Making drastic changes to your site in hopes of increasing conversions or fixing trouble spots can be pretty intimidating. Okay, making any change to your site can be intimidating because when something is sort of working, there’s also a desire to just leave it alone to avoid making it worse. Trouble with that is pretty soon you have an entire site of “meh” that you’re afraid to touch just so you don’t break anything. And that’s no good. Because nobody gets excited over “meh”. Nobody wants to share “meh”. Meh pretty much sucks.

To help ease some of the fear that goes along with making changes to your Web site, why not start out by making small changes to obvious problem areas? Fix up the conversion holes at the spots that you’ve outted as being a source of leaky juice. Of course, first you have to identify those problem areas.

Below are four ways to use Google Analytics to help you uncover and defeat your site’s unsightly areas.

Look at your top exit pages

Take some time today (or perhaps this weekend when Irene crushes your plans) to head into Google Analytics and dig into your Top Exit Pages. If you’ve never checked them out before, this is a good tiem to introduce yourself. Your Top Exit Pages are the pages on your site that send users running away in fear MORE than any other page on your Web site. They are the pages that do the best job of confusing readers, attracting the wrong people or which display the most glaring signs of over-marketing on your entire site and make people want to punch you in the face.
Take some time to examine these pages, find out why they’re broken, and then fix them. Often it can be as easy as deciding this page isn’t serving a real purpose for your site (and then you can get rid of it) or changing the language to address a different need or point in the customer life cycle.

Check for high bounce rates

If someone lands on a page and then quickly gets the hell out of a dodge, there’s a reason for that. Either they never should have landed on that page in the first place (you’re getting the wrong traffic) or there was some kind of disconnect between their expectations and what was presented on the page. Whatever the reason, you need to fix that. Your analytics will help you find the pages where your bounce rates are looking considerably larger than what’s “normal” for you (it will be different for everyone). Take a look at these pages and identify what the problem is. Why are these pages attracting the wrong type of user? How can they be tweaked to meet where a person is in their buying or research cycle? Why doesn’t this page meet the needs of your user?

Stalk your site search

When a user goes to your site search, it’s because they’ve admitted to themselves that they’re lost. They’re looking for something and they can’t find it. By analyzing what they’re typing in there, you can learn about your user, what they want, and how they interact with your Web site.

For example:

  • Are visitors using your site search as a pseudo-navigational system for your site because they can’t find what they’re looking for?
  • Should you be highlighting certain types of content or making it sit closer to the home page so they don’t have to dig as deep for it?
  • Are visitors looking for content or information you don’t have?
  • Are they using different language than you are for the same product or service?

By examining your site search you’re able to hear from your customers, in their own words, what issues they’re having with your Web site.

Review & Evaluate Site Elements

I’m a big fan of simplicity. Both in my life and in my Web sites. And that’s one reason why I like looking at Google In-Page Analytics. If you haven’t used it before, it essentially superimposes your analytics directly over a Web page so that you can see how users are interacting with various site elements. Why is this interesting? Well, I like it because it gives you an idea of where you’re sending people and if you’re sending people in the direction that you actually want them to go or if you’re just confusing them. If you’re one of those businesses that liters your home page with useless links instead of focusing on your core competencies and the direction you want people to take, this does a good job at showing you how you may be shooting yourself in the foot.

Those are a few super easy ways to identify weak spots on your site so that you can improve and strengthen them. Because if there’s one thing all marketers can agree on it’s that low-hanging fruit sure is delicious.


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


7 thoughts on “Using Google Analytics To Uncover Hidden Problem Areas


  • netmeg on said:

    Be careful about using bounce rate, as it is a very noisy signal. In some cases, bounce rate will be high because the user got what they wanted on that page; there was no need to go further. Look at it sure, but don’t go off half cocked because you see a high bounce rate. Think about what you (and your users) expect to get from that page before acting on a high bounce rate.

    The Google Intelligence alerts (right under the Dashboard on the left side) can be extremely useful. Google automatically tracks a set of anomalies and unexpected behaviors and reports on them here, plus you can create custom alerts as well, and have them emailed to you. So if your pageviews from Bing suddenly drop off or your conversions from email campaigns tank or Google sents you a truckload of traffic all of a sudden, you be alerted that there’s something that needs further investigation.


    • Samara Hart on said:

      I was about to add something regarding bounce rate as well, instead I will just agree with Netmeg by saying – “Yeah, what she said” :-)


  • Eric on said:

    Great post, but I disagree with the Exit Page section. Visitors have to exit the site from somewhere, so high exit rates aren’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, if they leave from the “Thank You” page for an email newsletter, that’s fine. If they leave halfway through the sign-up process, on the other hand…


    • Marc on said:

      Agree 100% with Eric here. An exit page can be completely arbitrary and should not provide any indication of the page’s value. Use the bounce rate report when targeting leakage on your website.


  • yankeerudy on said:

    Agreed, netmeg. Look at bounce rate as it fits with other key metrics like average time on page. In the scenario Lisa mentions (i.e. visitors hightailing it out of Dodge) you’ll see a very short time-on-page. In the case of a lengthy/detailed/incredibly helpful page, though, you may see high bounce AND a high time-on-page. Tackling this is VERY different than an in&out bouncey page.


  • Tom Stevens on said:

    On one of my website the bounce rate is very high, well I think it is high anyway, it is around the 77% rate.

    But when I look at the stats for my site I often see that the number of pages being viewed is sometimes two thirds more than the unique visitors, so obviously there are quite a few people having a good look round my site.

    But I am still lumbered with this high bounce rate!


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