This practical guide takes you through a step-by-step process to identify your audiences and their key journeys. It starts by looking at your Google Analytics data, followed by looking at various way to get user feedback. We use the term ‘audiences’ rather than ‘users’, ‘visitors’ or ‘customers’. In this context, ‘audience’ means a segment of your users, visitors or customers. An audience is a group of people that share common characteristics.
This is the time to make friends with Google Analytics. Hopefully this will be set up on your current website, if not, check with your website host as they also often record these statistics. Your aim here is to identify the top journeys made on your existing site and find your online audiences. Any time on Google Analytics is well-spent.
Even if you don’t have Google Analytics, follow the reasoning here as you may be able to draw some conclusions looking through the website with your team.
Identifying your online audiences and their journeys
Can you identify the top online audiences and their journeys on your website? These could be:
- New visitors, looking for opening times
- Existing visitors, booking another event
- Prospective volunteers looking for ways to get involved
- Donors, looking for a legacy form
- Funders checking your policies and track record
- Media looking for more information about an event
You can get a lot of your data from just one report in Google Analytics.
Go to landing pages at: behaviour > site content > landing pages
This report will order the landing pages by percentage of sessions. Often the homepage will be at the top and looks like this: ‘/’.
What are the most popular landing pages of your site? You may be surprised to find out that many arrivals are not on the homepage.
Where are people arriving from? Click on each landing page and then click the ‘source’ link:
Create a table listing your landing pages and key data. Sessions are the number of visits to the website.
|Duration of visit in seconds
|Traffic sources (percentage)
|Organic search /google
|Referral (e.g. other website)
|Conversion rate (£)
|Goal 1 (e.g. newsletter signup)
Can you find any patterns? For example, do you have a What’s On page where there are two distinct online audiences, returning visitors who click a link in your email newsletter and new visitors who arrive from a Google search?
For each landing page, think about the online audiences visiting. You may be able to identify two groups on a What’s on page such as ‘Returning visitors via email’ and ‘New visitors by organic search (Google etc)’
It can be very useful to view the landing page report as a particular audience segment. If you want to have a go at this, follow the instructions here, or please skip to the next section.
On your landing page report, click ‘Add segment’:
There are many pre-set segments you can use in the ‘system’ tab:
To view your report by another segment, uncheck ‘all users’ and check something like ‘direct traffic’ (people who enter your website URL directly into their browser), ‘mobile traffic’, ‘new users’ or ‘organic traffic’.
Now click ‘apply’:
Now you can see the landing pages for just that audience segment:
It is interesting to look at the different reports for direct, organic and email traffic for example.
You will probably want to create your own segment to combine these elements such as new visitors who arrive from an organic search. To do this, click ‘add/choose segment’ and then ‘new segment’:
It defaults to demographics, select ‘advanced: conditions’
You can now add the conditions of your segment. It is easier to search what you’re looking for here, for example we are looking for new users, so type user:
We are looking for ‘user type’ so please select that. We leave the condition ‘contains’ and then type ‘new’ in the free text field and it will show you the options, here we select ‘New visitor’:
A good way to check your condition works is to have a look at the summary on the right. It will show you how many users you have for that condition:
Now add in a second condition. On the right there are three options: -, or, and. Select ‘and’, so users have to be new AND can from an organic search.
Search for ‘medium’, this is how the user arrived on your website. In the free text search for ‘organic’. It looks like this:
Check the summary on the right to ensure things are working:
This is telling us that 1 in 4 visitors to this site is a new visitor from a search engine.
We can now give this a segment name and save it:
Create another segment for existing visitors who have clicked an email link. Repeat the steps above:
Selected advanced: conditions
Add the conditions ‘medium’ contains ‘email’ AND ‘user type’ contains ‘returning visitor’
Checking the summary, we can see that nearly 15% of visitors falls in this audience segment:
Name this ‘Returning visitors by email’ and save the segment.
You may now have three segments chosen on your landing page report:
To view one at a time, click the ‘plus’ icon at the right of these segments to open up the list of all segments, uncheck the segments leaving the one you want to view e.g. ‘Returning visitors by email’:
And click ‘apply’
Change your date range to perhaps the last year (or two):
If you compare the landing pages of different segments you will hopefully notice the start of clear audience journeys.
For example, the AMA’s segment of returning visitors via email shows the training page as the top landing page:
Compared to new search visitors where the highest landing pages are conference and jobs. We can clearly identify an audience journey of engaged people (probably members) who visit direct via the training page to book.
Building your audience journeys
Now you’ve created your segments, look at the landing page report for each one, particularly the conversion rates (if you have ecommerce or goals set up). If you do not, perhaps look at the ‘avg. session duration’ to give you an idea how long they were on the site for.
For each landing page by group or segment look at the entrance paths report.
