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How to use Google Analytics to understand user behavior


Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can give you insight into your users, their journey on your website, and how your marketing efforts translate into business goals.

Knowing exactly what motivates your users and motivates them to take action is essential to all digital marketing success.

In this column, you will learn how the built-in Google Analytics reports and some custom configurations will help you discover these valuable user insights.

What you can track instantly in Google Analytics

A large number of reports are provided in Google Analytics without any additional configuration.

These can tell you a lot about how users browse your website, what content they find more interesting, and which pages they leave.

Behavior flow

Where to find it: Behavior> Behavior Flow

Behavioral flow is a visualization of the user’s journey through your website.

Below is an example:

From this process, I can see that some users have installed my SEO Pro extension and landed on the thank you page, then navigated to the homepage, then the contact page, and some other pages.


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Such a process allows you to understand how to place CTA and interconnect pages so that users can follow the journey you create for them.

You can also try many settings and view the login page and traffic sources, events, and user flow.

Here are some examples you can discover through the behavior flow report:

  • The user journey of users from Twitter/Linkedin/Facebook, etc.
  • How the different operating systems used by website visitors affect their behavior.
  • Whether the user journey for a particular event is working as expected.

User browser

Where to find it: Audience> User Browser

The behavior flow shows you the aggregate user journey, and the user explorer shows you the journey of each user.

The user is identified by the customer ID (personal identification information is not used here).

This is what it looks like:

User Explorer on Google Analytics.

You can view the number of sessions for each user. You can also drill down into each session to see which pages the user has visited, the events or targets triggered, and the source of traffic.


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If you have enabled e-commerce tracking, you can also view customer lifetime value here.

It is basically the complete story of how each visitor browses your website:

User sessions and pages accessed in User Explorer.

The downside is that there is a lot of information in this report, so you need to know what you are looking for to avoid being overwhelmed.


Where to find it: Audience> Audience

I like this report because it helps to better understand specific groups of people.

You first need to create an audience under Management> Audience DefinitionFor example, these people can be people who have visited a specific page on your website, or people who have added products to a shopping cart but have not completed a transaction.

If you connect Google Ads to Google Analytics, you can also use these audiences in Google Ads.

After the audience is populated, you can view its detailed statistics, such as:

  • Source of traffic.
  • The equipment used.
  • Demographics (age and gender).
  • Browser.

Site search

Where to find it: Behavior> Site Search

This is the only report I included in this list that requires some configuration. But trust me, it’s really easy, and it only takes less than a minute.

After enabling site search tracking, you will be able to see what people are searching for on your website:

Search terms in Google Analytics.

It can help you understand what content needs to be created, what existing content is difficult to find, etc.


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Site search analysis and strategies are also important for improving the conversion rate of e-commerce sites.

Traffic source

Where to find it: Get> All Traffic> Channel

This is one of the most popular reports. It shows the source of your users, whether it is organic traffic, recommendations, social media traffic, etc.

You will also see that a portion of the traffic will be marked as direct.

Although some direct traffic is returning to users who know your website and type in their browsers, most of the direct traffic is “black box”.

When Google doesn’t know the initial source, it reports it as directThis may be due to certain privacy settings (for example, the Brave browser does not allow tracking of any site interactions) or due to incorrect flags.

For example, if you send many emails but don’t mark the link to your website in those emails, the traffic will be attributed to direct You will not know the impact of your email marketing.


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Expert tips: Always make sure you set it up correctly Moderate In campaigns tracked with UTM parameters, so you don’t attribute traffic to (other):

The source of traffic in Google Analytics.

Bounce rate, page/session, average.Session duration

Where to find it: As indicators in some reports, such as landing pages, traffic sources, etc.

The bounce rate is basically a session where only 1 click occurred.

Pages/Session Shows the number of pages visited by the user in a single session.


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The average session duration shows how long the average session lasts. It is calculated as follows: total duration of all sessions (in seconds)/number of sessions.

All of these indicators are useful, but you should always use them in the appropriate context.

