More to Love in Google Analytics Flow Visualization


The Google Analytics product team continues to roll out improvements in the new v5 interface, and the Flow Visualization reports are no exception. Significant enhancements announced recently include the addition of non-URL goals like Visit Duration to the Goal Flow report, a brand new Events Flow report, and the ability to compare date ranges across the entire family of Flow Visualization reports.

Compare Date Ranges in Any Flow Report

“Compare to Past” is a longstanding feature of the date range selector in Google Analytics, but prior to this update was not available in Flow Visualization reports. Now you can see the percentage increase or decrease (color-coded green and red) at each node along the flow.

Visitors Flow Date Comparison

The image above shows a date comparison for the Visitors Flow (found in the Audience reports). I changed the default dimension “Country/Territory” to “Source/Medium” by selecting from the dropdown menu, and then applied the segment “Referral Traffic” by selecting from the dropdown menu above that.

You can see that referrals from and from are up, while referrals from and are down. The comparison continues across starting pages and next pages. The numbers in gray indicate data for the most recent date range, while the percentages indicate the change from the earlier date range.

Explore the New Events Flow Report

If you’re tracking both pageviews and events on your site, you may have noticed that the Visitors Flow covers only pages viewed and not events like downloads or video views or clicks on outbound links. You may be especially interested in the path that leads to certain important events.

The Events Flow report presents visitor flow across events in the same way that the Visitors Flow report presents their flow across pages. Note that only events are included here; pages without events are not part of the Events Flow visualization.

The image below shows the flow of events that includes outbound links and social actions (tweets and likes captured with _trackEvent), but you can imagine many other types of event flows such as a series of game actions (start, level-up, claim-prize), a series of shopping actions (compare-items, wish-list, add-to-cart), or a series of actions involved in a college application process (contact, download, submit-form).

Events Flow

Here I’ve chosen to view nodes by “Category/Action” instead of a more rolled-up view where each node would represent “Category” alone. I can see that when the first event is a tweet, 4 times out of 36 the next event is a follow.

Flow OptionsWhat’s more interesting to me in Events Flow (just as in Visitors Flow), are the options I get when I click on a node: “Highlight” or “Explore traffic through here.” These allow me to focus on a particular event. When I choose “Explore” I can see events before and after a node, and I can add more steps to the left or right.

Explore Events

And I can get more granular by choosing “Category/Action/Label” as shown above. In this case, my event labels contain the blog pages that were liked or tweeted. In the interface, the nodes expand as you mouse over them so you can read the entire label.

View Non-URL Goals in Goal Flow

While the most obvious benefit of the Goal Flow report is its visualization of steps in your funnels, you can also glean useful data for goals that have only one step. And now those one step goals can include engagement goals like Visit Duration (formerly Time on Site). So I can ask, for example, what sources resulted in visits more than 5 minutes long?

Goal Flow

The image above shows the dimension “Source/Medium” and which segments of that dimension contributed to longer visits. I can segment the Goal Flow just like the Visitors Flow and Events Flow, using a default or custom segment.

Customize Dimension

And don’t forget the option to customize the dimension, by clicking the gear icon next to “Source/Medium”… you can quickly find a single source that may not appear in the top nodes, or even define an ad hoc set of sources, without creating a custom segment.

View “Event Funnels” in Events Flow

You can’t put events in funnel steps, so Goal Flow can only show you which visit segments led to a single step Event Goal. But if you have a process that’s easily defined by a series of events, you could use Events Flow to see whether enough visitors flow through those events to make a funnel-like path.

And the best part is you can segment Events Flow using the full range of default and custom segments. Look at the flow across events for just New Visitors, or for Visits with Transactions, or even segment by Custom Variables for visits from different visitor types. Sounds like a great topic for a future blog post!

What’s your reaction to this latest round of enhancements to Flow Visualization? What’s still on your wish list? Let me know in the comments.

Dorcas Alexander is a Manager for the Analytics & Insight department. Her path to LunaMetrics followed stints in ad agency creative, math, and computer science. Dorcas has a master's degree in language and information technologies from Carnegie Mellon University, where she helped build precursors to a Universal Translator. One of the top-rated tournament Scrabble players in Pennsylvania, Dorcas has an insatiable drive to compete and win.

  • Very cool. But one of the best is export and e-mail in excel format….looooong time waiting for that.

  • Michael

    Nice article. Question regarding the Flow reports. Is Drop Off the show the same as Bounce Rate or is it measured differently? It appears to be a hybrid of exits and bounces but I can’t find anything definitive. It doesn’t seem to match the bounce rate for any given page when viewing bounce rate reports. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi Michael, Drop Offs (Exits) are not the same as Bounces. Bounces are actually a subset of Exits, i.e. bounces are exits from a page that was also the Entrance of a visit. You need an even stricter definition if you are doing more than the basic tracking on a page (perhaps adding event tracking or e-commerce tracking, for example). In that case, bounces are exits from a page that was also the entrance page for that visit – as long as no other tracking hits are sent from that page. Extra hits from things like events or transactions are the most common way to nullify a bounce. These definitions are true for the standard reports as well as the flow visualization reports.

  • Is there anyway you export ‘visitor flow’ data into a weekly custom PDF report. Love the feature but can’t seem to add it to a PDF so a client can view it each week. Thanks

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi Richard, visitor flow is not yet available as a scheduled email report. You can only do a one-time export to PDF.

  • Georgi

    Hi Dorcas,

    Thank you for the explanation, all these options could be somewhat confusing for a newbie, but very powerful indeed. I have a question. I want to filter the visitor flow only based on a given referral url. So lets say I have traffic from When I select Referral Traffic in visitors flow it only offers me I cannot see the visitors flow from /1, /2 and /3 separately. Is it clear what I am asking?

    When I go to Traffic Sources I can filter this perfectly fine, but I don’t know how to make the visitors flow.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi Georgi, yes, in Traffic Sources it is easy to see the “referral paths” as GA calls them. Unfortunately these are not available in the first column of the visitor flow. As a workaround, you could copy and create a new profile, and apply a profile filter that passes the value of “Referral” into “Language” (or another little-used dimension that *is* available in the first column of visitor flow). A custom advanced filter would accomplish this for you.

  • Hi Dorcas,
    Is the “Drop Off” statistics a exit to a different page on the same website or is it leaving the website entirely?


    • Dorcas Alexander

      Hi Humberto, “Drop Off” means leaving the website entirely, or going to a page on your website that does not have tracking code on it. If the visitor goes to another page on your website that you are tracking, it will appear in another node to the right of the current node in the flow diagram.

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