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Upgrade Your Reporting with User-centric Metrics

Stu Eddins

From start to finish, effective websites are built with the user in mind. Many organizations invest in personalization technologies that engage returning users with new graphics, calls-to-action, or content. Others deploy remarketing to keep their messages top-of-mind after the user leaves and continues to browse the internet.

Nearly everything we do acknowledges that our prospects will make several visits to the site before they accomplish their goal. Yet, when we measure success on our sites, our Analytics reporting often takes a session-by-session approach that all but ignores the user’s true experience.

For most organizations, Analytics reports are full of charts on conversions per session, session duration, pageviews per session, and more. And while most of this is valuable and actionable information, a session-level view of behaviors and performance doesn’t describe the full relationship successful users experience with the site before converting.

Healthcare’s multi-session conversions

“The Digital Journey to Wellness,” a report from Google and Compete, found that of consumers who booked an appointment online, 48 percent took more than two weeks from first visit to booking. Further, 61 percent who booked visited two or more hospital websites. In total, those who booked an appointment performed an average of 15.3 searches during the decision process. The report strongly indicates that prospective new patients are unlikely to book an appointment after the first search click and the first session on the site.

For most sites, Analytics reports many users who make an appointment on their first visit, and in some cases, this can be nearly 50 percent of all appointments. We believe it’s more likely that the majority of one-session appointments tend to come from a mix of existing patients, new prospects returning to the site on a different device, or those with a specific referral. Since new patients tend toward multiple visits before making an appointment, we advocate a shift from reporting using a session bias to a format that includes more user-based behavior data.

Analytics encourages a session-level view of your website

The root causes of session-centric reporting are the various Analytics platforms themselves. Analytics is very good at collecting a series of pageviews created by a single user during a single visit and binding them into a session. Sessions and pageviews have, in fact, been two of the cornerstones in Analytics reporting since day one.

Over time, as internet users have become more savvy and sources of online information have become more diverse, the number of contacts a typical user has on their journey has also grown. Marketers rightly have turned to personalization and remarketing to help assure their sites earn a higher percentage of visits from those information touchpoints.

Our sites, marketing plans, and expectations have changed to accommodate the multi-session user. It’s time for our reporting to change, too.

Contact us for an Analytics audit.

Finding the user

There are a few easy ways to get users back into our reporting. First, using the Multi-Channel Funnel reports already built into Analytics can help visualize the paths and contact points of users who convert.

Coming soon from Google is their free Attribution tool which will make it easier to describe and act on user behaviors over time. By the way, now would be a good time to start thinking about micro-conversions you can track to capture information about users who are still mid-funnel. A micro-conversion is a specific pre-conversion behavior that is common across the majority of converting users. For example: if most users download a What to Expect PDF before booking an OB doctor appointment online, you’ve found a micro-conversion.

Another idea is to use Analytics’ built-in Calculated Metrics function to create user-centric metrics such as Conversions per User, Goal Value per User, Pageviews per User, and so on. Combined with the Multi-Channel Funnel reports, we can start to piece together a user’s full journey to conversion.


Taking only a few steps can help shift the focus of our reports from session-focused to user-centric. This shift can help us focus on the 97 percent of site visitors that didn’t convert today so we can take action and help them convert tomorrow.

As a bonus, below are the steps to set up a user-centric Calculated Metrics function. Once built, Calculated Metrics can be added to any custom report.

In Analytics / Admin / View open the ‘Calculated Metrics’ section. Then select the red ‘New Metrics’ button. Make sure that the metric name entered is exactly as shown below:

New metric name, Conv. per User
Formatting type, Float
Formula, {{Goal Completions}} / {{Users}}

Next, click the link below to import a basic Custom Report that supports the Calculated Metric you just built. Make sure to import the Custom Report into the same Analytics view that contains the new Calculated Metric. You are now ready to put your new user-centric Calculated Metric to work! Access a free Custom Report template at this link.

If you see an ‘Invalid Schema’ warning when you try to open the custom report, that indicates there isn’t an exact match between the report and the Calculated Metric’s name.

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