Top Conversion Paths in Analytics and what it tells you

If you haven’t seen the top conversions paths report in Google Analytics then you really should check it out the next time you are looking to get further insights into your traffic.

Aside from what it actually is and how it works, it’s a great report for you to read between the lines and understand a lot more about your traffic than what’s available in face value.

What does the top conversion path report show?

The top conversions path report is a multichannel report that shows you all the conversion paths that your users took, by channel grouping, that lead to a conversion, whether it be a website goal or a purchase.

What’s cool is that for purchases and eCommerce you can work out exactly what paths lead to the most revenue and how much multi interactions verse single interactions are worth to you or your client.

This is a great report to show to clients (or yourself) as it gives us the ability to truly visualise how people make purchase decisions online, across multiple channels and how complex that process actually is. This is exceptionally valuable especially if you are running branding elements to fill the online touch points and purchase decision triggers notably through social and display advertising.

On face value the report is truly fascinating and action patterns become clear so you can make better marketing decisions moving forward.

What I want to look at is how do you read between the lines of this report? What is it actually telling you outside the raw data? What story does it tell about your website traffic?

Lets dig a little deeper with this report as it can tell a truly fascinating story. Here are a few examples:

1. Your website is ugly, get a redesign

How can this report possibly tell you whether your website design doesn’t cut it? Without doing a thorough CRO analysis which is both time consuming and can be expensive, the top purchase paths report is the perfect place to check to see whether you need to improve your website.

In fact if I have a client where they are struggling for conversions and I feel their design is letting them down, I will prove it using this very report. More often than not following my discussions and a very simple analysis, a new website is commissioned within days. It’s that powerful.

Before I go on, its important to understand that 52% of people do not return to a site because of overall site aesthetics and 42% will purchase based on design alone. Let that sink in a little. That means that if someone visits your website and leaves, over half will not return if they didn’t like your site design. That’s nuts! Even if they do return, you will lose the 42% that will make a decision based on site aesthetics alone.

Consumers today are becoming more and more web savvy and are happy to do their research because research is both easy and fast.

How do you know its ugly? Look for these things.

First interactions make up the majority of your sales. If the majority of your sales are coming from first interactions it could a few things:

1. Your offline efforts drive ‘pre-converted’ traffic to come to your site and buy/take action. This may happen if you are running a lot of TV, radio and print or significant PR and offline media.

2. You have a tribe – You have a following, people love you and recommend your product or service constantly. People don’t need to shop around, they want you. You are Apple, Uber, Sonos and Red Bull.

3. If the above two don’t sound like you then it could mean that your site needs a redesign. Why? Well as we know, people are shopping around to do their research and work out what else is out there. It’s not that your product or service is inferior, it may be the opposite but remember 42% of people will purchased based on site design alone. That is a lot you are leaving on the table and if people don’t like your design, they simply won’t come back to compare. Other options just become more appealing.

In all the sites I have done research into, those with great attention to detail and beautiful designs saw a relatively even ratio of in terms of revenue/conversions for single interactions vs 2 or more interactions. In a lot of cases (in fact most cases) sales revenue was higher where interactions were greater than 1.

As an example one client we are working on is in the highly competitive insurance field. What’s important to understand about the insurance field is that people tend to shop around for the best insurance deal they can get so its absolutely a shoppers market.

The client is competing against some of the largest companies in the country (the world too) with websites that are pretty polished. Our client’s website was pretty average to say the least and we were able to prove this using the top paths to purchase report.

What we did was compare single (1) interaction revenue with multi interaction revenue for the same period.

Lets take a look at single interactions:


single interaction top purchase paths

Looking at the above image, single interactions brought in $459,883 in revenue. Now lets run a report for all revenue coming from 2 or more interactions:

multi interaction path to purchase google analytics

Now when we look at revenue for multi interaction sales it’s a fraction of the revenue and only 14.23% of the total revenue.

