One of the most important areas that webmasters use to analyze the traffic on their website is the traffic flow. But while so many analytics programs only give you the raw data (as opposed to a nice visual graph), Joomla’s Traffic Flow features are fully capable of providing you feedback in both forms: the raw data and a visualization of the traffic flow.
How Does It Work?
When you open the Traffic Flow section of your Joomla account, you’ll notice that a nice graph is rendered. This graph represents the basic flow of traffic on your site.
The “star” that you see above is essentially a traffic map, similar to the type of traffic map that you might see in Google Traffic on roads – except in this case, the same visual principles are being applied to your web site.
(Note: while the star above looks static, you can actually play with it and move it around in flash, which is fun if you’re just tinkering around with your traffic flow statistics. As you get more advanced with using the Joomla traffic flow feature, you’ll have even more fun with moving the star around).
The root of the “star” that you see is the page that you’ve selected, or the “root page.” The star itself shows where people are clicking to from that root page. In the chart you see above, the root page was simply the home page of the website.
You’ll also notice the “heat” scale in the upper right corner: that scale uses color to represent a percentage of traffic flow. If 100% of your traffic clicks to a certain page, you would see a red arrow pointing out from your root page, not a purple one. In this case, no one particular arm of the star chart you see is dominating the other ones, which is why none of them look yellow, orange, or red.
Note also that the arrows on this star will flow in both directions. It’s not a purely linear form of viewing your web site’s traffic – in fact, it fully displays two-way traffic when individual pages on your web site are flowing traffic to one another. In the case of the star above, that’s not happening very much, and understandably so – it’s the home page!
If the star isn’t your favorite feature, you will get a direct count of the traffic flow right below. It looks like this:
As you can see there, you still get the “heat colors” for a quick visualization of traffic flow, but you also get the hard data presented to you in a clear form.
One important thing to remember here is that when you log into this section of your Joomla account, you’re reviewing the data for the day. Every day, your data will be reset, so you’re getting the most fresh data regarding the navigation of your website. In other words, it’s not hard to review what’s been happening most recently on your site.
Customizing Your Traffic Flow Data on Joomla
There is a great deal of customization possible, allowing you to change the way your chart looks. Notice the “Select page,” “Root outgoing links count” and “Nesting level” options above the chart.
Perhaps the one you’ll first one to start with if you’re new to traffic flow is the one on the upper left – the one that’s labeled “Select page.” This one allows you to choose your root page and view how your traffic is flowing from there.
More often than not, you’ll simply want to use your home page as your root page because your home page is a frequent point of entry for your users. But as you get more advanced in using Joomla and in creating and crafting your websites, you’ll want to know more detailed information about your individual sites – this feature allows you to view the statistics for any subsection of your website and therefore know every detail about your traffic.
But that’s not the only option. You can also have what more represents an “eagle-eye view” of your site’s traffic flow the more you tinker with “Root outgoing links count” and “Nesting level.” The more you fiddle with these, the more different your data will ultimately be. Here’s what it looks like if you make a small tweak:
Some of the pages above are just 1 percent of the traffic flow, but here’s the interesting thing: you can use the nesting level option. This nesting level option allows you to view deeper and deeper into your traffic flow while still keeping track of the original root page you selected. The higher your nesting level, the more complicated your traffic flow will look – and the more data you’ll receive about how people are behaving on your website.
You’ll also want to pay attention to what happens when you change the “Root outgoing links count,” as that will further show you data that you’re receiving on your website. In the chart below, you see how you now have a true “traffic flow” map of where people are visiting your site most often – and you can also get a view of how the two-way arrows work to clearly show you where people are clicking on your site.
If you go overboard with these options, you may find that your site’s data gets a little messy and hard to ready, depending on how many individual sections you have on your website.
Studying Your Own Site
Reviewing the charts above, you start to get an idea of what pieces of your website are most interesting to your website visitors. In the case of the first start, you can use the simple heat map coloring system and notice that most people are visiting /downloads/ after arriving at the site.
You can then use this traffic flow feature in conjunction with other Joomla extensions (such as a heat map) and see why you think the traffic is flowing in that particular direction. This can give you ideas for tweaks in the web site design or content itself in order to change the traffic flow of your website. As they say “what gets measured gets managed.” That means with this Joomla Traffic Flow extension, you’ll be better able to both measure – and manage – where the traffic is flowing on your particular site.