How to Find and Plug the Leaks in Your Conversion Funnels

How to find the leaks in your conversion funnels

Throughout this article we’ll be referencing reports from Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free and accessible analytics tool, which is why we use it for demonstrations and examples. If you have a Shopify store, click here to learn about additional reports and analytics available to you.

There are three funnel-related reports in Google Analytics, which you can use to find leaks in your conversion funnels:

  • Funnel visualization report (Conversions > Goals > Funnel Visualization). This is the most basic report, which shows you a visual overview of your funnel, depending on the goal selected.
  • Goal flow report (Conversions > Goals > Goal Flow). This shows the most accurate path to conversion. Plus, it’s a bit more flexible than the funnel visualization because it allows you to use advanced segments and date comparison.
  • Reverse goal path report (Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path). This shows you your actual funnels. Here, you’ll discover funnels you didn’t even know existed. Essentially, you’ll see the three pages visited prior to conversion.

When reviewing these reports, ask yourself where visitors are exiting the funnels most often. These are the “leaks” you need to fix. To improve your conversion rate, you’ll need to figure out how to plug those leaks and keep more visitors in your funnels.

Between the three reports above, you should be able to quickly spot problem areas in your funnels. So, how do you plug the proverbial leaks?

“In God we trust—all others bring data.”

In the words of W. Edwards Deming, “In God we trust—all others bring data.” The first step is conducting quantitative and qualitative research to find out why the holes exist and how best to plug them.

The lower you go in a funnel, the more impactful plugged leaks will be. A small increase in conversion rate goes a lot further at the bottom of a funnel than the top. Often, it’s smart to work your way from the bottom to the top for that very reason.

How to conduct quantitative research

Quantitative research is numeric and objective. It aims to uncover the “what” behind the behavior of your visitors and customers. In conversion rate optimization, quantitative research usually refers to one of the following methods:

  1. Technical analysis
  2. Analytics deep dive
  3. Form analytics
  4. Heatmaps

1. Technical analysis

If your store doesn’t work well, it won’t convert well. That’s an absolute rule.

While it’s easy to think everyone uses the latest version of our favorite browser or OS, reality is more complex. You might have a shiny new iPhone X, but someone somewhere is still rocking a Motorola Razr from 2005.

Technical analysis accommodates these different types of visitors and buyers, and largely covers three core concepts:

1. Cross-browser and cross-device testing. This is the process of ensuring your store works correctly in as many browsers and on as many devices as possible, which is no small task. The trick is that each browser and device has many versions, and it’s very easy to hit snooze on those update reminders. So, you can’t assume everyone is using the latest version.

You can use a tool like BrowserStack and your preferred analytics tool to expedite the process. With Google Analytics, for example, you can navigate to two key reports: Audience > Technology > Browser & OS and Audience > Mobile > Devices. Switch from the Data view to the Comparison view to see how the browsers and devices compare to one another. Just be sure to compare within the same family (e.g., Android to Android, Chrome to Chrome).

Here’s an example:

Google Analytics browser report

You can see the Comparison view is active in the top right-hand corner and Purchase Completed has been selected as the comparison metric. What you’re looking at is a list of the most popular Chrome browser versions for your store and how well they convert.

These types of reports will help you prioritize your cross-browser and cross-device testing. You can start with the most popular and most troublesome browsers and devices (for your specific store) first.

2. Mobile optimization. Mobile is a whole other beast. It’s important to keep that in mind when you’re optimizing a mobile experience. What people want and need on mobile is very different from what they want and need on desktop. Intentions, motivations and contexts all change. A good mobile experience is not just a desktop experience on a smaller screen; a good mobile experience is a good mobile experience, full stop.

3. Page speed optimization. According to Google, the average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, but 53% of mobile visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. If your site is too slow, you’ll lose visitors before you even have a chance to market to them. If you’re using Google Analytics, you can use the Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings report to identify slow pages. Then, run those pages through PageSpeed Insights for tips on how to improve the page speed.

2. Analytics deep dive

If you’re using Shopify reports and analytics, you can rest assured your setup has been configured correctly. But what about tools like Google Analytics that require setup on your part? You’d be surprised how easy it is to configure an analytics tool incorrectly. Before you dive deep into your analytics, ask yourself:

  • Am I collecting all of the data I need?
  • Can I trust the data I’m collecting?
  • Is anything broken or tracking incorrectly?

