What is the Difference Between Behavior Flow and User Flow?

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Two of the main flow visualizations in Google Analytics are Behavior Flow and User flow. Both provide different insights when looking at behavior analytics on your website. Flow visualizations tell you how users move through your site based on a specific variable. Google Analytics says “…flow visualization reveals the actual path as it was traveled step by step, including any detours or backtracking that happened along the way.”  (source)

Behavior Flow Reports: 

The Behavior Flow report visualizes the path users travel through your site. The report looks at the users’ behavior and can help you find the content that keeps them engaged. The Behavior Flow reports break down the movement of the users’ sessions into a clear visualization that makes understanding their engagement more intuitive.

User Flow Reports:

The Users Flow report compares the volume of traffic from different sources and allows you to see how each source influences the journey through your site.

This report allows you to see how that traffic is engaging with your content and helps you visualize the content that is or is not performing well.

In this video, I’ll share what the difference is between the two and how you can use them to answer the following questions.

  • Where is my traffic coming from?
  • What traffic drives the best users?
  • What do users do once they are on my site?
  • Which pages lead to engagement / conversion?

Video Transcript:

As we talked about in the opener, we’re going to be looking at the difference between Behavior Flows and User Flows within Google analytics. What site owners typically want to know, or some of the most common questions that we get are things like, “I want to know where my traffic is coming from. I want to know which traffic drives the best users. I want to know what users do once they are actually on my site. I also want to know what pages lead to engagement and conversion.” All of these questions can really lead to us having a more optimized site, a better site that’s really focused around our users, but also leveraging the traffic channels that are working best for us.

Flow Visualizations Help You See Data

Looking at your session data or your bounce rates or your pages per sessions isn’t going to give you the answers to these questions. Those are more high-level metrics that are telling you how many people are on your site and kind of an aggregate of what happens overall. In order to get the answers to these questions, we actually have to go a little bit deeper. This is where flow visualizations come in. They’re very helpful and they allow you to see the answers to your data. Instead of having to be this data science or having an in-depth understanding of BI, you can use flow visualizations to reveal the path that users take as they move through your site step by step. Google built these into GA, and this allows you to see this and how they move forward and backward, and what happened along the way. These are very helpful tools to help you see how your users move through your site based on a specific variable.

Out of the box, Google Analytics has six default visualizations; Behavior Flow, Goal F, User Flow, Events Flow, Funnel Visualization, and Google Play Referral Flow. Like we said in the intro, we’re going to be talking specifically about Behavior Flow and User Flow, but there are other ones inside of this tool that we will cover on videos later down the road.

Behavior Flow Looks At User Path

Let’s take a look at Behavior Flow. The goal of a Behavior Flow report is to visualize the path that a user travels from one page to the next or one event to the next. You can put a couple of layers of data here. This will help you discover which content is keeping users engaged, what’s moving them from one piece of content to another. It can also help you identify where your content is lacking where a user comes in and they just completely fall out. This report can display pages, it can do content groups, events, or pages and events. You can layer a lot of information on this data.

When using Behavior Flow, you’re really looking at the engagement from page to page, how people are moving through your site, what types of behavior are they taking on your site, are they taking different actions? If you’ve set up events and analytics, you can actually see, are they clicking? Are they downloading? Are they scrolling? That data can be layered into your Behavior Flow to give you a better picture of how somebody is taking a journey through your site and your content. This is the homepage of Google Analytics. In order to find the Behavior Flow report, you’re going to go over to the left-hand columns, select behavior, and select Behavior Flow.

Analyzing Behavior Flow Report

All right, so now we are on the Behavior Flow report. One of the first things you may be asking yourself is, what is the difference between the landing page and a starting page? This is something that also confused me, and then that’s why we try to learn these things and understand what they are and what they’re helpful for.

A landing page is the first page that a user landed on in their very first session. Then the starting page is going to be the first page from the user’s current session. Maybe somebody came to your website, they landed on this blog, for instance, but then they had another session where they came back and they interacted with another page, and that was the current page they started on. This is how they got into your site, but this is the beginning of their journey through your site. That’s an easier way to think about it.

As you can see here in this report, it tells us how people landed on the website, but then it looks at the next step, okay? After they landed, if they came back or maybe they continued their session, what did they do? Each one of these shows us pages. Oftentimes, it will group it down here. You can change the flow of how big you want things to see. You can also add steps. You can get a little bit more granular here in your level of detail, so you can show more connections, you can show less connections. By default, set right the middle.

Now, what it’ll do if you hover over these, it’ll say, okay, on the blog page, 94.6% dropped off at this point, so they didn’t continue their journey. This is something that we are addressing internally because this is something we’ve seen that people who land on the blog lobby page, not a whole lot of them actually move through onto the site. What can we do now on the blog lobby page to engage them, to make sure they’re finding that content quickly and helping them take that next step?

