For most Omniture SiteCatalyst customers, Pathing Analysis is something with which they are pretty familiar. After all, one of the primary reasons to use a web analytics package is to be able to see how site visitors are traversing the pages of your site. Therefore, in this post, I will cover the basics of Pathing Analysis, but then outline some more advanced uses of pathing that you may not be familiar with.
What is Pathing?
Traditional Pathing Analysis consists of viewing flow reports which show you how often site visitors go from Page A to Page B or Page C on your site. By simply having Omniture SiteCatalyst code on your site pages, you will be able to see several different pathing reports right out of the box. Pathing is commonly used to analyze key website process flows in hopes of identifying opportunities for improvement. For example, you may notice that an unusually high number of site visits show pathing exits after viewing the “Shopping Cart” page. After you have several months worth of data, you should be able to baseline your standard pathing exit rates and then make changes to key pages and see if these changes have a positive or negative effect.
There are eighteen pathing reports available in SiteCatalyst, but there are a few that I tend to use the most:
Next Page Flow
This report allows you to see two levels of pathing from the selected page so you can visually see where visitors are going from the selected page. The thickness of the bars is representative of the percentages.
The fallout report allows you to add several pages to a canvas and see how often visitors viewing the first page in the canvas viewed the second page and how often those viewing the second page viewed the third, etc… It is important to understand that the visitors do not need to have viewed the pages in the exact order indicated on the canvas, but rather, need to have viewed them in the specified order to be included in the fallout report. While you can only add a finite number of pages to a fallout report in SiteCatalyst, you can add many more to the canvas if you use Omniture Discover.
The pathfinder report allows you to add pages to a canvas, but also provides the ability to add wild cards and choose whether you would like to include entries and/or exits in your analysis. This pathing tool is commonly used for understanding all of the different ways visitors can get from Page A to Page Z on your site.
Important Things to Know About Pathing
The following are some important things to know about Pathing:
- Pathing can be enabled on any Traffic Variable, not just Page Name. The most common uses of Pathing are Page Name and Site Sections (s.channel), but there are many creative uses for Pathing beyond this. For example, if you want to have an easy way to see the order that site visitors view your products, you can pass the product name or ID# to a Traffic Variable on each product page and then enable pathing to see which products are viewed concurrently.
- Pathing reports only consider that a path has changed when a new value is passed to the Traffic Variable. This is important, because, if you accidentally use the same page name for two different pages, you will not be able to see instances where visitors went from one page to the other.
- Pathing reports do not span multiple visits.
- In SiteCatalyst, you cannot combine several pages into a bucket and view pathing to/from the bucket of pages, but you can do this in Omniture Discover.
- Pathing reports are not available in Omniture DataWarehouse or the ExcelClient. In future posts I will discuss how you can use ASI (Advanced Segment Insight) to see paths for a subset of your audience.
- You cannot view pathing on a Classification of a Traffic Variable (sProp) in SiteCatalyst (though you can in Discover). Therefore, you should take this into account when determining whether to capture data values directly into a variable or a Classification.
- Pathing reports cannot span across multiple SiteCatalyst report suites so if you want to see pathing for different sites, you need to have a common tag on pages of both sites (known as multi-suite tagging).
In this installment of our real-world example, let’s say that one of Greco Inc.‘s subsidiaries is a Finance related media site and its goal is to increase Page Views so it can increase paid advertising revenue. As part of its SiteCatalyst implementation, Greco Inc. captures the ticker symbols visitors search upon in a Traffic Variable. It turns out that people are willing to pay top dollar for Paid Display Ads served up on the “Apple” ticker symbol (AAPL) results page. Unfortunately, many of the other ticker symbol search results pages don’t command such a premium. Therefore, Greco Inc. would like to find a way to identify more “Apples” on its site so it can increase overall advertising revenues. To do this, they decide to enable pathing on the Traffic Variable containing the ticker symbols being searched upon. This allows them to see which ticker symbols are being searched directly before and after (shown below) “AAPL.”
Armed with this information, Greco Inc. can make a case to its clients that it can provide an almost identical audience as those searching for “Apple” at commensurate price. From a usage standpoint, the best part is that the Ticker Symbol Traffic Variable does not contain all of the site pages, which makes it much easier to follow and provides only the data that is needed.
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