Lead generation is vital for any business. Once you’re generating some leads, the next logical step is to improve the conversion rate.
Depending on your niche, there are different tactics and methods for improving conversions. One you may not have heard of is creating and optimizing micro funnels.
This post covers what micro funnels are and how and when they’re best used—especially as a means to track form interactions. What’s more, I’ll share a method for monitoring their performance using Google Analytics. I’ll also provide a working GTM template to help you do this.
Table of contents
What is a micro funnel?
A micro funnel is a small number of steps between a visitor’s entrance and the completion of a larger marketing funnel.
Lots of blog posts are devoted to funnels (including several on CXL). Many go into great detail, analyzing copy and the placement of every element. They can make the whole idea of funnel-building akin to rocket science, using conversation bots and other tools. It’s really not.
The fundamentals of a funnel are quite simple. They’re a way of visualizing how you drive traffic to and through your website. You attract traffic—via links, SEO, PPC, and the like—to your landing pages. You then use calls to action and design elements to move visitors through the funnel, ideally toward a purchase or some other goal.
Why are micro funnels useful?
You’re bound to lose some visitors as traffic moves through a funnel. That’s why a funnel shape is a good visualization of the process. Losing visitors as traffic moves down a funnel is sometimes called “conversion leakage.”
Micro funnels can help zero in on issues within a broader funnel, like individual steps on a form. It’s often said, for example, that the longer an online form, the fewer people will complete it. That’s because each time a visitor has to move into a new field, they may choose to cut and run.
This is partly correct. However, if a user is engaged in the process, they’re unlikely to abandon the form—unless they get frustrated. This can happen when instructions aren’t clear, or the next step isn’t obvious. Alternatively, users might get an error on the page where, for some reason, they just can’t seem to fill in a field “correctly.”
If you have a long form, there are more opportunities for this confusion or for these errors to occur. Micro funnels help find out where the leakage is occurring so that you can solve the problem. There are four reasons why this approach is important for certain sectors.
- It’s a free solution, with an almost unlimited number of pageviews/recordings.
- On financial websites, session recording tools are often not approved by compliance and risk officers.
- There may be concerns over the effect on page speed of mouse-tracking scripts.
- You can create a Google Ads remarketing list based on the conversion leakage point to recapture visitors on the Google Display Network.
How to track “conversion leakage” with a micro funnel
By default, Google Analytics tells you only how much traffic enters and exits a page. That’s not much use when it comes to optimizing your micro funnel to reduce leakage on, say, a multi-step application.
What you need to know is at which point in the form-filling process your visitors leave. Which fields are the ones that are putting visitors off? Knowing this will help you optimize the form and your micro funnel.
Google Analytics has two types of funnel visualizations to help with this:
- Goal Funnel;
- Goal Flow.
To enable these, you need to set up Goal Funnel steps. It should look like this:
Note: In the free version of Google Analytics, only pageviews (or virtual pageviews) can be used for Goal Funnels. Events can be used in funnels with Google Analytics 360.
You’re then able to see the results in both the Goal Flow report:
…and the Funnel Visualization report:
Both reports allow you to select the problematic Goal step and see non-sequential pages (i.e the funnel exit pageview). For example, this might be a view of the “Terms and Conditions” pop-up page, a click on a postage link, an abandonment to an internal site search, or a contact page.
Obviously, if the visitor abandons the form without visiting another page, then you won’t see the non-sequential pages. You’ll still see the last field they interacted with—your conversion leakage point.
Once you’ve identified the problematic field, you can be a bit clever and use one of the most powerful but underutilized Google Analytics reports—the Reverse Goal report.
By adding the problematic form step as a new Goal URL, you can work backward and see the last three pages (or form-field steps) that led to that point. This will tell you the combination of field interactions that resulted in the person leaving the page. By addressing these problems, you can improve your conversion rate.
Pro tip: You can create a Google Ads remarketing list based on this conversion leakage point to recapture visitors on the Google Display Network. For example, you could run an ad with copy like, “Get a 10% discount today only—just complete your missing zip code!”
Obviously, the type of fields that have a high abandonment and for which retargeting works varies by industry and the input forms you use.
In the past, site owners and webmasters turned to session recording and heat maps to collect user data from a page. On financial websites, these are often not approved by compliance and risk officers. Alternatively, there may be concerns over the effect on page speed of mouse-tracking scripts.
In those cases, Google Tag Manager, which is one of my favorite tools to use alongside Google Analytics, has a solution.
Using GTM to create a micro funnel
To create a micro funnel with Google Tag Manager (GTM), use the Click Listener Trigger. (If you’re using a different tag management system, you should be able to adapt the method mentioned below.)
If you’re not technical, or you just want to cheat, I’ve created a GTM template file (basic or advanced) that does this next step for you automatically. Using GTM and an on-click virtual pageview, it’s possible to send the Field Name as users interact with each field.
Here’s an example of the output from a lengthy mortgage application form:
To enable this feature, you first need to add a Google Analytics pageview Tag with a new Click Listener. This is what you would see after importing the GTM template:
The pageview Tag should look like this:
The Click Trigger looks like this (remember to edit the URL for your form):
Lastly, enter your GA accountID in the template variable “UPDATE THIS”:
If your form doesn’t have any Click IDs, you can still use micro funnels using these three workarounds:
- Use the Click Attribute Title or Click Attribute Name.
- Use the Click Attribute HTML5 data-value (if available).
