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.

Fallout Report
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.

Pathfinder Report
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Pathing reports do not span multiple visits.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).

Real-World Example
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.

 

Have a question about anything related to Omniture SiteCatalyst?  Is there something on your website that you would like to report on, but don’t know how?  Do you have any tips or best practices you want to share?  If so, please leave a comment here or send me an e-mail at insidesitecatalyst@omniture.com and I will do my best to answer it right here on the blog so everyone can learn! (Don’t worry – I won’t use your name or company name!).  If you are on Twitter, you can follow me at http://twitter.com/Omni_man.

Learn more about Omniture Consulting
Learn more about Omniture University
10 comments
accidentlawyers
accidentlawyers

I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Exceptional work!

Online Business Listing
Online Business Listing

An interesting discussion is value comment. I feel that it is best to write extra on this subject, it won't be a taboo topic but generally individuals are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

Free Press Release Distribution
Free Press Release Distribution

Regardless of their purpose, the ultimate goal is the success of your website is for visitors to complete a series of predefined steps milestone (usually defined as successful events SiteCatalyst).

Sara
Sara

I'm trying to pull up information on Discover about previous subcategory flow, but when I pull up the report by going to Reports-> Paths-> Pages -> Subcategory -> Previous Subcategory flow it shows only two subcategories. When I try to search for other subcats I'm unable to. Is there a guide on Discover that I can look into for this question?

Estate Agents Derby
Estate Agents Derby

I don't know about this pathing. Thanks for this info. I learned something from it.

Betsy
Betsy

I am trying to exclude 'uturns' from next page reports. I can't figure out a way to systematically and simply exclude next page instances that are actually just people clicking 'back' from a specific path. I've tried pathfinder but the superset of pages on both the 'anything except' and 'specific pages' is too complex. I just want all next pages EXCEPT people who clicked back to the original page. any easy ideas?

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Khalfani, Here are my replies to your questions: 1. "Instances" in the next page flow report simply shows the # of times the page listed was the next page. I am not sure why the metric is labeled instances. 2. I may be misunderstanding you, but if you filter after looking at a particular page, you are not doing the same thing as looking at all paths to a bucket of pages and where they went after those buckets of pages. I believe that if you do what you are proposing, you would simply be seeing a subset of the pages after one specific page. Contact me if you'd like to chat more… Adam

Khalfani
Khalfani

In a Next Page report, what does "Instances" mean? Regarding your point #4 above, if I run a Next page report in Site Catalyst, then filter the results page based on URL name, won't that essentially give me the next page flow to that "bucket of pages"? Thanks, Khalfani

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Jason - Great point! Feel free to share an example of what you have done and how it helped! Thanks!

Jason Egan
Jason Egan

Another great use of pathing is enabling it for Flash and AJAX applications. Since these kinds of applications are tied to traditional page views, it's a good idea to send these things into a prop and then enable pathing so that you can understand how people use and navigate through your rich Internet applications (RIAs).