Analyzing Your Most Popular Pages for Missed Opportunities

I’m addicted to web analytics.  I guess I could have worse vices, but web analytics is the one I obsess about.  Lately I’ve delved into the performance of my site’s most popular pages and found some painful issues.

My most popular pages, the ones that interest people the most,  the ones they visit the most on my sites are also the ones that do the worst job of driving visitors to other pages and converting these visitors into customers.

I’m going to put my own site, this blog website up for analysis in hopes that it will elicit your comments below with some of your opinions and experiences.

Page Performance Analysis

Most Popular Page

Over the past 30 days my most popular page has an exit rate of 89%! When you couple that with an entrance rate of 92% (landing page) you can see this page is doing nothing in terms of visitor engagement.  They come and they leave.

Navigation Summary Most Popular Page

Home Page

When you compare that to my homepage you’ll see an exit rate that is much more respectable at 34%.  Of course the way this website is designed, the home page is intentionally developed to not bounce its visitors.  The goal of the homepage (and it should be for all) is to drive them to the next page with teasers and only partial information.  With 66% of the visitors doing that, I would claim success here.

Navigation Summary Homepage

Most Recent Page

But back to the problem.  If you compare the above most popular page to my most recent post you will see a very different tale with an exit rate of 40%.  And over the past 30 days, it’s my 4th most popular page.  Something is going well here.

Navigation Summary Homepage

Look Under Your Hood

Using Google Analytics, go to Content >> Top Content.  For each of your top pages, click on the “Navigation Summary” in the right column.  Here you will see numbers like the ones above.  After you’ve looked around, what does it say about your site?

  • Are your most popular pages also the ones that drive traffic to other pages?
  • Or are they just hit-and-run’s?  Missed opportunities to engage and convert, like some of mine?

Insights into the Problem

When I first looked at this metric, I didn’t think twice about.  In fact I wasn’t even looking to answer the question. I was just clicking around Google Analytics one day looking for something else when I happened upon the Navigation Summary report.  I had been there many times in the past, but there was something about the way I arrived that made an impression.
It was days later, with my mind working on it without my permission, that it came back and woke me up.

“Why is my most popular page not driving conversions, or least more pageviews?”

Now, I have a website designed around answering questions about web analytics, web analytics tools and the various vendors.  With certain posts optimized to target questions, you could say that if I’ve done my job and answered the visitor’s question – then you wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t stick around.  After all, my site is not a destination site.  Although we all think our site should be, right?

But that bothers me also.  I am not just targeting answers to questions.  I’m hoping that the people who are asking my targeted questions would be interested in learning more about web analytics would believe I am a trusted source and thus be interested in other insights.

If that’s true then I need to do a better job at capturing their interest.

Because to me when you most popular page has a high exit rate, something either is broken or you are missing a huge opportunity.

Solutions for a Poor Performing Page

Here are 3 of my ideas to solve the problem on this website.  They may apply to you, but even if they don’t, they surely will spark some ideas on what will work on your website.

  1. Behavioral targeting
  2. I’m looking into BTBUckets on this site to play around with behavioral targeting in an inexpensive way.

    With it I will be able to segment those visitors who have only seen one page (maybe even limiting it to my most recently popular page) and if they reach the bottom of the page (implying they found something that interested them) I would present them with a “This might also interest you” shadowbox to drive them to other pages.

    Or I could display unique sidebar elements depending on the actions (or inactions) of past visitors who match their behavior in hopes of changing their next steps.

  3. Better calls-to-action
  4. [IMAGE]

    Call To ActionThis is an obvious one.  Unlike what I obsess on during my day job and for my clients, I can definitely do a better job of writing and placing better calls-to-action for my readers.

    Getting them to view very interesting posts, subscribe to the RSS feed, sign up for my newsletter or connect with me are my most important conversions.

    I think we could all do a better job of this on our websites.

  5. Interrupt
  6. In the same vein as behavioral targeting there are many websites (blogs like mine and mainstream commercial websites) that have implemented a particular type of shadowbox or lightbox.

    This shadowbox will display at a specified time after the visitor arrives and promote the primary call-to-action of the website.  Popup Domination is a sophisticated and powerful solution here.

