift visitors’ confidence and shorten the conversion cycle. Or, try highlighting the value propositions on the first page that visitors see.
An acquisitions report shows you where visitors come from and what channels to optimize for.
Use the report to identify:
- Where visitors are coming from (your best traffic sources)
- How the performance differs between different channels
If, for example, you notice that a high percentage of direct traffic bounces from the page, you might hypothesize that visitors are coming directly to your site to look for new content. When they don’t find any, they leave. Consider highlighting fresh content and new products on that page.
Segment your visitors by device type to investigate what your strongest performing audiences are.
- Do you see differences between specific mobile devices, operating systems, or screen sizes?
- Does the breakdown between device types align to (or diverge from) industry standards?
Use this information to consider whether you’re optimizing for the right actions per device type. Imagine that your desktop versus mobile conversion rate is lower than the industry standard of 1.5 desktop to mobile conversions. This may be an opportunity for optimization. Are visitors converting on desktop converting less often than they should? Investigate potential pain points for web visitors and optimize for them.
Segment your visitors by geography to identify trends in visitor behaviors and find opportunities to optimize for certain markets.
- Where are your visitors located?
- How does performance differ by city or country?
- Which regions should you focus your optimization efforts on?
Imagine that visitors in India spend significantly more time on your site and view more pages than visitors in the U.S. and the U.K. At the same time, bounce rates are especially high in the U.S., U.K., and Germany. Why? Use direct data such as the voice of the customer to find out why these different visitors segments come to the site, what they do there, what they find valuable, and why they leave.
Advanced reports provide granular data about customer behaviors and friction points on different pathways that visitors take. Use these reports to design tests to brainstorm how you can fulfill and even push the boundaries of visitors’ expectations.
Pathing and funnel reports
The funnel report is one of the most important pieces of data from your analytics platform. It shows you the different steps in your conversion funnel and how visitors navigate between each.
- Where do visitors enter the funnel?
- What pages do visitors to leave your site from?
- How do visitors navigate between pages?
- On what pages do visitors fail to take the action you’d like them to?
Bottlenecks in your funnel are opportunities for optimization. Consider the example above. A large number of visitors left the site during account login and creation. Is the login process overly complicated? Do they abandon the funnel after being taken to a different page? Test ways to ease friction points in your login process, or experiment with ways to connect account creation with the funnel experience better.
You can also use your pathing report to calculate opportunity as based on bounce rate:
total visitors X bounce rate = opportunity
For example, if 15,000 visitors visit your homepage, but 40% of them bounce from the site, you have an opportunity to optimize this page for 6,000 visitors.
15,000 visitors X 0.40 bounce rate = 6,000 visitors
And you have 7,000 visitors on your request-a-demo page, with a 90% bounce rate, you also have a 6,300 visitor opportunity. Even though the request-a-demo page sees less traffic, the size of the opportunity for optimization is comparable. Use the concept of opportunity to help prioritize test ideas that target different pages on your site.
Create a stacked bar chart
A stacked bar chart helps you visualize how visitors progress down the funnel. This chart, alongside the goal tree above, is one of the most impactful dashboards that a conversion rate optimization team can use. Put it in a visible place.
When you run a test on a particular page, reference this chart to gauge whether you’re devoting resources to the right opportunities.
Visualize the following three behaviors for each step:
- Visitors who exited the website
- Visitors who left the funnel to go to a different page
- Visitors who continued to the next step in the funnel
High exit rates at unexpected points in the funnel suggest that customers are frustrated; consider prioritizing ideas that test these pages in your roadmap.
The example above tracks visitors from the Homepage all the way to a 3% final conversion. Where should you focus your efforts?
Your attention may have been drawn to the 8% conversion from the product page to the shopping basket. While this is an important metric to note, further research might show you that 6-8% conversion on this step is in line with industry standards. But the 48% exit rate from the product page is unusually high. Why is this happening?