When we compared this to another client with a much better site design, their single interaction conversion value was only 35% of total revenue. 2 or more interactions? 64.98% of revenue. More alarmingly this industry has a shorter purchase decision cycle meaning they have a built in handicap!

What is happening here? People come to a site as part of the buying and comparison process and you lose. And lose. And Lose. Pretty much every time.

2. You are not remarketing properly

A common misconception is that remarketing leads to a lot of last interaction conversions and sales. Ie people see the remarketing ad, think to themselves ‘oh of course, I’m going to buy something from these guys.. and then trundle off to your website an buy stuff.

Yes it does happen sometimes but what is more common is that remarketing fills up the gaps in the consumer buying path.

In a Think with Google study it was found that the average searches conducted prior to making a purchasing was 12.

Average Searches Conducted Prior to Engagement

That’s right, 12! If you take a step back and think about it, that means someone who starts their purchase journey will on average do another 12 searches before they make a decision to buy.

Most business owners I meet feel that the way Organic or Paid search works is that someone searches and clicks on a free or paid listing, then goes on to purchase. Think about how many times you have done this?

I challenge you to remember the last time to clicked an ad and bought a product. In fact if you think about the last few things you purchased online, most purchases would have been a result of several interactions, whether you are aware of it or not.

But the numbers as we know tell us a different story. So what is the best way to stay top of mind and consistently in the decision process? Remarketing of course but you need to do the right type of remarketing.

To do it properly you should be exploring and testing all types of remarketing options available:

Search Remarketing:

The first thing most people think about when remarketing is mentioned is display. However Search remarketing is extremely powerful and allows you to stay in those 12 searches consumers make prior to making a decision.

Display Remarketing

It’s almost a given that you should be doing display remarketing. filling the touch points and complementing your search, content and search remarketing strategies is an absolute must. Now with the ability to upload your marketing list into the display network for retargeting, its not just new customers you are marketing to, but existing ones who will come back and purchase again.

Social Remarketing

Whether it be Twitter or Facebook, remarketing in social networks again keeps you in the loop and supplements your other marketing activities perfectly. It’s rare that social remarketing will lead directly to a conversion or sale, but is absolutely fills up the purchase decision phases.

Ignoring the 3 remarketing activities above will mean shorter paths to purchase as you are simply not ‘filling the gaps’.

3. You have neglected social

I have to admit, I initially disregarded social as a channel and felt it was utterly useless. Why? Well unlike search, it was highly unlikely to yield quick, direct results for many of my clients so it didn’t particularly interest me.

What was interesting through was that whenever I ran social I did notice an uplift in traffic and eventually sales through direct, organic and paid channels not associated directly with social. Since the data was telling me social did very little, I could never say it was causal to the improved performance.

That was until we had access to the top purchase paths report. We saw social interactions forming a busy part of conversion paths where there were 3 or more interactions. Very rarely was it the last interaction, but it did pay a significant role in the process on a holistic level.

If you have neglected social, whether it be direct or remarketing, you are costing yourself conversions across more complex conversions paths and that is a fact. Even if you don’t want to take my word for it the research is now shedding even more light on its role.

Google recently released some industry data about purchase paths across industry and channel. The findings are eye opening when it comes to all channels but especially that of social:

social channel paths to purchase

The data from the study show 16% of the time, social was at the end of purchase journey (hence why your last interaction conversions are terrible for social!). Almost half the time social sat at the beginning or in the middle and hardly ever at the end. In fact in some industries it is only at the start or the middle and has virtually zero influence at the end of the path the purchase.

If you are not seeing social littered at the start or as part of your purchase path then you are not effectively utilising it and really should be incorporating it into your marketing mix.

Put  the bad (conventional, last interaction) conversion data to the side for now and look at social as a more long term, multi touch channel facilitating a users path to purchase your product and service.


The top conversion paths report is probably one of the most fascinating reports that is easily accessible in Google Analytics. Utilising interactions from multi-channels, use it to understand how your users are leading to conversions but also look at what it is telling you outside of the data.

It tells a complete and rewarding story about your site and your users.