This will list the second pages these groups visit. Click on the top five and record the top exit pages from each on a table like this:
|Another event 60%
|About us page
|About us 70% (exit same page
What’s on 30%
|Abandoned cart 60%
Booking confirmation 10%
You may find a few things:
- The second and exit page are the same as the landing page – this is a one page visit. This can often happen if audiences are viewing one particular resource. You may want to think of extra content you can add to that page to keep people engaged
- The exit page is on the booking cart before confirmation – so this is an abandoned cart which is very common. You may want to have a look at your booking process to ensure there are no issues
- Groups such as people coming from your email newsletter are more engaged and these visits lend to more conversions such as online booking or longer time spent on the site
- Landing pages with high exit rates and low session durations will need looking at
This process may raise more questions than answers. And it is those questions we are looking for. Write down all the questions that come to mind. For example, why are people viewing events and then leaving immediately? Is there an issue with your booking system?
Now thinking about your list of audience journeys, can you identify types of audience who would make this journey? Perhaps even a persona? At this stage it may be quite general: museum visitor, funder, volunteer. If you have segmented your users on your customer database, you can include them here.
Make a list of your top audience journeys using the data you have gathered in the tables above.
Add in your top landing, second and exit pages, can you identify distinct audience journeys and audience type?
The next step is to visit Google Search Console if you have it set up. Most websites should have this if they were set up by a developer. Have a look at your performance report. What keywords are working for you with good clickthrough rates, how is your ranking on searches?
If you do not have search console, then have a think about how people might be searching for your website and have a look at where you feature in Google Search. Are you coming up in the top three or are you not even appearing on the first page?
Whichever method you use, try to identify your top performing pages and record those. Website success often equals good searching engine optimisation (SEO) so this needs to go into your planning stage, particularly in your site content map (which pages you will keep).
You will hopefully have a list of unanswered questions from the work you’ve done so far. Now it is time to look at other methods to work out your audience journeys. It is rare to get all the data you need just from the analytics.
If you can set up Hotjar: https://www.hotjar.com/ there is a free account. You will need to be able to take the embed code they give you and put it on your site. This is something a developer can do very quickly, so worth asking if you’re struggling. Importantly, remember to remove Hotjar after you’ve finished as it can affect your core web vitals/pagespeed score.
Leave Hotjar running for a few weeks. It will generate heatmaps for all the pages you’ve put the embed code on. This will show you exactly where users are interacting with your web pages and the journeys they make. Where their mouse goes, where they click, how far they scroll down.
If you have specific questions such as how does this group of people use my site? (e.g. members, funders, volunteers etc) then you can set up user attributes in Hotjar. You will probably need a developer to help you with this and upgrade to a business account for a month or so (cost about £60/month plus some developer time).
Where are people interacting with your pages? Do they use the menus or buttons? Do different types of audience interact in different ways? This information is vital for identifying journeys – you may find that menus are rarely used so you concentrate more on buttons on the your web pages, or vice versa.
What are the most viewed parts of your webpage? Do not assume a journey is from page to page, it can be within a page too. People often ‘view’ a webpage by moving the mouse across the screen. Hotjar tracks this to show which elements on your page are the most important. It will clearly show you what’s being ignored, and if that’s important it will affect the design of your new site.
If you have questions, particularly about the journeys, then the Hotjar recordings are great. Hotjar records user’s visits so you can watch how people are using your site giving you clearer answers about your user journeys. It’s a good way to identify pain points too.
Put in pop-up or fixed surveys to get some real user feedback whilst they’re using the website. If there’s some questions you can’t answer using google analytics, heatmaps and recordings this is where you may get your answer.
It is called ‘competitor research’, however, we are looking for great ideas that your colleagues have implemented for other heritage organisations. You can identify audience journeys by looking at other sites like yours. Make it a practical exercise to keep focus.
Search for each organisation using Google. Hopefully under the homepage will be a list of site links, these are the most popular landing pages on the site.
For each website, list the landing pages. Do not forget the homepage. Find the top 3 to 5 calls to action for each page. A call to action is a prominent link or button that catches your attention. Many museums have a prominent ‘Plan your visit’ link as the first thing you see. This could be followed by a ‘Book online’ link and then the most current exhibition.
|Call to action 1
|Call to action 2
|Call to action 3
|Call to action 4
|Plan your visit
|Exhibitions and events
|Search by audience type (e.g. family)
|Filter by exhibition type
|Plan your visit
Also explore the menu of each site (ignoring the home page). This also gives an indication of the most popular audience journeys.
|Menu item 1
|Menu item 2
|Menu item 3
|Menu item 4
|Menu item 5
Can you identify patterns between the two worksheets? Can you find examples of specific online audiences and their journeys.
Finally, bring all your data together. Combine the results of your Google Analytics research, user feedback and competitor research. Hopefully you will see the important audience journeys emerging. When you are working on building new websites or upgrade existing ones, keep your focus on your audiences and their journeys. It’s very tempting to be waylaid by great designs and impressive functionality, but in the end it’s about your audiences. The more you can build up detailed pictures of how people are using your site, the better your digital marketing and website will become.
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Please attribute as: "How to identify audience journeys on your website (2022) by Paul Blundell supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0