Google Analytics to reveal individual website interaction

User Explorer surfaces anonymised, individual session behaviour to assist UX optimisation

Google is starting to roll out a new “User Explorer” set of reports in Google Analytics that allow you to review session behaviour by Client ID. If you’ve implemented User ID, you will also be able to see session behaviour across devices by the same user. Of course, while you are viewing individualised data, it remains anonymised.

Google says the report is intended to identify site issues and make it easier for marketers to optimise and make improvements to their sites. But the report’s potential for other applications has marketing analysts getting excited, even in an industry not normally given to rapturous enthusiasm.


So, what’s behind the curtain?

In default view, you’ll see Client IDs ranked in descending order of sessions during your selected time period, together with metrics including the average session data and bounce rate. Drill down on the Client or User ID and you’ll see that visitors’ session activity (dating back to initial acquisition) in a timeline view.

In the navigation bar at left, you’ll see key data about that visitor: the date they first visited your site together with the channel responsible, and the device they used (mobile, tablet, or desktop).

To date, the User Explorer beta is available in comparatively few accounts but should become more widely available following Google’s announcement last week of its rolling release. If it’s already in yours let us know — you’ll find it located in the Audience tab, right under the Cohort Analysis report.


Why should you care?

For anyone who spends time in Google Analytics, this is a pretty big deal. Google now appears to be redressing a long perceived deficiency in its analytics offering: this anonymised session-level view of visitor behaviour has long been available in other analytics packages.

There are obvious benefits for product managers in improving site experience based on reviewing session-level behaviour, and debugging  transaction-level issues. But it will also give marketers greater insights into cross-device behaviour (if User ID has been implemented).

Marketers will also be able to view the commonalities in the behaviour of their most valuable visitors (or, for instance, frequent versus occasional visitors). Segment these visitor types and they can also improve campaign and offer targeting.

Some speculate that Google Analytics is being repositioned to compete with inbound marketing platforms like Hubspot, Salesforce, Marketo and Pardot. If so, hold on to your hats: there’s more good stuff coming down the pike.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.