If you’re looking for an introduction to Google Analytics, then look no further. This guide will give you all you need to know, from how to set it up to what it can do for you, and even some tips and tricks at the end.
In the movie, The Matrix, our protagonist is invited to pull back the curtain and take a glimpse at the code that’s running his universe. And while you may not have all of the special effects (or even the cool sunglasses) at your disposal, I invite you to pull back the curtain on your ecommerce store, website or blog with Google Analytics. It may not be the universe, but it is your slice of it.
Here’s what you need to know to get started with Google Analytics:
Enter the metrics: Why you should be running Google Analytics
By just looking at the data your site accumulates, you can see how much traffic and sales you’re getting, what products are popular, etc. But without analytics installed on your site, you won’t see what traffic you’re missing, such as:
- Where are you losing customers in the buying cycle?
- How much time are they spending on your site?
- How many visits does it take for your site to close a sale?
- How are your visitors finding your site and what keywords are they using to search for it?
I’ve worked with all sorts of analytics programs, and for the money, Google Analytics is the best one out there. It can’t do everything, but it’s quitepowerful – not to mention it’s free. Even huge corporations paying big bucks for their analytical software are also running Google Analytics as a secondary source to confirm their other data.
Here within Volusion’s Marketing Services team, we work with hundreds of ecommerce stores like yours. To help us gauge performance, we use Google Analytics (GA) and traffic/sales data from the Volusion software to base our roadmap and analysis. From monitoring your social media efforts to quantifying your keyword revenue, Google Analytics provides invaluable information that empowers store owners to make better business decisions.
Setting up Google Analytics
Depending on your platform, setting up Google Analytics can be as easy as signing up for an account, clicking through the steps and pasting some HTML code into your site’s template. Here are the instructions for setting up basic analytics for a Volusion store.
By adding Google’s Ecommerce tracking script, you can track revenue data through analytics as well. Most of that data can be pulled from your store’s software, but the power of GA to sift through and present that data is priceless.
*If you’re uncomfortable altering your site’s HTML then seek professional help…of the coding kind. Volusion has a Google Analytics Ecommerce tracking service available to help you get started.
Let’s take a tour of Google Analytics
We install Google Analytics on hundreds of stores every year, and while most clients absolutely love the data it provides, there are always a few who simply avoid it. They log in once or twice, never to return. I suspect that they’re overwhelmed by the robust data GA provides,or perhaps worry about breaking the code. But don’t! Take comfort in knowing that there’s nothing to screw up in analytics while you’re in the Reports area – which is where you will want to spend all of your time.
In the upper-right hand corner you’ll notice a date range which you can change through the pull down just to the right of it, and it will stay the same until you change it or log out. Be mindful of this date range when viewing your reports. This could be the reason you are not seeing any data from today or from any other time period – an easy oversight.
You’ll also notice that you can compare dates. Enable this and you can quickly see the contrast between visits from the previous month, the same period year to year, etc.
When you first open up Analytics, you’ll be presented with a left-hand navigation bar. We’ll get into detail with some of the most common reports, but here’s a brief rundown of what we have here:
Dashboards: A ready to use overview of your site activity with cool pie charts, maps and lists. It’s very customizable and user friendly.
Shortcuts & Intelligence Events: Keep reading, we’ll get into those later.
Real-Time Reports: Want to see who’s on your site, like, right now? Want to be certain your tracking is working correctly? Hit up the Real-Time report and test it out yourself by loading your site in a separate window. Helpful tip: If you aren’t seeing your own visit to your site when you test it, it may be a problem with how Analytics was installed, or your Filter settings if you opted to set them up.
Audience: View to see all sorts of information about who is visiting your site – where they’re from, what type of computer (or phone) they’re using, etc.
Traffic Sources: We’ll be looking at this in-depth. Let’s just say this is paramount to finding out how your visitors found you, and subsequently get more of them to your site.
Content: See how your customers are interacting with your site at the page level. We’re not going to look at it here, but I would highly recommend the In-Page Analytics tab within – it will blow your mind.
Conversions: If you have Ecommerce tracking, this is where you’ll see all of your revenue data.
Traffic sources – Where the rubber meets the road
To paraphrase a popular TV commercial: The most interesting man in the world doesn’t always use analytics, but when he does, he goes directly to the Traffic Sources tab. This should provide you with some instant gratification when you want to find where your customers (traffic) are coming from:
- Which search engines referred the most traffic
- Referrers like Facebook, Pinterest, coupon sites and more
- The first page your customers arrived at on your site. You may be surprised to find how often it’s not the homepage.