For example, many people think that a high bounce rate is inherently bad. However, if someone only needs to visit one page before the conversion, that is still a victory.

Here is an example: Someone searches for your company’s contact information. They log on to your contact page, find your phone number, call that number and order $20,000 in service.

Google Analytics will report the bounce rate for this session as 100%. The average session duration is zero (because there are no other participating clicks).

All of this looks terrible in Google Analytics, but in fact, this meeting brought your company $20,000.

In addition, metrics such as bounce rate and time on page are easy to manipulate in Google Analytics. That’s why I always recommend using these metrics as additional KPIs instead of the main KPI (sometimes, you won’t use them at all).


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Landing page and logout page

Where to find it: Behavior>Website Content>Landing Page/Exiting Page

The landing page shows where people first landed on your website. The exit page shows where the user left.

These are great reports to analyze and understand whether your user journey is going as expected.

Other tools that can be used to discover more insights

There is an official In-Page Google Analytics plugin that can add more insights: click tracking and heat maps.

In-page Google Analytics add-on.

However, there is a limitation. When calculating the percentage and the number of clicks, the add-on does not distinguish the position of the link on the page.


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For example, if you have the same link in the main navigation and footer, the add-on will show you the same number for both links. In fact, this is incorrect because a link in the main navigation may get more clicks than the same link in the footer.

Other tracking you can configure in Google Analytics

Although the default Google Analytics installation is rich in features, there are many other things you can track to better understand your audience.

the goal

Goals measure the time it takes for users to complete a specific action on your website or reach a specific destination.

There are several goal types in Google Analytics:

  • destination (For example, the user visited your email subscription thank you page).
  • period (For example, the user stayed on your website for at least 3 minutes).
  • Page per session (For example, the user visited at least 4 pages during a single session).
  • event (For example, the user clicked a button).

Although the first three target types can be added as targets without additional configuration, the last one-event targets-is trickier because you need a basic event to make these targets work.


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An event is a specific action that people perform on your website. You can turn events into event goals.

Some event examples:

  • Button click.
  • Fill in the form.
  • The number of outbound link clicks.
  • Scroll depth.

E-commerce tracking

If you sell products on your website and you can add the transaction code to your order success page, e-commerce tracking is absolutely necessary.

How to set up custom event tracking

Custom event tracking can help you view user actions that are not tracked by default.

If you use Google Tag Manager, setting up custom tracking is much easier. If you are migrating from hard-coded Google Analytics to Google Tag Manager, please read the following:

The process of defining and setting up custom event tracking

Step 1: Determine which actions need to be tracked across the entire website.

Step 2: Define the type of tracking required.

Is it a button, a form, or something else?


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Step 3: Define meaningful labels and operations.

You need to provide more context for the event, so make sure the categories, actions, and labels make sense.

At this point, you should have something like this:

Google Analytics tracks the roadmap.Step 4: Add all required dataLayer code (if needed) for the custom event.

You can work with developers to achieve this goal. But you need to clearly state which data layer code should be added and where it should be added.


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Please note that not all custom events require additional dataLayer code. Things like outbound link clicks or button clicks are usually easy to configure without any additional modification.

Step 5: Create variables to pass additional data for event tags (if needed).

There are many built-in variables in Google Tag Manager (such as {{Page URL}}, {{Click URL}}, etc.).

You only need to create a custom variable if you want to track very specific content (for example, the name of a product added to a shopping cart).

Step 6: Set up event tags in Google Tag Manager.

Make sure you set the correct event category, action, and label defined earlier. You will see this information in Google Analytics later.

Step 7: Verify that everything is in order.

Use the Google Tag Manager debug mode to verify that all your custom events fire as expected.

Step 8: Celebrate.

There should always be time to have fun!


Understanding how people behave on your website and how their journey looks will help you better understand what is really driving your unique audience.


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Use these insights to increase conversion rates and inform you how to structure your marketing campaign to achieve maximum return on investment and overall success.

More resources:

Image Source

Author screenshot, July 2021


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