    While many people have written about the annoyance factor, more people can attest to the fact that their calls-to-action go through the roof with these tactics.  And in the end if that’s your goal, then you really need to do everything you can to reach it.


OK now that I’ve opened up the kimono on my site and what bothers me, I need to hear from you.

  • What has been your experience?
  • Am I too focused on details and missing some bigger message?
  • What would you do to solve this problem if it were you?

Let me know in the comments below.

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Visitor Insight with Site Search and Google Analytics

Site Search Google AnalyticsI don’t know about you, but I rarely use the site search box on any website.  If I’m searching, it’s on Google.

But I’m the exception.  Or if I’m in the majority, there are plenty of users who do use a website’s site search feature.

So let’s see how you can tie your site search into Google Analytics to derive some visitor insight.

Making the Connection

Site Search Configuration Options

Site Search Configuration Options - Click To Enlarge

Connecting the two is quite easy.  Presuming your site search produces a results page with the search string in the address (e.g. you just identify that parameter (‘s’ in the previous example) to Google Analytics.

To do this go into your Analytics profile settings, edit the profile and select ‘Do Track Site Search’ and enter your search parameter.

Site Search Menu Options

Site Search Menu Options - Click to Enlarge

From then on Google Analytics will track and report on your visitors’ site searches.  That’s where the gold comes out.  From your main Google Analytics report menu on the left, choose ‘Content’, then ‘Site Search’.

The Golden Ticket

You can now track:

  • How popular is your site search feature?  [Usage Report]
    • This could be a good or bad number depending on how important you consider site search.
  • How many people were not satisfied with their first results page and did a 2nd search (refined)? [Search Terms Report]
    • What terms did these visitors have in common?
  • Which search terms caused people to leave your site? Or stay much longer than the average visitor? [Search Terms Report]
  • Which search terms result in conversions? Which resulting pages result in conversions? [Search Terms Report]
  • Which internal page prompted the most searches? [Start Pages Report]
  • What were they really looking for? [Destination Pages Report]

No Search?

If you don’t have a search tool already integrated into your website, take a look at Google’s Site Search.  It’s simple, free and easily integrated with Google Analytics

ClickTale User Review

Is your website poorly performing? ClickTale will show you why
ClickTale is one of my Top 3 web analysis tools.  Its power and quick payoff are huge.  I wish I had more time to truly exploit it on a regular basis, I believe in it so much.

My Typical Use

When I’m first initiating a customer engagement after making sure they have basic analytics set up, I’ll install ClickTale on their site for 2 weeks.  During this time there will be no changes made to the site.  We’ll collect data on the users of the site in a way that is more advanced and telling than straight Google Analytics.

Here are the 3 features that have sold me on the product and make me fork over $99/month (this link will get you the Bronze Plan for $79/month):

Recorded User Sessions (Videos)

After you’ve tagged all pages of your site, you can literally watch one by one as your users move their mouse, type into your forms and click un-clickable images.  By the way, I love how they’ve coined them as videos, very approachable and easily understood.

In fact there is always at least one ah-ha moment within the first 5 sessions we review where we find a significant usability problem with the customer’s site.  As you present your proposal to a client, your VP or Marketing or your CEO, it’s always nice to know you can count on at least one instant win that sometime pays for all of your costs.

Once you’ve come down from the recording high, though, the filtering that you can do to focus on failures (see the jserror below), how different browser visitors experience your website and even engagement time, is where the tool really pays off.

ClickTale User Recording Video List

One of my favorite deep dives is to watch recording of users who came in through what I consider to be highly qualified organic search terms, but had very short (if not bouncing) visits.  I want to see their screen, watch their mouse move and attempt to put myself in their shoes to determine why they didn’t stay.

Mouse Move Heatmaps

This is total eye candy and one of the easy ways to win over those skeptical of your analysis.  Of course, you’ll need to follow-up with your hard core recommendations, but presentation is everything and heatmaps are a great first slide.

But these are not just static heatmaps.  And they really go beyond eye candy.  After two weeks of data you’ll know so much about how effective your web pages are that your client or boss will be converted and become engaged in learning more about how to improve your website.