As you can see here, things like the entrance from homepage is a little bit better, right? We have about 23%, 23.4% through rate. Where do they go after that? Well, it’s kind of split between blog, contact, resources, inbound, and then we have these things that’s 50 more pages. You can actually open up these right here and see the group details to see the pages that they go after that, the through traffic, the drop-off rate, all that data up there as well. What Analytics is doing in this flow report is taking the main pages, the pages that are moving people through the funnel and engaging with you, and trying to help you see those being connections first.

As you can see here in this report, my homepage is one of the ones that really drives people back through more than any other. Anytime someone lands on homepage, that’s really where it helps them find that other pieces of content, which means our homepage is doing well, now we need to work on some of these blog pages. Our blog content drives a lot of traffic for us, so that makes sense. And a lot of people coming to our blog, maybe they’re not interested in being our clients, again, which is totally fine. The purpose of our blog is to help educate and move people forward on their own, really to implement some of these things.

You have to understand the purpose of your pieces of content, but also look for opportunities and maybe holes where your content is not performing as well as you should. Like for me, an area where I want to focus on is definitely my blog lobby to make sure that people are clicking deeper into other pieces of content. That’s a quick overview of Behavior Flow.

User Flow Compares Traffic Sources

The User Flow report compares the volume of traffic from different sources and it lets us see how those different sources are impacting traffic patterns through our site. This will tell us how our channels are performing and really how they’re sending traffic to our site, and also what are those steps they take after they’ve gotten here. This again is very helpful to see which type of traffic is impacting or engaging with your content. It’ll tell us what’s happening with search versus social versus direct traffic versus email, and we can begin to see which type of traffic is actually leading to the types of results that we want on our website. Where do we need to focus more?

We’re back here at Google Analytics, and this time we are going to find the User Flow, and for User Flow, we are going to click on audience, and then all the way down to the bottom, you’re going to see User Flow.

Analyzing User Flow Report

Very similar to Behavior Flow, we are going to have a starting point. In this case, it’s starting out at country. This is just what happens by default so you can see how people from different countries move through your site and your site content. You can change this drop down, so you can add things like browser, browser version, data source. You can do something like default channel groupings. This is going to break it down through organic, direct, social, referral email.

This is nice because it’ll say, okay, what’s driving the most traffic? For us, it’s organic search, far and beyond. If I want to highlight this through here, and this is something I didn’t show but it works exactly the same in the behavior report; if you click on it, you can say, “Highlight traffic through here.” It’s going to mute all the other sources and allow you now to see the traffic coming through organic. Organic drives a lot to our blog, this one to our homepage, and then we’ve got 100 more pages here. Again, we can go to these group details, a lot of blog content, which makes sense because we do create a lot of blog content.

But what this will show you, again, very similar to the Behavior Flow, we’ll be able to see the through traffic for organic. We can say organic seems to actually continue the journey, even on this blog as we noticed the behavior report overall looked like a drop-off, but there is some traffic moving through to other pages, and we can begin to compare these channels and see which channel is moving people deeper into our site. We have 11,000 sections and 10k drop-offs. That’s something that we want to look into. This is something we look into because what can we do to move people further, to take another interaction. Instead of just staying on the page they came in first, what’s the difference between people that are going into interactions one, two, and three? Because once they take an interaction, the drop-offs are cut in half, and they take another interaction, the same thing. Are we driving the right people to the right pages? Is this channel source, which is the most effective?

If you ever want to take this highlighting off, you just click it again and click clear highlighting and you’re back to the original chart. Again, you can add segments up here as well, work a lot like other Google Analytics reports, but what’s nice is you can see the flow and I can see people coming to the blog, a large drop-off, coming to this page, a large drop-off, but if we can get them into our homepage, we tend to see a little bit more interaction and engagement.

Flow Visualization Recap

Very cool reports, very helpful to understand how your users are moving through your site so then you can optimize your site for them. This will help increase your on-page metrics. This will help increase the conversions of your site. This will help make sure that your site is actually delivering business results.

All right, let’s do a quick recap. Flow visualizations help us see the answers to those important questions at the beginning. It allows us to see how users are moving through our site and helps us to understand the steps that they’re taking. Google Analytics has six out of-the-box flow visualization charts that you can leverage, but in this video we talk specifically about Behavior Flow and User Flow.

Again, to recap, Behavior Flow, the goal of that report is how somebody is engaging from page to page or event by event, so what are they doing inside of the site itself and moving, and which content’s moving people forward, and which content’s having people drop off. The User Flow is focused on traffic channels or traffic sources. This could even be GEO locations and how they engage through the site and what are those effective channels for us and where should we be spending more of our time and energy to ensure we’re getting the right ROI.

I hope you learned something from this video today. If you have any questions, please comment below, we’d love to continue the conversation with you. Until next time, Happy Marketing.

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