Analyzing User Journeys to Identify Bottlenecks and Increase Web Conversions

To understand what elements are contributing to your conversion rate, you must take a holistic look at the user journey. The process of converting a user starts well before a checkout or white paper download.  Keep in mind that pain points and bottlenecking can appear at any step of the way, not just at the conversion funnel. In order to identify where these hang-ups occur, we’ve broken this process into phases.

1. The user arrives on your site from a given channel (Organic, Referral, Email, Social, etc.)

2. The user moves from a landing page to other pages on your site until the first page in the conversion process is reached

3. The user moves through the conversion process until it is complete

Lets look at each step separately.

1. Arriving on your site.

Users can arrive at your site through a variety of channels; organic search, referrals, email, and social media to name a few. For a smooth transition from off-site to on-site, the link leading to your site and the landing page must be optimized.

To identify if pain points occur before a user even enters your site, look at the click through rate (number of clicks divided by the number of impressions) for each traffic source. If the percent is low, then you probably need to create more enticing links to your site. For the organic channel, this means optimizing the elements visible in a search engine results page, including title tags, URLs, and meta descriptions. Use descriptive anchor text to keep referral traffic coming, and engaging thumbnail images along with relevant content to boost social posts.

The page that the user lands on is just as important as the links to your site., A user makes a decision to stay on a landing page within the first six seconds of arriving. Therefor, you need to show the user something of relevance and value right away. The best metric to gauge effectiveness of landing pages is their bounce rates. If you notice that a landing page has a high bounce rate (above 50%), consider conducting some user surveys or A/B testing to figure out why users aren’t staying on your site. An  A/B testing tool can examine the effectiveness of page elements. Start with something simple, like the color of a button or a call to action phrase. Sometimes the easiest solutions are also the most effective.

2. Reaching the first page in the conversion process.

Users move from landing pages to other pages on your site before initiating the conversion process. Identifying bottlenecks and pain points here is a little more difficult. If you’re running an ecommerce site, examine your most popular product category pages. If you’re running a B2B or general marketing site, examine your most important informational pages (i.e. ‘Services,’ ‘Clients,’ ‘Portfolio,’ etc.). Is the user journey from a landing page to those pages an easy one? To find out, use a site analysis tools like Google Analytics. Create two user segments, one for converters and one for non-converters. What differences in behavior do you notice? Is there something that converters are doing that non-converters aren’t? Use these differences in behavior to create A/B tests aimed at increasing conversions.

3. Conversion completion.

Just because the user begins the conversion process, does not mean it will be completed. If you run an ecommerce site, you likely have a multi-step check out. To identify bottlenecks, use your analytics tool to determine where most users are abandoning the shopping cart. If you’re running a site where a conversion is defined as filling out a contact form, use event tracking to determine which form fields are giving your users issues. Below are some tips and optimization tests you can run for each type of site at the conversion point.

Checkout Pages on an Ecommerce Site:

  • Remove anything distracting that will drive users away from the checkout page (i.e. promotions, social media buttons, non-essential information, etc.).
  • Test the number of pages involved in the checkout process. Does stuffing more information into one or two pages perform better than spreading it across several pages?
  • Remove any navigation to other pages from the funnel. This is often referred to as a ‘captive checkout’ and is utilized by Amazon and other leading ecommerce sites.

Contact Form on a Marketing Site:

  • Test the length of the form. Try to stick to required information only. This might mean taking stock of what you’re really looking to get from a sign-up form.
  • Address people’s fear of what you might do with their information. If you can guarantee that their personal information won’t be used for spam, let them know. It could greatly increase their willingness to fill out your form.
  • Try asking for specific information in your form fields where possible. For example, asking for a ‘business email’ vs. ‘email’ or ‘work phone’ vs. ‘cell phone’ may result in more form completions.

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