Pathing in Google Analytics
As I mentioned in my post from yesterday talking about the new App + Website properties in Google Analytics, the Analysis section of Google Analytics has gotten even better! Why? Because Pathing is now available in Analysis!
I know what you’re thinking… “but Krista, GA has had Behavior Flow and User Flow reports for forever, and they are terrible.” And yes, you’d be correct.
The previous versions (still available in GA today) of flow reports never quite hit the mark. It’s no secret, I happily shared my opinions of their shortcomings on many stages while representing Google as the evangelist for Google Analytics.
For my last 2 years at Google, I took on Product Management for parts of Google Analytics, including building out a new version of Funnels (similar to Custom Funnels and building on their success) in the Analysis section of GA360. While I was acting as PM, there was a long list of additional analysis techniques we wanted to build, with Pathing at the top of the list. BUT, no one wanted to try it. Pathing is such a hot topic, and we’d missed the mark so much in previous attempts, that it truly was a daunting task to even begin to ideate. So, they asked me to do it. I said no. But then, I spent some time thinking about exactly what I’d want from a pathing tool, as an analyst and data geek, and that got me excited. I vowed that it was my personal goal to kill the flow reports that haunt Google Analytics.
My initial thoughts as I started down this path were that the current “User Flow” report in Google Analytics was incredibly limiting. It only allows you to start from the pre-listed start pages, and do minimal or no filtering on the next steps. It is also subject to sampling at the property level. What is needed for better analysis is to be able to start from specific pages or events, defined by the user, and to expand from there. For example, to build a flow that says “Users start on Product Page X, what page do they go to next, then what page, and then which event comes next, etc.
With that in mind, In September 2017, I wrote the initial PRD (Product Requirements Doc) for Pathing in Analysis. My engineers and I went back and forth over specs for a few months before we were ready to get started, and meanwhile we were finishing up some work to get the new Funnels report out, so we didn’t start building until early to mid-2018. Fast forward a year later, and my last week at Google we spent doing bug bashes on a nearly ready release of the Alpha version of Pathing. Today, I’m excited to say that Pathing has officially made it into Open Beta along with the new “App + Web Property” in Google Analytics.
Pathing is a new technique in the Analysis section of Google Analytics that allows users to explore the paths that visitors take on their apps and websites.
To use Pathing Analysis, start by selecting an initial node, or starting point, and clicking on node endpoints to expand and explore what steps users take after your starting point.
A few things you can do:
- Start from your home page and explore the top paths users take from there – what are the next most frequently visited pages
- What actions (events or page/screen views) do users most frequently take after starting a new session (on either a website or an app)
- Discover issues users may be having on your site – do you have an error preventing users from proceeding through your funnel? Is your user experience less than ideal causing users to constantly go back to your home page to navigate further?
- And so much more… the use cases are endless!
A few cool new things that you couldn’t do in the previous User/Behavior/Event flow reports in Google Analytics:
- Apply filters and/or segments to your path to narrow down the set of users you want to analyze
- Change between node types: Each step can be customized to be either an event (you can narrow to a specific type) or a page/screen view.
- Add up to 10 steps and expand all available nodes on the screen – the canvas is yours to explore with pathing
- User based pathing: explore pathing across sessions when the path is expanded to include an event/page view from the next session (WOAH! This is HUGE)
Some terminology to keep in mind:
- Starting point: the beginning of the path, either an event such as ‘session start’ or a page name. You’ll select the starting exact point in a slide out on the right side of the screen after selecting the node type.
- Step +N: the “stage” of the path, eg represented as a column with multiple expanded across the page horizontally
- Node: the different dimensions you can use as points of a given step in a path
- Value: the metrics available to use for counts in each node, eg ‘Event Count’
- Filter: restricts the data within an analysis via dimensions or metrics you drag in.
- Node Filter: This is where excluded nodes for a path or the whole analysis will show as a record.
- Segment: applied to the whole pathing analysis, using imported segments from Google Analytics
Path Analysis is currently available to all GA4F properties connected to GA on their Google Analytics interface.
To get there, click on the ‘Analysis’ tab on the left hand nav of the new App + Website property in Google Analytics. You’ll be taken to the Analysis report selector/home screen. Click “More templates” to expand the list and choose Pathing.
Clicking into the Pathing template will immediately give you a starting place with a few nodes expanded. To see the pathing report in action and how you can take full advantage, check out these short videos.
Overview of Pathing in Analysis: see how to build and expand a path
Check out how to add and refine a new starting point:
Keep in mind, Pathing is still in Beta… There are a lot of awesome additions still planned as the product progresses, so stay tuned for more posts about all the cool new things coming here!