You have to upgrade to the enterprise level to get heatmaps beyond just the one available in the Bronze package.  That package only maps your most popular page, usually the home page.  There’s a big jump in price beyond the Bronze package.  So I recommend starting with the Bronze package first to make sure it’s what you want.

But as you’ll learn, not only can you quickly see where the visitor’s mouse moves (with its 80% correlation to eye movement), but you can turn layers/filtering on and off to help you find what’s working and what may be causing confusion to your visitors.

Form analysis

This is another monster.  In addition to friendlier reporting on your conversion metrics, the tool, when combined with user recording, can really hone in on problems with forms.  Since so many of my clients are focused on lead generation, the completion of a form is the money shot.  Quickly finding holes in their lead funnels can justify months of future work looking for smaller lifts in conversions.

Form conversion report

Another Secret Weapon

I would probably pay the $99/month (discounted Bronze Plan for $79/month) for just these 3 features.  They are that empowering.  Other features of the Bronze package that I use less include:

  • Scroll reach heatmaps
  • Up to 3 domains tracked – perfect number for me
  • Click heatmaps
  • Link analytics
  • Event-based filtering
  • Custom email alerts

SPY on your Visitors

3 Powerful Conversion Rate Analyses, Courtesy of Your Web Analytics


Let’s pick apart three powerful conversion rates that I have been using web analytics to do deep dives with one of my customers.

Avinish Kaushik, years ago, shared his views on how to consider conversion rates and what not to do.  From his position these metrics may be too granular, but for my customer and me they are invaluable in learning more about how the website is used and what works for the visitors.

You are more than welcome to disagree, but that’s doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable!

Assumption: You have goals defined in your web analytics tool.  I use Google Analytics for this customer because they weren’t able to invest in Omniture’s SiteCatalyst.

I have micro-goals (7.0 Pages per Visit and 4.0 Minutes per Visit) as well as harder, more traditional goals (Form completions and Dynamic Phone Number Tracking) since my customer works in a B2C lead generation model where the sale is completed over the phone.

So here they are.  My 3 Powerful Conversion Rates

Blog visitor conversion rates

Using Google Analytics’ Advanced Segmentation I pulled out those visitors whose first page on their visit to our website (Content – Landing Pages in the Google Analytics world) was within our website’s blog section.   I’m showing their source/medium here for additional insight since many readers do not often get to peak into any firm’s web analytics data.

Blog Visitors Conversion Rates

These folks are interesting because the content of the blog is not lead generation material, but rather thought leadership and subject matter expertise in nature.

And as you might expect, they’ve done well on the soft goals over the past 3 months, but their conversion rate on the more important hard goals of form completions are near zero.

Keyword conversion rates

Here we are back to looking at the entire visitor population at large via web analytics.

Keyword Conversion Rates

What’s interesting here is the comparison of the soft goal conversion rates compared with the earlier example of blog visitors. You’ll notice the blog visitors were much more inclined to visit more pages and spend more time on the site than some of the search-based keyword visitors.  Note that we had no paid search going on during this window, so we are only considering organic searchers.

But you will notice that the hard conversion rates jump significantly for a handful of keywords.    It’s worth noting that 3 of the top keywords that have been blurred out are branded keywords and have higher conversion rates as expected.

That would be worth another look to see how your branded keywords perform against your non-branded keywords.  Through segmentation you could easily put those two groups side-by-side.

Mobile device conversion rates

With the recent launch of the iPad I personally like to track this conversion rate to see how it measures up against the others.

Mobile Visitors Conversion Rates

Since this customer’s site has not yet been converted/adapted for the mobile devices you can see that overall it is performing miserably with them.  Aside from the iPad and Samsung, our soft goals are near zero.

An interesting side note on these data points, those two operating systems had screen resolutions of 768×1024 and 231×264, respectively.  I find it odd that such a small resolution on the Samsung would generate high soft conversion rates.  To investigate another day.

The Missing Power Conversion Rates

I, personally, dissect conversion rates many different ways with a majority of them proving useless.  It’s not until you find that handful of enlightening views, which always differ by customer, that you take a leap forward in improving their visitor experience while also providing that conversion rate lift that your customer is constantly seeking.

But if you’re into that level of detail, combined with knowing what affects the business, you’ll get closer to that elusive title of digital strategist, marketing technologist or just plain online marketing fanatic.