Using the Behaviour Report in Google Analytics for Beginners

October 24, 2018

Next up in our Google Analytics series, we take a look at the Behaviour report section. If you missed the earlier posts in the series, we took a look at getting started on Google Analytics, and using the Audience Overview report which you can find here and then we had a look at the Acquisition report. So this week we will dive into the Behaviour report where we get to discover what our website visitors are actually doing once they arrive at our website.

What is the Behaviour Report?

With the Behaviour report, we will be analysing what it is our website users are doing once they get to our website. We can see how long they’re hanging around, how many pages they’re visiting and what pages they’re visiting the most. This is valuable information for us in both valuing the performance of our digital marketing campaign so far, and to help inform what choices we will make in the future. If you have an article that is doing particularly well compared to another, perhaps you focus on turning that article into a series. This might give us some great ideas for new content, or it may mean re-purposing some old content. Either way, positioning your website as an “expert” on a particular topic is excellent for SEO. Or maybe you’re an e-commerce store and you’ve noted a lot of people hovering on the checkout page but abandoning their cart without payment. There may be an opportunity there to recapture your audience perhaps in their inbox if you have a mailing list. Or maybe the problem is in your call to action on the website, or your checkout process is too complicated - or maybe your shipping costs are too high? As always, the information we take from Analytics is always open to interpretation, but hopefully it can start a conversation internally or get those creative juices pumping!

Get Started with the Behaviour Report

So, head to Google Analytics and click on Behaviour > Overview from the left sidebar. Select a date range you’d like to analyse from the calendar on the right of the screen. I’ve just chosen a three month range, but you can take a look at any length of time based on how much information you want to look at. You can also choose to compare it against a previous period or year to see how you’ve improved or where you have a chance for improvement.

Behaviour Report Overview

Here, we’re looking at total page views by Day over the three month period. You can hover over any part of this graph to discover exact page views for a particular day or select to view by week or month for a less specific snapshot. Note that this is not total visitors - one visitor may view multiple pages on any given day which contributes to the overall number, or they may view the same page several times. Unique Page Views counts each page viewed by each visitor only once, regardless of how many times they viewed the page in the same session. Next, we have the Average Time on Page, presented as hours:minutes:seconds. In the world of the Internet, anything in the realm of a minute or higher is very good. Remember that your visitors attention is constantly being dragged in a dozen or more directions by other websites, emails, phone calls and phone notifications, so holding their attention is an achievement. Holding your visitors attention can indicate that your content is interesting, relevant and of a high quality; all good things for SEO purposes.

Next is the Bounce Rate and the Exit Rate. We’ve touched on the Bounce Rate before, earlier in our series, but to recap: the Bounce Rate is the rate at which people are landing on your website and then immediately exiting without taking any further action. Often these aren’t “real people” but rather bots pinging to your website from random locations. This can explain random traffic jumps on an otherwise innocuous day from locations that have no relevance to you (for me, it’s usually from Sri Lanka). A really high bounce rate (50% is considered about average for most industries) indicates a really low quality audience and/or a low quality website with irrelevant content - basically, it doesn’t really matter if your website views have soared to 10,000 a month if your bounce rate is sitting at 80%. Later in this article I’ll show you how to check what pages have the highest bounce rate, so you can see if they can be improved in anyway. The Exit Rate indicates is the number of exits divided by the number of page views - it basically indicates the rate with which people are leaving the site after reaching a specific page or set of pages. When we look at a specific page, the Bounce Rate is the percentage of people who entered the website to this page and immediately left, whereas the Exit Rate is the percentage of people who viewed a number of pages but this specific page was where they chose to exit the website.

Behaviour Report Page Views

OK, so let’s look at some pages. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see a list of your top ten performing pages. Remember that your home page is indicated by the forward slash. I’ve blocked out some of the names of this client’s webpages for privacy, but as you can see their number two and number three top viewed pages are support pages. This makes sense for them as a software developer, so I’m not too worried about that! Number four is their contact/company info page, and then we get into the actual content of the website. You can click on any of your top ten pages to get some more information about that page’s performance, but instead we’re going to click on All Pages over in the left sidebar menu.

Here we can see pretty much the same information, but it’s given us details about each page instead of the whole website. Now we can take a look at the bounce rate for each page, as well as where the most time is spent. As you can see here on page number three (/supportportal/), our bounce rate has jumped up to over 70%.  If you see something like this in your pages, have a think about what they may mean. For me, I know that this page is simply a landing page to push customers to the right support portal for the software product they’re using. So, I’m not too worried about the higher bounce rate here; additionally people are still on this page for over three minutes, so I know they aren’t just bots but real people searching for answers. If for example, you’re seeing a really high bounce rate on a contact page, I don’t believe that shows anything too malicious. Visitors have found the information they were looking for, and have no reason to hang around any longer or visit other pages. If you are concerned about the increase in the bounce rate on a specific page, it may be worth having a look at the Acquisition report to see where they’re coming from. If this doesn’t enlighten you as to the cause, perhaps it’s time to rework this webpage for content or layout to see if you can make it more appealing to your visitors.

At the moment, the pages are sorted by highest to lowest page views, but we can sort the same for any other column, and also sort from lowest to highest. Click around on each column to see what you can discover about each of them, both as the best performing and the worst performing. If you encounter any URL’s that look like this, don’t panic: they’re just draft pages you’ve quickly previewed before publishing them.

Odd URL's in Behaviour Report

Another interesting report is adding the Source as a second dimension. Back on our original report of best to worst page views, click on the Secondary Dimension button at the top of the table and select Acquisition and then Source. Now we can see the most common sources for our most common pages. For example, now I can see that this client’s homepage is almost an even split between Google referrals and Direct clicks (perhaps from a bookmark). Yours may give you some more insight than this, telling you that most people are coming to your blog from Twitter, whereas Google or Facebook sends the most traffic to your homepage or your contact page!

Secondary Source Behaviour Report

As always, have a click around in the Behaviour section and see what interesting tidbits you can find and figure out. Remember: you can’t break Analytics! Nothing you do here has any effect on your website or your ranking, it’s all about looking at existing data and gleaning meaning from it. So be brave, think like a website visitor and make assumptions about what their activity on your website might mean, whether it’s good or bad!

OK, so we've now had a look at all the main report areas of Google Analytics, and I'd love to hear from you - what do you want to know next? Was there something that confused you or are you still stuck on something?

Comment below or get in touch!


Laura x

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Using the Behaviour Report in Google Analytics for Beginners
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Laura F Gosney
Hey, I'm Laura
I’m a Soulful Brand and Website Designer specialising in creating beautiful, personality-driven brands that showcase how remarkable you truly are.

For more than 5 years, I’ve worked with innovative e-commerce founders, passionate service-based businesses, and inspiring creatives to capture the remarkable soul of their work and transform that into a brand and website they can feel proud of.
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I acknowledge the First Nations people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which I live and work, i.e. Meanjin, Brisbane. Sovereignty was never ceded.
Copyright © 2023 Laura F Gosney ABN: 88 413 183 164

Words by Brit Stevens
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