Why do you have a website? Balancing your site's intentions with the visitor experience


What seems like quite a straightforward and possibly ridiculous question is meant as a ‘gut-check’. A question that shouldn’t just be identified only once by an organization, but periodically over time. 

This is especially true if marketing teams have evolved over time or if product offerings or the company mission has changed. This question entered my mind just the other day as I began reading the full version of Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines (launches PDF).

One of the opening sections is based upon ‘Understanding Webpages and Websites’. If you ask yourself this question and don’t necessarily have an answer aside from the “gimme” response of increasing brand awareness, then it looks like you have some serious thinking to do.

For others, you may have solidified response to what you feel you want from your site. Surprisingly, you may also reveal that your site intentions and your current site experience may be two very different things.

What are your site objectives?

What do we want site users to do? This can range from obvious responses such as purchasing goods for an ecommerce site or acquiring lead information for a sales team that is lying in wait. 

However, one must be cognizant of supporting these end goals by letting users know who you are and why you are the solution for what the user has searched for. More specifically, are you providing educational or resourceful content to answer questions and helping users understand why they may need your site or company?

Before you attempt to answer this question all alone, keep in mind that the company website is not just your site. You will need to talk to other teams internally be it sales, customer service etc. You may find it interesting what others want, need and expect from the site as well.

The below can help you gain clarity on what your site may be doing well and where your focus might be lacking, all in an afternoon!

What you want users to do vs. what they are really doing

Before we determine what we want from our users we have to understand what they are currently doing on the site from a visit behavior standpoint.

First, I suggest from your Google Analytics profile, reviewing the User Flow section.


This will help you to understand what common pathways users are taking on your site. It is also worth mentioning that you should also review these pathways by medium as your Direct, Paid Search, Social and Organic Search visitors are often exhibiting separate behaviors when visiting the site. 

Taking it a step further, you can set advanced segments to review user pathway behaviors by those who are converters as well as non-converters.


Your Google Analytics profile can provide a wealth of pathway data beyond what I have shown above. Additional data points you can choose to review include Behavior>Site Content>Exit Pages.

Of course, there are pages on your site such as a thank you page where you expect the visit to end. For this, it may help to review data from within the Advanced Segment of Non-converters again.

You may still run into some confusing data such as visitors leaving to download content from a subdomain that is not tracked, etc. so know that there may be some question marks here but reviewing the top exited pages will be your focus here. 

Now that you are understanding the common pathways you can begin to gain a better understanding of on-page activity.

The best tool I have found for employing on-page analysis is LuckyOrange. The reason that this tool is a part of the second step is because now that I know the common pathways on my site I can assign tagging rules to specifically watch user recordings of these identified pages.

Considering that I am a visual person, I like to study content digestion in this manner vs. Google Analytics In-Page Analytics. Plus, instead of simply reviewing click path percentages, we can review heatmaps and mouse movements.


Pathway Analysis

To begin to answer what value your website holds, you will need to now review the site. You can count on others to perform this test using a testing tool such as UserTesting or simply walk through the below steps to gauge whether your site really makes sense to the end user.

From the initial review of the site analytics and related helpful tools we can begin to review common pathways which we learned from the above exercise.

Now, as we walk through the site there are several questions that we need to ask ourselves.

  • From page to page, is there a clear heading that clearly portrays the theme of the page?
  • Is the intended call to action above the fold of the page and clearly apparent or is the next intended step for a user a nearly hidden text link in the copy or several page folds below?
  • If your goal is to educate users, tell a brand story, etc, do you reinforce content pertaining to this in on page calls to action, main navigation and supporting navigation or do you vaguely link to this content from the footer navigation?
  • Are internal links within copy actionable or vague, for example ‘click here’?
  • Do you have broken links on site pages, use Check My Links, or external links opening in the same window? The last thing you want to do is usher a visitor off the site.
  • Have you made communication easy? Is the main phone number above the fold and uniformly placed across pages? Are contact us URLs available in main and footer navigation? Have you thought about deploying chat functionality?
  • Walk through the site from a mobile or tablet device to understand the experience your users have. How easy is it to navigate through the site or understand calls to action?


A little better understanding of what users are doing as well what you would like to convey on the site can help shed a little light on how far off the mark you may have become, as it relates to satisfying site user needs in comparison what you thought your site was achieving.


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