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Understanding Google Analytics: Behavior

In the first two installments of this series we covered how to use the Audience and Acquisition sections of Google Analytics to understand who is coming to your site and how they are getting there. Now we are going to walk through how to use the Behavior section to understand where your visitors are going once they reach your site.

Understanding Behavior

The Behavior section of Google Analytics drills down to what visitors are doing on your site at the page level. This is where you will find how many visits you have gotten to each page of your site, which pages have the highest conversion rates or the highest bounce rates. It also includes reports to help you visualize the paths users are taking through your site. This section ties closely together with measuring conversions as well. It includes a lot of reports, which can be filtered and sorted in different ways, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In this article, we’ll focus on the highlights to help you prioritize.

Site Content – Landing Pages

This report drills down to your metrics by the page where visitors entered the site. 

What to Look For

Where Are Visitors Going?

Which pages are getting the most entrances? Are they the pages that you want people to be going to first, or do you need to make tweaks?

If you are not getting traffic to the pages that are most important to you, examine how you are driving traffic to those links through social media, email, and SEO. 

You may find that you are receiving traffic to old pages that you didn’t think were active anymore. Update those pages or redirect the URLs so that your visitors are not seeing outdated information.

If you are getting a lot of entrance traffic on pages that are meant for users that are already familiar with your company, examine where this traffic is coming from to determine if you can 1) direct them elsewhere or 2) update the page to make it a better introduction point on your site. For example, if you are getting a lot of search traffic to this page, it would be best to capitalize on that by adding more about your company to the page than trying to replace that page.

Page Performance

This report tells you a lot about how each page is performing based on various dimensions. In particular it shows you how people who entered the site through a particular page behaved in terms of time on site, pages per session, bounce rate, and conversion rate. You can sort pages by any of these metrics.

In particular, ask yourself:

  • Are the highest trafficked landing pages performing well in terms of conversion rate, time on site, and bounce rate? Are people responding to the Calls to Action (CTAs)? Or are they showing weak engagement that needs to be improved?
  • How are your pages that trigger goal conversions performing? (Keep in mind this will only count performance when it is the first page the person visited on the site. To see conversion rates by page for all pages, you will need to set up a Custom Report.)
  • Are there any highly trafficked pages that have particularly low average time on site or high bounce rates?
    • A high bounce rate on a blog or specific landing page may not be a bad sign, as visitors are typically getting to those from a specific link and are going to the site just for that page, so they have fulfilled their intended purpose.
    • Similarly, a low average time on site for a short landing page is not concerning, but a low average time on site from your homepage could be.

Site Content – All Pages

This report drills down to your metrics at the individual page level. It can be sorted in a number of ways to help you see how your site content is performing. 

Generally, the most useful way to start is to sort by Pageviews (the default setting). Keep in mind that pageviews are simply times that someone visited that page, and a single user can have multiple pageviews. 

What to Look For

Similar to the Landing Page report, look at:

  • Which pages are getting the most traffic.
  • How the highest trafficked pages are performing in terms of time on site and bounce rate. Are they showing weak engagement that needs to be improved?

Behavior Flow 

This report helps you visualize the paths that users are taking through your site. It shows you which pages they are visiting in what order, and where most people drop off.

What to Look For

  • What pages are the biggest dropoff points? What can you do to encourage the user’s journey from there?
  • How do the actual paths users are taking compare to the ideal path(s) you want them to take?
  • Select different sorting functions in the first column to look at the behavior paths for traffic from different sources or campaigns.

If you don’t have a large amount of traffic for the time period you are looking at, it may be difficult to spot patterns and draw conclusions. Try expanding your time frame to include more data. 

You can use the Events Flow report under Behavior > Events in a similar manner to visualize the sequence of actions users are taking on your site. While the Behavior Flow report demonstrates the user journey through pages, Events Flow shows it using the events you have defined in Google Tag Manager. (For example, you may set up events for certain strategic pages, watching a video, or filling out a form.)

How to Sort Your Behavior Reports

You can gain even more insight from your Behavior reports by sorting the data by where the traffic is coming from. People who know your company well and are coming to a page from an email may interact with that page very differently than someone who found the page through a Google search and has never heard of your company before. That’s why it is extremely helpful to look at your Landing Page report by Source to get a clearer picture of how your pages are performing. 

To sort any of your reports, click on the Secondary dimension dropdown to view page traffic grouped by Source/Medium.

If you are using UTM campaign tags, sorting by Campaign is also useful. This allows you to see how your marketing activities are driving traffic to different pages of your site and how page performance varies depending on where the traffic is coming from. Looking at your reports by Source and by Campaign can help you understand what’s working and what can be improved.


The Behavior section of Google Analytics goes much deeper than this, but focusing on these reports and questions will help you start to understand what users are doing on your site – and if that matches with your goals. The reports in this section tie together many important data points from the other sections of Google Analytics – traffic by source, time on site, conversion rates, etc. 

In fact, the Behavior reports are most useful when you have goals set up to track conversions. In the next installment of this series we’ll cover how to set up goals in Google Analytics and how to use the reports in the Conversions section to track them.

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