If your analytics are inaccurate or incomplete, decisions you make based on that data are misguided and, ultimately, useless.

Once you’re confident in your data, you can dive in to better understand how your visitors and customers behave. Here’s what to keep in mind as you swim through the data:

Start with a question or problem. Ronald Coase once said, “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” In other words, if you go into data analysis with preconceived notions and assumptions, you’ll find something to back it up if you look hard enough. To avoid this trap, it’s important to start with a question to answer or a problem to solve. To be sure the question or problem is worth your time, ask yourself what you’ll do with the answer or solution. If you can’t clearly define the next steps, it’s probably not the right question or problem.

“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.”

Start where the value is. You’ll have no shortage of data at your fingertips, regardless of what analytics tool you turn to. So, how do you get the most amount of value as quickly as possible? Start with high volume, low conversion pages (e.g., an old blog post) or low volume, high conversion pages (e.g., the checkout page). Conversion improvements will have a bigger impact here.

Fix broken links. Broken links mean 404 errors, which are bad for both the user experience and search engine optimization. The faster you can identify and fix broken links using your analytics tool, the better. In Google Analytics, for example, you can find broken links with the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report. Search for the page title of your 404 page (i.e., “404 Page Not Found”) and select Page Title as your Primary Dimension in the top left-hand corner.

When you click through to “404 Page Not Found” (this will be slightly different for every site), you’ll find a list of URLs that are returning a 404. You can then use the Secondary Dimension drop-down in the top left-hand corner to select Full Referrer, which will show you URLs referring traffic to your 404s. This is helpful if you want to ask them to link somewhere else.

Internal search is a gold mine. If you have internal search on your site, you’re sitting on a proverbial gold mine. Every time visitors search, they’re telling you what they want and how well you help them get what they want. In Google Analytics, for example, you can use the Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms report to uncover insights. The report will show you a list of the most popular search terms. All you have to do is look at the Time after Search metric to see how well you serve each search term. If searchers find what they’re looking for, time after search will be high. If not, it will be low. Whenever time after search is low for a popular term, that’s a product opportunity.

Segmentation is crucial. Segmenting your analytics data is invaluable. The more ways you can slice and dice your data, the more ways you can uncover insights. If you haven’t already, consider reading up on Google Analytics segments. This same concept should be applied to whichever analytics tool you use.

3. Form analytics

If you have a form on your site, whether it’s your checkout form or a simple lead gen form, consider it an important conversion point. A form is an interaction, an exchange between you and the visitor or customer. The more you know about that interaction and the friction associated with it, the better.

A form analytics tool like Formisimo can help answer important questions, like:

  • Which form fields cause the most error messages?
  • Which fields do people hesitate to fill?
  • Which fields do people leave empty, even if required?

You can use the data to reduce friction and improve the conversion rate.

4. Heatmaps

Heatmaps are visual representations of data, where values are represented by colors. Most tools will use warm colors (red, orange, yellow) to demonstrate high values and cool colors (blue, green) to demonstrate low values.

There are two main types of heatmaps in conversion rate optimization:

  • Clickmaps. The data that goes into clickmaps often seems more useful than it really is. Truthfully, clickmaps are best used for identifying places on your site that visitors think link out. So, in other words, what are your visitors clicking on falsely thinking they’ll be served a link? You can now turn those non-linked elements into links to deliver a better user experience.
  • Scrollmaps. Scrollmaps are a bit more useful. They can help you prioritize your messaging, especially on category and product pages. If your scrollmap suddenly jumps from red to blue, for example, you might need to use visual cues (like an arrow) to keep visitors scrolling. Alternatively, you might want to move your most important messaging above the drop-off point.

How to conduct qualitative research

Qualitative research is exploratory and subjective. It aims to uncover the “why” behind the behavior of your visitors and customers. In conversion rate optimization, qualitative research usually refers to one of the following methods:

  1. On-site surveys
  2. Customer interviews
  3. Customer surveys
  4. User testing
  5. Session replays

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