Perhaps visitors aren’t finding relevant products. Do you see visitors spending a long time on the search results listings? Is the ratio of viewed products to purchases unusually high? If so, you may have identified an inventory or discoverability problem. Pass this information to the relevant team; if the experience of finding a product is too difficult, visitors may exit the site permanently.
Landing and exit pages
Your top landing and exit pages show how visitors enter and leave the site.
Some pages with high exit rates may align with expected behavior. For example, a logout page is quite likely to have a high exit rate.
Some pages with high exit rate are opportunities for optimization. For example, if a high percentage of visitors exit immediately after reading one article, try showing related content to encourage visitors to spend more time on the site.
You can also use the landing and exit pages report to find product pages that are underperforming. Use the report to show you all product pages on the site. Then, sort them by exit rate and filter to identify the pages with the highest exit rates. Is this content hurting your brand? Try testing an experience that aligns better with your visitors’ expectations.
Heat maps, click maps, and scroll depth
Heat maps, click maps, and scroll depth visualize your visitors’ behaviors on your site. Platforms such as CrazyEgg, Clicktale, and GA tell you not only which parts of your site receive the most attention, but also what is being ignored.
Use them to:
- Visualize how much of the page visitors see on initial page-load and how far they actively scroll
- See where visitors click on the page
- Consider whether to prioritize high-value content
- Consider whether different styles, colors, or animations draw attention to the most important elements on the page
What’s the best way to use the most impactful spaces on your site?
In the example above, 20% of visitors clicked the Google Store icon. This suggests that these visitors come to the page but see any products of interest displayed, so they leave. How can you highlight value propositions or display new inventory to appeal to these visitors?
Notice the key real estate in the center of the page above. It features an inexpensive product that results in a very low clickthrough rate, compared to the higher-priced products that surround it. Consider rearranging the page to highlight the valuable products that more visitors engage with.
For many web-based businesses, site search is one of the most impactful functions to optimize. Search is a behavior that most visitors are familiar with. It’s a low-friction way to find the exact product you’re looking for.
Compare the metrics for visitors who used the search bar against visitors who didn’t. In the example above, only 10% of visitors used the search function but they converted at 3-4 times the rate of those who didn’t. They also generated 33% of total revenue and spent significantly more time on the site.
If you find that visitors who search perform far better than those who don’t, consider making your search bar a prominent visual element on your site. Try centering it, re-sizing it, or drawing attention to the search to encourage visitors to use it to find the products they’re interested in.
Time to purchase
Time-to-purchase tells you how long visitors take to convert. Some visitors are quick to make a decision; others may spend time performing additional research, looking at competitive offerings, and obtaining approval for a purchase.
- How many days do visitors take to complete a purchase?
- What’s the best way to segment visitors by time-to-purchase: same day, within a week, within a month, or more?
Consider the motivations of your visitor segments. If customers take long periods to research and deliberate, you might experiment with showing a star-rating system or social validation to encourage the purchase. Or, if you’d like to streamline the process for those who make purchase decisions quickly, try surfacing key product details or highlighting the purchase button.
You have improved the percentage of visitors who complete your check-out funnel, or you’ve gotten a certain number of visitors to click on your CTA. That’s great! But what does it mean to your business?
Attach a value to your experiments to better understand how to optimize your site and increase ROI.
Revenue metrics to look for:
- What is the revenue per visitor? (RPV)
- What is the average order value? (AOV)
- Are visitors purchasing few high priced items or several lower priced items?
- Are there up-sell opportunities in the cart or on the pricing page or do those distract and lower conversion rates?
- What is the value of a new lead and how much do new leads decrease your average acquisition costs?
Analytics by industry
Now that you have an overview of analytics to consider when testing, you may have noticed that some that aren’t applicable to your business. Depending on the industry, some metrics may be more valuable or insightful than others. In the table below we’ve provided a list of commonly used metrics by industry, and examples of where they are tested.
For a deeper dive into industry specific testing ideas, check out these test ideas by industry vertical: