Go With The (Google Analytics Event) Flow

Google Analytics launched a series of enhancements to the Flow Visualization reports. The enhancements include the ability to do a date comparison of the Flow Visualization report and the ability to use other types of goals in the goal flow report. You can read the announcement on the Google Analytics blog.

But the biggest news, and the subject of this post, is the introduction of a new Event Flow report to track users through a series of events.

New: Google Analytics Event Flow

NEW! Google Analytics Event Flow Reports

When the world was focused on web analytics a common analysis technique was path analysis. The goal was to find the “magic path” through the website that lead to the most conversions and then force everyone through that process.

We almost never found the “magic path.” But there are some uses for path analysis, like looking at a defined path, for example a checkout process, and identifying where people leave the process.

But things have changed.

In the new world of digital analytics we collect more than just pageviews. We also collect events, which we use to track the minute details of how people interact with a website or app.

Until now we had no way to understand the sequence, or flow of these events. The Google Analytics Event Flow report provides a visualize of the user path between events.

If you’ve used the Flow Visualization reprots in Google Analytics then the Event Flow reports will look very familiar. It’s the same report. The only difference is that the event flows reports show events.

The event flow report can really be used for anything. It’s really up to you, and how you use events. A few that come to mind:

  • If you’re an automotive site, you might use it to track people using a vehicle configuration tool
  • If you’re a financial site, you might use it to track how people use a mortgage calculator
  • If you’re tracking an app with Google Analytics, you might use this to track interactions
  • If you’re tracking video streams with Google Analytics, you might use this to track how people flow from one stream to another

Before we get into an example, I should point out that this is all based on event data. If you don’t use event tracking this report will be useless. Or, if you have really bad events, this report will not work for you.

Make sure you have great events!

Overview

As is the case with the standard Flow Visualization report, the new Event Flow report consists of segments, nodes and paths. You can view the flow of a specific segment through the report using the segments on the left side. Or you can segment the entire flow using the drop down at the top of the report.

Segmenting the Event Flow in Google Analytics

You can view various segments of traffic through the Event Flow or segment the entire flow.

Nodes represent either an event category, an event category/event action combination or a category/action/label combination.

Example

Last month I wrote about a new way to track content engagement with events. Using some custom code to can generate events as people scroll through a page and read content.

The data generates a model of the reading process. Events are generated at the following times:

  • When an article is loaded in the browser
  • When a visitor starts reading (by tracking scrolling)
  • When a visitor gets to the bottom of the content
  • When a visitor gets to the bottom of the page

We can now visualize the above process with the Event Flow report. I not only want to visualize the above process, but I want to see how people might jump steps in the process.

You can choose different events for the event flow.

You can choose to view a different combination of events in the Event Flow.

Here’s a tip, the size of the nodes change depending on the event combination you choose to view. If you choose to only view the event categories, you’ll have a few, large nodes. But, if you choose to view the categories/actions/labels you’ll have LOTS of nodes.

I find that starting with the category/action combination is usually sufficient.

There are a lot of events here, so I’m going to click on a node and choose Highlight. This shows the traffic through the chosen node, which in this case is the category/action of Reading/ArticleLoad. Now I can see the path of all the traffic that loaded an article.

Highlight traffic through an event node.

You can highlight traffic through a specific event node in Google Analytics.

The visualization shows traffic that came to the site, loaded an articles, read the article, hit the content bottom and hit the bottom of the page.

Google Analytics Event Flow for a Series of Events

Using the Google Analytics Event Flow to visualize a series of event. In this case how people read content on a website.

I was able to see the percentages of traffic that move from step to step in the tabular data. But a visualization makes it easier to identify drop-offs.

Here’s something interesting. Using tabular data I learned that 67% of those that start reading get to the bottom of the content and 9% get to the bottom of the page.

Very few people read all the way to the bottom of the page. What happens after people get to the bottom of the content? Do they leave the site?

Using the flow I can easily get the answer.

I can literally see four actions when people hit the bottom of the content:

  • Some people exit the site (the RED comments below
  • Some move on to a new article (the BLACK comment below)
  • Some read to the bottom of the page (the BLUE comment below)
  • Some convert at a goal (the YELLOW comment below)

Google Analytics Event Flow"

Analyzing what happens during a series of events.

You’re probably wondering how I can get more detail, perhaps view this flow on an article-by-article basis. Well, if I was tracking the article name in the event label I’d be able to see that! But I’m not doing that. Yet.

So there you have it. One application of the Event Flow reports.

How do you plan to use the Event Flow reports?

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    Comments

    1. Nick Iyengar says

      Hey Justin,

      This is great, but I’m disappointed that there still isn’t a Flow report that combines pageview and event-based data. In the future, we can design implementations to take advantage of the Event Flow report as it exists now, but for pre-existing implementations where a mixture of pageviews, events, and even VPVs might be used, a combined Pageview/Event Flow would be really useful.

      • says

        Great point @Nick. This report would be a lot more useful if we included pages in the flow. For example, seeing which page people go to after configuring a vehicle or using a calculator. That would be very useful.

    2. Mary Kay Lofurno says

      Good suggestion to use the article titles in the event schema. I presented your Advanced Content Tracking to my team and they liked it so we are going to implement it on our online knowledgebases. I am excited about that.

      In regards to event flow, I can envision using it for some of our micro conversions, specifically downloading a brochure for our event business web sites.

      Great stuff as always. Thanks, Mary Kay Lofurno

    3. Nick Iyengar says

      One more suggestion: without the ability to choose a specific category of events to look at, the Event Flow can be pretty ungainly. A lot of sites track a wide variety of events, making it common for any given visit to trigger events in multiple (possibly many) categories. I’m having trouble analyzing events in specific categories because I can’t hone in on them specifically.

    4. Javier says

      Hi,

      Great article. At the end of it you mention:

      “You’re probably wondering how I can get more detail, perhaps view this flow on an article-by-article basis. Well, if I was tracking the article name in the event label I’d be able to see that! But I’m not doing that. Yet.”

      Is this something you are now able to do? I´m trying to go in that direction and would love any feedback possible.

      Thanks

      • says

        Javier: I am still not tracking the article title in the Label field. But you can easily change the code to do that. Then use the Event Flow, as I describe in this article, to see how people move from one article to the next.

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