Clickstream analysis and visitor segmentation

Clickstream analysis refers to detailed analysis of visitor behaviour in order to identify improvements to the site. Each web analytics tool differs slightly in its reports and terminology, but all provide similar reports to help companies assess visitor behaviour and diagnose problems and opportunities.

Path analysis

Aggregate clickstreams are usually known within web analytics software as forward or reverse paths. This is fairly advanced form of analytics, but the principle is straightforward – you seek to learn from the most popular paths.

Viewed at an aggregate level across the site through ‘top paths’ type reports, this form of clickstream analysis often doesn’t appear that useful. It highlights typically paths which are expected and can’t really be influenced. The top paths are often:

  • Homepage » Exit
  • Homepage » Contact us » Exit
  • Newspage » Exit

Clickstream analysis becomes more actionable when the analyst reviews clickstreams in the context of a single page – this is forward analysis or reverse path analysis.

On-site search effectiveness

On-site search is another crucial part of clickstream analysis on many sites since it is a key way of finding content, so a detailed search analysis will pay dividends. Key search metrics to consider are:

  • Number of searches
  • Average number of searches returning to zero results
  • % of searches returning to zero results
  • % of site exists from search results
  • % of returned searches clicked
  • % of returned searches resulting in conversion to sale or other outcome
  • Most popular search terms – individual keywords and keyphases

Visitor segmentation

Segmentation is a fundamental marketing approach, but it is often difficult within web analytics to relate customer segments to web behaviour because the web analytics data isn’t integrated with customer or purchase data.

However, all analytics systems have a capability for a different, but valuable form of segmentation where it is possible to create specific filters or profiles to help understand one type of visitor behaviour. Examples of segments include:

  • First time visitors or returning visitors
  • Visitors from different referred types including:
    • Google natural
    • Google paid
    • Strategic search keyphrases, brand keyphrases etc.
    • Display advertising
  • Converters against non-converters
  • Geographic segmentation by country or region (based on IP addresses)
  • Type of content accessed, e.g. are some segments more likely to convert? For example:
    • Saw search results
    • Saw quote
    • Saw payment details


  • Provides competitor comparisons
  • Gives demographic profiling representative
  • Avoids undercounting and over-counting


  • Depends on extrapolation from data-limited sample that may not be representative

Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.

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