Misunderstood Metrics: Next Page Path

In Google Analytics, the Previous Page Path shows what page was visited just before the current Page, but Next Page Path seems to be broken or not working. The problem is that it doesn’t hold what the name implies.

next-page-page-not-working

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Back in 2009, Nick Mihailovski of Google explained that you should not use ga:pagePath (Page) with ga:nextPagePath (Next Page Path) together — while it works in some situations, the system was not designed with these combinations in mind. It was designed so Previous Page Path and Next Page Path would be used in combination to show how traffic moved from one page (previous) to another (next) — for the navigation reports. The Page dimension was to be used with other page-level dimensions and metrics.

Using ga:previousPage and ga:nextPagePath in the same query will report back, “The total times pageview A happened immediately before pageview B in a visitor’s session” If you are familiar with the User Interface, this data is used to present the Navigation Summary report.

Say you have the following data from the query above:  A -> B and B -> C

The Navigation Summary combines these for page B and reports:  A -> B -> C 

a-to-b-to-c

When Google released v5 of Analytics in 2011, they made a small change that allowed the Page and Previous Page Path dimensions to be used together, but that made the Next Page Path the same as the Page dimension, and caused the confusion that continues today. 

Google has done little to explain themselves in their help documentation, and describing the Next Page Path as the “destination page” doesn’t really help much.

There is no Next Page…

So the root of the problem is that they really only track the current page view and where the visitor came from; the previous page. The label of a ‘Next” page is misleading. The real question is why the “Next” page path dimension even exists in the interface at all today. It only leads to confusion.

Update: 2015-07-23 Google Analytics has deprecated the Next Page Path dimension; they now say to use Page Path instead.

Bottom line: In Google Analytics, Next Page Path is NOT the next page. Tweet this!

How to Find the “Next” Pages

So, how do you build a report that shows where visitors went to from a specific page? In Google Analytics, you can see this pairing of previous-next queries in the All Pages report; Navigation Summary tab.

google-analytics-next-page

In the API or Custom Reports, we have to use a bit of reverse-logic — create a query using a filter where the Previous Page Path is our page of interest, and report the Next Page Path (or Page) with the metric Pageviews. Sounds a little backwards, but that is how the Navigation Summary report works and is the only way to get the information we want.

e.g. using 2 queries to get the traffic into and out of “/target page/”:

Previous Page Path, Pageviews filtered for Next Page Path = /target page/

Next Page Path, Pageviews filtered for Previous Page Path = /target page/

Discover The Entire Google Analytics Misunderstood Metrics Series:
Next Page Path,  Sessions for Pages,  Events,  Unique Events,  Custom Dimensions,  Count of Sessions, Time on Page/Session Duration, Bounce Rate

Comments: (moderated, no spam)

  1. ACG

    Hi Mike,

    thanks for such clarifying article. I have a question, how can I find out what users do when the previous page is actually a landing page? If I use landing page as filter and next page or page as dimensions I get one thing totally different as if I check previous page as filter and page or next page as dimensions but I’m worried that I’m not looking at those that land on the page but overall, does that land and those that come from other pages. Any suggestions please?

    thank you, A.

    Reply
    1. mike_sullivan

      You are correct. If you just want to see the landing page and second page traffic, you can use ‘Landing Page’ and ‘Second Page’ in your query — they are both available as session-level dimensions (there is also an ‘Exit Page’).

      Reply
  2. KB

    Thanks for the awesome article. How do I find the device type in the Navigation Summary Report. Is there a way to see this data in custom reports?

    Reply
    1. mike_sullivan

      The easiest way is to use a System segment – they exist for Mobile, Tablet, (Mobile and Tablet), and (Tablet and Desktop). In a custom report, include the Device dimension or use the segments.

      Reply
  3. NS

    is there a solution if my goal is to see the details of where people went after viewing this page. Meaning, how many left the site and where did the people that stayed on the site go from this page.

    Reply
    1. mike_sullivan

      Yes, in the report Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Above the chart, click the Navigation Summary link. Below the chart, change the Current Selection to the page of interest to see how people got to that page and where they went afterwards.

      Reply

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