Optimize Conversions by Using the Reverse Goal Path Report in Google Analytics
Accessing the Reverse Goal Path Report
To access the Reverse Goal Path report, go to Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path. In this example from an HVAC company, you’ll see a table of URL paths leading up to conversion, along with a completion count for each.
The far left column (Goal Completion Location) contains the final URL where a conversion took place. Goal Previous Step - 1 shows the last page before conversion, with Step 2 and Step 3 being the pages before that. The higher the step number, the further away from conversion a URL was viewed.
The data shows us that some people take considerably less time than others to make a decision, with a few users converting in fewer than four steps. In these cases, the step before the first pageview shows up as (entrance), with any previous steps showing as (not set).
Looking at Specific Goals
By default, this report aggregates data from all Goals tracked within the Analytics view. If you’re tracking multiple Goals, you should take time to zero in on the pathways for each Goal. For example, you may be tracking Goals for special offers on your site separately from the form on the main contact page.
To choose a specific Goal, use the dropdown just above the table. Here, we’ve selected the Contact Form Submission to track conversions from a general contact form that appears across the site. Other Goals are primarily focused on tracking landing pages separate from the main site, narrowing to the Contact Form allows us to zero in on the main website’s performance.
By looking at the data, we can determine what services and offers are popular. This example shows that duct cleaning appears to be the highest-performing service-specific page driving conversions. In addition, a rebates page also appears high on the list.
We can also review how many of the top results in this report involved fewer than three steps. For instance, the duct cleaning submissions shown involved people coming directly to that page, as opposed to finding it through a list of services. This data can help indicate how effective paid and organic tactics are at driving conversions from inner pages within your site. We’ll cover more on segmenting data by channel a little later.
The fact that people are finding your site via pages other than the homepage is a good sign, as this allows them to come in through the section most relevant to their needs or interests. Seeing that this page leads to conversions without additional steps is a sign that the call to action (CTA) here is effective.
Filtering the Report
In the previous example, some job searches appeared in the contact form conversion results. Looking at the URLs, we see pageviews for an employment opportunities page leading to a resume submission page. If we want to look at only sales or service leads, we should exclude these job-related conversions from the report to eliminate extraneous data.
Click advanced next to the search bar at the upper right of the report to begin filtering the results. In looking at the report, /contact-us/submit-your-resume appears to be the final page of “conversion” for job searches, so we’ll exclude any cases where this page showed up. We select Exclude and Goal Previous Step - 1, and then enter /contact-us/submit-your-resume in the text field.
Once this search filter is applied to the report, the results will be limited to those more likely to relate to lead generation. While hiring may be important, and a completely separate pathway to analyze, it doesn’t directly relate to the business’s bottom line. This filtered data will give us a more accurate perspective of how the site is contributing to actual business revenue.
Taking a step further, you may want to analyze goal path by channel. For instance, visitors who come in via paid sources are likely to behave differently from those arriving via organic search. Segments allow us to look only at traffic arriving from a particular channel to break out behavior. If you’re unfamiliar with Segments, see Google’s guide here. The Segments we’ll reference are both included by default in your Analytics account.
First, we know that significant paid search and display advertising efforts are driving traffic to this site. We’ll apply the Paid Traffic segment to limit this report only to visits from online advertising.
Here, we can immediately identify a trend correlating to paid visits. Most paid visitors who convert are likely to do so right away from the page they landed on. In part, this behavior is due to driving a significant percentage of traffic to custom-built landing pages. However, we also see this pattern reflected on pages existing within the main site, such as the duct cleaning and hot water heaters pages.
Next, we’ll switch to the Organic Traffic segment to contrast behavior from organic search visitors.
Here, we can see that many top paths contain more steps than paid; however, most contain three or fewer. We notice a lot of people making their way to the online request form, with some others submitting forms from the current offers section or product/service pages.
Evaluating the pages that precede conversions can help you focus on efforts that are working, whether it’s cultivating testimonials, creating educational content or special promotions. When a page, or a type of page, is feeding into the customer journey there may be insight there that can inform everything from your content marketing to your seasonal offers.
Exporting to a Spreadsheet
For more advanced marketers, if you want to look at data on a grander scale, you can easily export this report to an Excel file. The spreadsheet format can be helpful in aggregating pages from multiple page paths together. For instance, you may want to see how many times the duct cleaning page appears across all three page paths.
The Reverse Goal Path report offers you a window into a user’s interaction with your website that goes beyond simply counting conversions and measuring conversion rate. By viewing the pages that led to the point of conversion, you can develop a more complete picture of what experiences led your customers to inquire about your services or purchase a product. Analyzing the Reverse Goal Path to better understand your online audience, and their patterns, is crucial in guiding priorities and new strategies. More than that, it helps you understand the common themes your customers find compelling.