Using User Flow analysis to improve your hotel website and increase bookings

When it comes to judging the effectiveness of your hotel website, User Flow analysis in Google Analytics is one of the best tools at your disposal. Through the tracking code, Google Analytics can show you how customers navigate and interact with your website.

Think of User Flow as your treasure map leading to “X marks the spot” (or in this case a booking).  Google Analytics can show you the route your visitors are taking and just how elaborate or confused the journey can be for somebody wanting to book. Are they visiting a lot of pages? Which pages do they visit and in what order? How soon do they get to the booking engine?

User Flow is especially important in understanding whether guests “give up” on the site because they are frustrated and cannot find the information that they need. By evaluating User Flow, hotel managers can make improvements to the site that can help to ease navigation issues and make the site more user-friendly.

Where do you find User Flow?

Once you have logged into your Google Analytics account, the User Flow can be found at the bottom sub-section menu of the Audience tab.

Once there you will be presented with you User Flow that should look like the image below:

google-analytics-where-to-find-user-flow

When you click on it, it looks something like this:

user-flow-analytics-example

But what does all this mean?

The WHITE boxes are where your website traffic has come from and this is an often overlooked aspect of analysis that can show you visiting information by country, city, browser, screen resolution, source, medium and countless others.  This defaults to country.

The first GREEN boxes are the starting pages where traffic first enters your website.  Google calls these “nodes” and they are marked by landing page URL.

All other GREEN boxes are the next page that a visitor clicks to and display the page URL.

The GREY lines are a visual representation of the clicks the visitors are making.

The RED lines show “drop-offs” (the number and percentage of visitors leaving your website at that page).

The User Flow is designed to show the most popular paths at the top of the graph and has the numbers of sessions and drop-offs for each node. The level of analysis is limited only by your need (and time available!) as the User Flow has the ability to show huge volumes of data type and segmentation.

The most notable is the ability to analyze traffic through a specific page.  If you click on any green node you are presented with three options:

  • Highlight traffic through here
  • Explore traffic through here
  • Group details

user-flow-options

Highlighting traffic does just that—it blocks out traffic that doesn’t go through that node and shows it on the same image.

Explore traffic is a more in-depth version of this and gives you the ability to drill down into a page looking at all the clicks to and from and where traffic came from.

Group details shows all the pages within that node, which is particularly useful for the “more pages” at the bottom of each column.

How to analyze User Flow

There are hundreds of reasons you may look at this data.  For example, it is a useful tool for analyzing a PPC landing page and exploring through-traffic pages.  Or it can be used to identify bottlenecks on pages from different sources/mediums/devices.  It can be used to identify popular starting pages that people visit and ensuring those pages are optimized for conversion.

One of the most frequent uses we have for this is to highlight bottlenecks with general navigation and slowing the purchase cycle on hotel websites.

user-flow-analytics

If we look at the image above, one thing that we notice is that every other interaction is the homepage (shown as a “/” on the user flow). This usually indicates poorly designed navigation—when visitors cannot easily find the next piece of information they are looking for, they will usually click back to the homepage. This creates a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth for the visitor, who may get frustrated and leave the site.

Another quickly identifiable factor is that the visitor is not presented with a purchasing page within three clicks (which is good guide for the optimum amount of clicks to maximize conversions).  In fact the first time a payment page comes up on this website is the sixth interaction—seven pages into the website.

This type of hold up is limiting the sales capability of this website and only the most determined of visitors are actually completing bookings.  It is alienating the impulse purchaser or the visitor who is shortlisting hotels before making a final decision.

How do you fix User Flow on your hotel website?

The ultimate goal for any hotel website is to drive traffic to book direct. There are many ways you can analyze and use User Flow data in order to further that goal.

First, use User Flow data to identify and relieve any bottlenecks that might be preventing visitors from easily making a booking. For example, sometimes it can be as simple as removing unnecessary or too many calls to action, other times it can be the opposite and making a call to action more readily identifiable. Website copy, call to action copy and the images you use can also play a huge influence upon the visitor’s actions.

Second, use User Flow data to identify the most popular pages on your website. Ask yourself: is your best content on your most visited pages? Use the data to strengthen those pages and make sure visitors are getting all the information they need to encourage a booking.

The biggest takeaway from this is that hotel websites need constant attention—testing, iterating, and fine-tuning elements to make them function better. A website should never be a “set and forget” item; it is a constantly evolving marketing channel that reacts to the needs of your customers and doesn’t dictate a single message for its lifespan.


Could your hotel website benefit from this type of analysis and optimization? Sign up for a free website consultation today.

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