The purpose of all the digital marketing efforts a company embarks on is to drive the customer to its website and convince them to convert.
Businesses invest countless hours and billions of dollars to design elaborate strategies to attract the customer’s attention and gently guide them to their specially designed sales, product, and landing pages.
However, these may all be in vain if the user’s behavior when they land on the website doesn’t match the company’s expectations.
Your marketing and dev teams may have created a rock-solid conversion path, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it answers the user’s needs, responds to their natural browsing behavior, or fits their point of view.
Therefore, businesses need to track and analyze user behavior in order to gauge whether it delivers the desired actions, and where it fails when it doesn’t.
In this article, we’ll talk about user behavior analysis (not to be mistaken with user behavior analytics) and the types of user behavior you should track if you are to improve your website’s performance.
What Is User Behavior?
Simply put, user behavior is the actions a visitor takes once they land on a website. This may include:
- Clicking on links
- Interacting with navigation
- Scrolling through pages
- Engaging with call-to-action buttons
- Filling out forms
- Contacting a chatbot
- Watching videos
- Playing games
- Using multimedia
From the user’s point of view, all these activities are simply browsing. They engage in them in order to find information on the website, interact with features, or make a purchase.
From the business’s perspective, all these actions have a specific purpose that relates to some sort of conversion. Depending on the case, the conversion can be a different thing – acquiring the customer’s email, downloading an asset, following a link, completing checkout, and so on.
The point is, that for any of these to happen, there should be a clearly defined conversion path that makes it as seamless as possible for the user to achieve the goal.
That’s because if they find it difficult to navigate towards the endpoint of their journey, encounter obstacles, or get confused, they are likely to leave, and may never come back.
The user journey is often described as a clickstream, i.e. a sequence of URLs the person visits in one session. However, there is more to user behavior than simply landing, dwelling, browsing, bouncing, and exiting a page.
To fully understand user behavior, you need to analyze what happens in-between and why.
Why Track User Behavior?
The way users behave on a website can show how seamless the conversion path is.
By tracking and analyzing what steps people take, where they go on a website, and to what end, you obtain invaluable insight into UX. You can better understand how user-friendly your website information architecture is, how compelling and useful the CTAs and content are, and so on.
For example, if users disappear after a certain page, and depending on what’s on it, this may mean that there is a technical issue there, or that the information is incomplete, or that it somehow doesn’t match the user’s expectations.
Furthermore, if people spend a lot of time on certain pages and tend to convert right after visiting them, you may want to replicate what’s going on there to boost performance.
Or, when analyzing clickstreams, you may notice that in order to reach page D and convert, the user starts from page A and spends only seconds on pages B and C. In this case, you need to revisit the path to see whether B and C are really necessary, or if a shortcut from A to D is possible.
Every extra step on the user’s journey that doesn’t directly contribute to your goals is another opportunity for people to become bored, impatient, or frustrated and leave.
All in all, by tracking and analyzing user behavior you can significantly improve the user experience, boost your productivity, and, eventually, directly affect your bottom line.
What Tools to Use for User Behavior Analysis?
User behavior analytics is a complex task that requires a multi-level approach.
In order to be able to fully understand the actions of your visitors, you should consider cross-referencing the data using tools that approach the process from different angles. The more angles you have, the better you may understand the user.
Luckily, there are many free and paid tools available that allow businesses to collect data and track behavior.
The first solution you should take advantage of is Google Analytics. While the tool has its limitations, it provides a wide range of insights such as traffic source, dwell time, bounce and exit rate, conversion rate, etc.
Furthermore, you can set up your own parameters, depending on what exactly it is that you want to monitor.
Heatmaps allow you to visualize what people do on your website, where they click, how far they scroll, what buttons they prefer or ignore, and what elements of the navigation they use the most.
By testing different layouts and designs, and comparing their heatmaps, you will be able to clearly see how user behavior changes.
Also, when you know what parts of the website your customers pay the most attention to, you can reposition your CTAs to be more visible and make more impact.
Browsing Session Records
Going through these may be tedious and time-consuming, but it will provide you with invaluable insight into what pages your customers visit, how they explore them, how they interact with content, and everything else they do.
Machine Learning Models
Thanks to the observations the algorithm provides, you can better understand the user behavior patterns that define the customer’s journey across your pages. This way, you will be able to optimize your website to reduce obstacles and help the user to achieve goals quickly and efficiently.
Common Types of User Behavior to Track
The types of user behavior are defined by the goals of the website visitor. Depending on the case, these may, of course, vary but they, generally, fall into three major categories – targeted, purposive, and explorative browsing behavior.
Targeted Browsing Behavior
The best types of users are those who come to your website with a clear idea and purpose. They want to buy something particular, download one of your resources, fill in a form, or follow whatever type of conversion you have in mind.
These types of interactions are called targeted browsing behavior. What makes them so important is that you and the user have the same goals.
Browsing sessions are, more often than not, shorter ones, and the user visits a limited number of pages that are directly relevant to their end goal.
However, for the interaction to be successful, there need to be no obstacles in their way.
The most common types of issues that can prevent them from completing their objectives are poor navigation, technical problems, and confusing content.
When you notice that there is a high exit rate on your pages where the conversion is supposed to happen, consider investigating by watching live browsing sessions to see what seems to be the problem.
You can also test the conversion path by conducting market research and observing how users interact with your website in a real-life testing environment.
The point is that when a user comes to your website with the deliberate intention of converting, there shouldn’t be anything standing in their way.
Purposive Browsing Behavior
Purposive browsing behavior happens when a user ends up on your website when they are researching products and topics relevant to your business. They are looking for something similar to what you are offering, but they are not yet certain whether you are the right choice or not.
Depending on the experience you provide, and how close a match you are to their needs, their browsing session may either result in a conversion or they may leave.
Similarly to the users with targeted behavior, these visitors can be driven away by technical issues, confusing navigation, and poor content. However, while the former are more likely to try and overcome a problem themselves because they really want to convert, the latter are bound to leave at the first sign of inconvenience.
One of the ways to reduce the obstacles in the customer’s way is to analyze the Exit pages report in your Google Analytics tools. There, you will find the most common pages your visitors visit before leaving to never come back.
Review and correlate these pages with the clickstreams of the user to retrace their steps and understand what their goal was and what prevented them from completing it. You can watch recordings, test different positions for your CTA buttons and versions of the content, and create heatmaps to see how the changes affect engagement and conversions.
All in all, your goal with these types of users is to make a strong impression, show that you are reliable, facilitate frictionless browsing, and provide them with hassle-free opportunities to convert at will.
Explorative Browsing Behavior
Users that exhibit explorative browsing behavior are the least likely to convert. More often than not, they end up on your website by accident, while they are aimlessly browsing and come across your links on social media or in third-party content.
These browsing sessions may be very short or very long, depending on how interesting the user finds your content. However, what differentiates them from the rest is that the intent of the visitor is informational – they are not here to make a purchase, download stuff, or share their email with you, they are just browsing.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to convince them to convert, it’s just less probable.
To keep these users around and give them a reason to visit again, you should provide a pleasant user experience, including fast loading, mobile-friendliness, eye-catching design, and interesting, easy-to-access content.
User behavior analysis is a powerful tool that allows businesses to better understand what visitors are doing on their website, and optimize their journey to conversion.
You may know your target audience well and offer exactly the thing they need to soothe their pain points and satisfy their needs. However, if the customer is not able to find their way around your website, you risk losing them for good.
By tracking user behavior and investigating the issues that come up, you can remove the obstacles that stand between your customer and their goals. This way, you can ensure that, more often than not, a visit to your website will be a story with a happy ending.
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