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Google Flow Visualisation Achieving Your Online Goals

Published on December 9, 2011
Tags: SEO, Web Design London

Working out the return on your investment is one of the key jobs in an online marketing campaign; without understanding the impact of something, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t or, crucially, whether you should fund similar projects again or focus resources elsewhere instead. Since websites are usually central to these endeavours, a couple of key questions need to be asked to help answer.

Simply put, how do people end up on your website? And, once they’ve found their way there, what do they do?

Understanding issues such as this is behind the recent launch of Google’s Flow Visualisation. This is a new feature of Google Analytics and, as the name suggests, the aim of it is to visualise your visitor flow. Essentially, it maps out where they’re coming from (such as direct or Google.com) and what they’re looking at. It also measures your drop-off rate, so you can easily see when people click away from your site.

Google Flow

Google also describes Flow Visualisation as ‘interactive’. A key feature here is the ability to hover your mouse cursor over various listed pages to see more information on them, such as how many people visited a particular page and how they came to be there. There is also a feature known as ‘Goal Flow’, which allows the site owner to identify various goals (for instance, URLS) and then measure results in relation to particular highlighted goals. This also works retrospectively, which is an interesting development for Analytics.

Therefore, we can split the new Flow Visualisation into two separate developments:

  • Goal Flow, which measures conversion paths and drop-offs. Google are apparently looking at extending the capabilities of this, too.

  • Visitors Flow, which details where traffic comes from and where visitors go once they’re on your site. This feature also contains ‘nodes’, which group together likely pathways through the site and allow you to follow through on various site connections.

This all sounds very well, but does Google Flow Visualisation have any practical applications, or is it simply an alternative way of looking at data you’ve already got?

Retrospective Goal Flow

Probably one of the most interesting – and practical – developments of Flow Visualisation is the ability to look at retrospective, historical data through the Goal Flow feature. This means that if you set up a new goal, as well as being able to use it to analyse future data, you’ll also be able to take a look at past conversion rates for that particular goal.

This can help with issues such as comparisons and reporting. The retrospective component applies only to your current goal settings, so this is something to keep in mind but it’s still potentially a very useful and nifty tool. Also, it’s something that wasn’t available before so it’s definitely a welcome addition.

Measure Campaign Impact

As suggested above, measuring the impact of campaigns is hugely important. Interestingly, Flow Visualisation can help you measure the impact of Adwords campaigns. You do this by selecting ‘Campaign’ (rather than ‘Source’) as your flow report dimension. This then allows you to highlight a particular section of traffic and measure how well your campaign is performing.

Identify Useful Content

This is something that we’ve been able to do using Analytics for quite some time now, but Flow Visualisation arguably makes it easier to see where our most useful site content is placed. For instance, we can make use of the Goal Flow tool to see where most users head while on the site, which can be a useful indicator of where our most popular content is. This can then feed into future developments such as site content overhauls and new campaigns.

Ecommerce Benefits

Flow Visualisation also has some potential benefits for ecommerce websites in the form of a backwards traffic visualisation. This is a component of the Goal Flow and it allows you to see where your web traffic has ‘looped’. For example, it means you are able to see if someone has been on the checkout page of your site but then clicked back to have another look at the relevant product page.

This could be useful for ecommerce campaigns such as ads on the checkout page detailing other products that might be of interest to the customer, as it can allow you to see the effectiveness of these. It could also help you gain some insight into why some customers abandon their baskets before making a purchase.

Overall, Google Flow Visualisation is an interesting Analytics development. Some of the features are, in essence, new ways of looking at existing information, but the Goal Flow feature in particular has the potential to be very useful. We’re also interested to hear that Google Analytics has some more developments on the way, so we’ll be looking out for those to see how they add to the Analytics experience.

By Chelsey Evans

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