A user flow is a report in Google Analytics that visualizes user click paths or routes and is considered to be a visitor flow analytics method. The user flow can be used to analyze what pages are being visited by users, where they navigate to on the website, and where they exit. This data can be used to examine accesses from different sources and to determine patterns in the use of the website in order to optimize it in various aspects, such as pages and paths that are not effective. Alternative names for user flow are visitor stream, visitor flow, and user stream.
The user flow provides insights into user surfing behavior, by comparing the number of sessions to the number of bounces and capturing all visited pages. Google Analytics independently creates individual interaction patterns and displays the relationship between sessions and bounces. Therefore, no special conditions are necessary for this type of report. In order to display the user flow report, you have to be logged into your Google Analytics account and, of course, the website must be connected to GA via a tracking code and selected as a property (object linked to an account).
The user flow report can be used to determine whether and to what extent users’ expectations are met by the website. If this is not the case, the bounce rate will be correspondingly high compared to the sessions. The interactions consist only of frequently used click paths, but can be deleted as well as added (add step). To analyze conversion paths, Google Analytics provides a separate report, which is why interactions should not be confused with conversions or specifically defined events.
The user flow report is displayed in GA under the menu item Target group / User flow. Usually, all users or 100% of the sessions are displayed and linked with flow diagrams. The sessions are highlighted in green, the bounces appear in red color right next to it. From the sessions and bounces, visitor flows direct to the most frequent interactions, where, in turn, sessions and bounces are presented relative to the visitor flow. Following these visitor streams, which form the transit traffic, it becomes clear which pages users use as an entrance page, which pages they visit during a session, and where they exit. There is an option to zoom in on this visual report on the left margin. If the cursor is moved over the report fields, cumulative data is displayed for individual nodes or pages.
A click on All Users opens a pull-down menu that provides certain dimensions and standard segments for selection. With these options, users can be divided into groups or segments, for example, to analyze the click behavior of tablet and smartphone users, or to compare organic and paid accesses. These options can be used to search for different visitor sources, accesses, and other dimensions, such as purchases, conversions, or bounces. In this way, the data in the user flow report can be broken down into various aspects, whereby this menu always refers to the standard user segments. The dimensions are always the starting point of a report. Depending on your choice, the data will be displayed relative to a dimension and can also be selected with regular terms and phrases.
The default setting considers all users and assigns them to their countries of origin (dimension: country) from where they accessed the website. Clicking on Country opens another pull down menu, which can be used to restrict the data further. Numerous options are selectable so that the user flow can be sorted according to the demographics and properties of the terminal or the channel through which the users arrived. Channel and campaign comparisons are also possible, as are target groupings of target groups and traffic sources in order to identify, for example, particularly effective channels or valuable target groups. It is also possible to include specially defined segments in the User Flow report. Moreover, time periods in which accesses have occurred can be limited and compared with one another.
The user flow report allows you to perform numerous web analytics scenarios. In individual cases, the options depend on the goal of the website, the IT infrastructure and the link between analysis software and the digital product. The general options are:
Through the granular perspective on user streams, webmasters and site operators can understand in detail how users use their website. However, in order to draw the correct conclusions from the report, both the user characteristics and information architecture of the website must be taken into account. The two pull-down menus allow you to segment users and specific segments are useful only when comparisons are made, for example, between campaigns, channels, user groups, or different content areas of the website.
From the point of view of the website and the user guidance, it is important to pay attention to dead-ends and exit-pages, as users leave the site at these levels in the information architecture. If the traffic flow is low and the bounce rate is high, changes to the content or the user guidance are recommendable. A look at the visitor flows is therefore accompanied by an examination of the user guidance. Only when the user flow is analyzed in the context of one or more dimensions, can conclusions be drawn about the absolutely necessary changes to the information architecture. In addition, other reports in Google Analytics can help interpret this data correctly. Conversions, behavior, and acquisition should be mentioned.