- Use the Parent ClickID, rather than the default Child ClickID. For Example:
<input id=”firstName” name=”FirstName” title=”FirstName” data-value=”FirstName”>
Pro tip: Rather than sending the field “title,” instead prepend a three-digit number field, for example “001_title.” This will help you sort numerically within the page report. Here’s an example of this:
Micro funnels in action: A financial services form
These form funnels are commonly used within the financial services niche, but they’re useful for any website with complex forms. The goal of these landing pages is to get the visitor to enter some personal information. Often, the form is used to generate a quote or assess eligibility.
Let’s take a look at an example. A quick Google search for the term “cheap loans” returns plenty of micro funnels. When I clicked on the top promoted result, I arrived at the following page:
This is an ideal example of a two-step micro funnel landing page. It starts by asking users to set a borrowing amount. Then, there’s a step covering the repayment period before you hit the “Apply Now” button.
Clicking “Apply Now” sends the visitor to a new page; this is captured automatically by Google Analytics—a URL-based Goal Funnel. For example, the following funnel has seven URL steps:
This is where visitors are asked to provide their personal information, such as address and phone number. The aim of this funnel is obviously to get you to apply and see if you’re eligible for a loan.
By using Pageviews/Unique Pageviews, you get the refresh rate of an individual field. This identifies fields that the user finds confusing or fields that have form validation errors (where the user has entered an invalid value).
Here’s what an analysis of a micro funnel might look like. You can see:
- There is a high field refresh rate on the “select your address” field after a postcode search, highlighting a possible UX issue.
- Two optional fields, “NI tax number” and “home phone number,” have a relatively high average time-on-field duration. Users may be looking for relevant data they need to enter in this field.
- The nationality field has a high exit rate. This suggests people are confused. It could be because the nationality field is sorted alphabetically, rather than by most common countries first, or a default country isn’t pre-populated.
Micro funnels can be combined with multi-step forms so that field interactions and new pages are in one continuous Goal Funnel. Google Analytics supports a maximum of 20 steps in a funnel. So, 10 fields can be captured on the first step and another 10 fields on the second step.
Once you’ve identified the field that visitors are abandoning or constantly refreshing, then you can make changes such as:
- Improving the default field text.
- Updating the helper text explaining what’s required.
- Updating the form validation message to make the problem more obvious. (Sometimes, validation messages aren’t easy to understand.)
- Updating to real-time validation, rather than on-submit validation.
- Changing the field from a text box to a selection box, for example, or having a loan range rather than needing to enter a loan amount.
- Fixing issues with form validation false positives, such as white space or “+” not allowed in the phone number field, or date in DDMMYY format when it should be MMDDYY format.
Using GTM to track user action by field opens up a new Analytics option. It allows you to use Google Analytics to see fields that are problematic (e.g., poor exit rates or high field refresh rates), and it allows you to generate a micro funnel visualization.
You can see which fields were completed, and where people abandoned the form. That is vital information. It’s what allows you to pinpoint problems or issues with your forms. With fewer visitors abandoning your form, your chances of securing more business increase.
If you don’t have the technical expertise to set up to implement this, worry not. Either of these free GTM templates can make things so much easier:
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Add your comment
Nicely explained, Phil. I’ve usually done this by setting up events, but I can see the simplicity one can achieve by using virtual pageviews and looking at time on page and % exit for each pageview.
However, and this is something which has held me from using virtual pageviews, one should consider excluding these virtual pageviews from most reporting views. Having a clear identifier in the URL (like ‘/virtual/’ or ‘/virtualFunnel/’) of virtual pageviews should allow these pageviews to be filtered out. This way one does not experience a sharp increase of pages/session for users who enter these funnels, and historical pageview-based metrics can be used without worry. A separate view can be set up, dedicated to the analysis of these micro funnels, with proper goal funnel setups and all.
Fair point. I normally prepend the /virtual/ folder, but it means an extra step of adding a GA filter to remove this. Hence, I did’nt mention this in the article. However, you will notice the advanced template does prepend a virtual pageview.
Generally for lead gen websites, the pages per session metric is a lightweight metric, as it would be better to use SessionQuality instead which is more accurate. Furthermore, the benefits to data capture of a more accurate avg session duration and bounce rate, mean that… I would still advocate enabling this on a main profile view.
Yes, for publishing websites changes to this metric might be an issue, but for lead gen its not a big problem.
Thanks for the comment!
Great article Phil, micro funnels are incredibly important to understand particularly for one point – understanding weak links in the macro funnel. Without proper testing you will never know if there is a particular *spot* in your funnel that causes people to leave.
Those are some great insights. But the marketing funnel is slowly disappearing and a circular customer centric approach with easy flow is seen in latest trends. It will be interesting to see how marketers adapt to those and gain competitive advantage. Great work
Using the GA plugin for GoogleSheets and advanced segments set to “user-level”for each step, its possible to build a user-centric micro funnel report (rather than the default session centric mode).
So, there is a way to use this method to rendered the data in the mode you need it.
Nice tips. Is the funnel example you gave for the form fields using standard Analytics or Analytics 360? Does the input id at the end of the form url’s in the funnel steps work using events or page views?
This method is using Standard Google Anaytics and virtual pageviews. Obvious, if you are on GA360 you could create an “event funnel custom report”, so you could use events rather than pageviews.
However, the majority of people will be on Standard Google Analytics, so virtual pageviews are going to be the default method.
But, good point about GA360.
Hi Phil – great article ! Regarding Andy’s question about using event, if you do it you won’t be able to see any more on % exit and virtual “avg time” as well anyway ? Am I right ? So worth it to do it with virtual PV.
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