Could a new feature from Google Analytics be their greatest update ever? Could that possibly be true? Strong words but here’s one man’s opinion on why that just may be the case.
About a month ago, Google announced a new feature they call “Visitors Flow”, which has now been released and is live in your Google Analytics accounts – as long as you’re using the new, not the old, version. (Side note: If you are not using the new version, you are missing out on a lot of neat new features.) It is, in a word, awesome. It is the kind of feature that can make everyone on your team look smarter by clearly exposing a site’s weak points.
It does this in an easily digestible way, graphically walking you through a user’s path; showing exactly where the users came from, and which page they entered, progressed to, and left from (see image). It also allows you to path goals in the same way – so you can see how converting – and non-converting – users navigate your site, which will likely lead to valuable insights.If Google comes out with neat updates all the time, why is my first instinct to call this the greatest, as the headline suggests? Because I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to meetings about site restructures armed to the teeth with data about user pathing that is met with blank stares or yawns. Data is just not fun or sexy.
While the data usually pointed to a deeper issue (page structure, poor navigation, etc.), sifting through that data can be tough – and rarely is it obvious what is wrong to a novice. So it was understandably easier in such meetings to be drowned out by more “fun” ideas that didn’t rely on charts to make their point. It also doesn’t help if “you need to add more callouts on all your pages” is all you suggest. This sounds so simple that it can seem almost dismissive.
But this feature can show someone the impact of something as small as a callout in a big way – and that is what has me so excited about its potential applications.
On a more general note, Google has been releasing features fairly frequently lately that allow for a deeper dive into user behavior. There are more options for segmenting in reporting, better social engagement and visitor frequency info, and more ease in tying AdWords and Webmaster Tools data into Analytics. Basically, they’re making it easier to evaluate sites, which is what a User Experience expert or an SEO does.
And on a personal note, I’m not exactly sure how to take this because I am an SEO. For a very long time Google was the sworn enemy of me and my ilk, and suddenly there are all these tools that make our jobs easier – a new love letter every month in the form of an update to Analytics. On the one hand, these tools seem made for SEOs, and make my job a little easier.
On the other hand, they make my job easier, and Google is the enemy, so logically this must be an attempt to make the job of SEO obsolete and destroy us once and for all. OK, so maybe it’s not that bad. After all, it may not be hard to find a book, but we still need librarians to help us dig deeper and teach us how to find what we need.