First stop is All Traffic under the Sources tab. Here, your traffic is sorted by its source and the standard metrics one should look at. As a default, the list is sorted by the number of visits, with the largest source coming in at number 1. You’ll likely see a source as being (direct) / (none). This means that the visit came from someone typing your website URL right into their browser window, or had it bookmarked, and therefore arrived at your site “directly.”
The columns represented are fairly self-explanatory:
- Visits are the number of people who came to your site.
- Pages/Visit are the average number of pages people looked at on your site – usually the higher the number, the more engaged your visitor is.
- Avg. Visit Duration is how long the average person stayed on your site.
- % New Visits – GA records all visitors to your site, but will distinguish if they have been there before utilizing cookies and Google account information. If a previous visitor clears their browser cookies or visits using a different browser or computer, they’ll most likely be counted as a new visit.
- Bounce Rate is the percentage of people who only saw the one page they landed on when they arrived at your site and then left (average bounce rates are about 50%-60% depending upon industry). A low bounce rate is a good indicator that your advertising, messaging and/or SEO (Search Engine Optimization) reflects what you’re offering on your site. Reasons for a high bounce rate can be low relevancy to search, an unattractive or confusing page or a small number of products being offered.Try sorting the columns as well to see how engaged your audiences are. In the example above, you can see that people who visited the site via Pinterest have the lowest engagement by their high bounce rates and low average visit durations. This might mean it’s time to check the Pinterest posts and make sure they take the customer to the appropriate page on the site, and that there are an ample number of products available to view.
Now let’s take a look at visitors from natural search. If you’re not running any paid advertising to your site (AdWords, display ads, shopping feeds, etc.) then you can get a great overview of your natural traffic from the Organic report found under Search in the left-hand navigation.
For many, this is the mother lode of data, as it shows what keywords people were searching for when they arrived at your site. Near the top of your results, you’ll most likely see a (not provided) keyword. Those searches were done while the person was logged into their Google account and is not reported in Analytics.
“Who cares what people are searching for when they reach my site?” one may ask. Well, you do.
Knowing what keywords people are using to reach your site will tell you how search engines perceive your site and each page. If you have ecommerce enabled correctly, it will also tell you which terms are converting, which allows you to tailor your messaging, and even your products, to those searches. Use that strategy on some of your landing pages and you’ve just started your own SEO (Search Engine Optimization) campaign.
By changing the Primary Dimension from Keyword to Landing Page, you can also see what pages people are arriving at most often. Most likely it’s the homepage, but you’ll find a number of people are arriving somewhere you didn’t intend to be a main point of entry. With this newfound knowledge, you might want to revisit these pages and make sure they provide visitors with useful, actionable information, like the name of your business, an easily identifiable way to navigate to another part of the site, a phone number, etc.
Analytics tips and tricks
Shortcuts: Introduced earlier this year, shortcuts allow you to save your favorite settings and call them up with just one click. Once you’ve drilled down to find your report of organic traffic by keyword, and then sorted by bounce rates, excluding branded terms of course (phew!) just click on the shortcut button, name it whatever you want, and when you can come back later you can pull it up easily by finding it under the Shortcut tab on the left.
Dashboard: Use it to give you a quick visual overview of your site traffic. Analytics provides a standard display, but you can easily customize it. “Look Mom! I‘ve just added an Ecommerce Conversion Rate chart to this Dashboard!”
Custom Alerts:– If you can’t check your analytics every day, you can have Google alert you when you experience unusual changes in traffic, revenue, transactions, etc. In the Intelligence Events tab, GA has some Automatic Alerts already set up for you.
To create your own, and be notified by email when an alert is triggered, click on the Custom Alert tab and create your own. Here are some ideas for setting up Custom Alerts:
- Something’s Wrong!: Set an alert when your site hasn’t received any traffic for a day – this means something might not be right with your Analytics setup or your website might be down.
- Social Experiment: When you have a large % change of traffic coming to your site from social media – you might have posted something that really resonated with your audience; take advantage of that!
- Click Fraud: Worried a competitor might be clicking on your pay per click (PPC) ads and costing you money? Set an alert to notify you of unusually high traffic from countries or even cities. Though it may not be a true indication of fraud, an alert will give you some notice so you can investigate it more thoroughly and quickly.
Now that you have the knowledge to see what lies within the “matrix” of your ecommerce site, it’s time for you to start reviewing the health of your site.