The Ultimate Guide To Google Analytics

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Google Analytics is a must-use tool for any ecommerce business. When used correctly, it can help increase traffic, conversion rates, and even profits, which is how you stay in business.

But it is the case of “easier said than done.” After all, it involves analyzing ecommerce data, and knowing how to translate that into a tangible, actionable business plan with monthly objectives.

Knowing how to interpret all of the numbers, and how to turn them around in such a way that’s actually productive for your business, is tricky.

Luckily, that’s where this guide comes in.

This guide is designed to help you better understand things like demographics, browser reports, channels, site speed importance, and even search terms. Literally anything you’d ever need to know about Google Analytics can be found here, in one solid guide.

So, let’s stop wasting anymore time. Let’s get to it.

Setting Up For Ecommerce

If you’ve only begun toying with the idea of using Google Analytics, and setting it up for ecommerce, you’re in luck. This guide will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to do that.

But let it be known now: these steps are strictly for entrepreneurs who are looking to sell items online. And there’s a lot that goes into that. If you’re running a physical brick and mortar, along with your digital store, you have to consider options like ship to store, which have become expected in today’s modern, competitive, business landscape.

And if you’re selling physical goods, you have to keep tabs on shipping options, supplies, and costs. And your objective would, of course, be to provide shipping at as fair of a price as possible, without going in the red.

So, consider all of that, as well as international sales, taxes, and even packaging styling (branding) before you get going with Google Analytics.

Here are the steps to follow to get your tracking code:

  1. Go to analytics.google.com, and click Sign Up.

  2. Click Website, then fill in your information, and select your Industry Category.

  3. Select Reporting Time Zone.

  4. Select Get Tracking ID.

  5. Accept terms and conditions.

  6. Add your Tracking ID to the store. From now on, you’ll find it easily by going to Admin > Tracking Into > Tracking Code.

  7. Whatever your ecommerce platform is, you’ll be able to navigate to their online store options/preferences to add your tracking code. Usually, it’s under Google Analytics.

Follow these steps if you want to make sure you’re capturing the right data:

  1. Admin >Property Settings

  2. Double-check Property Name, Default URL and Default View.

  3. Check Enable Demographics and Interest Reports, Use Enhanced Link Attribution, Enable Users Metric in Reporting, and Adjust Search Console. Make sure to Save.

  4. Next, under Admin, click Ecommerce Settings and make sure Enable Ecommerce is selected.

And finally, if you want to record the search terms people type into your store’s search, try this:

  1. Admin > View Settings > Enable Site Search Tracking.

  2. This will depend where your store is, but for peace of mind, consider your store’s URL. There should be a letter before the “=” symbol somewhere in your link. Typically for WordPress, it’s “s,” but Shopify is “q.” Find yours and then navigate back to Google Analytics.

  3. Type in whatever that letter is into the field titled “Query Parameter,” then hit Save.

Demographics

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For many, using demographics to essentially categorize people seems wrong. After all, everyone is different, no matter what they may sound like on paper. But business just doesn’t celebrate individuality. Instead, it relishes in connecting with like-minded people, and being able to offer products and services that better fit them.

All demographics do is make that easier on you, the business owner. Rather than having to hyperfocus on one person at a time, you can focus on the whole group, knowing that what you have to offer is up their alley.

But what if you have no idea who is predominantly drawn into your store? What if you think you know your audience, but you can’t say for sure? Well, the good news is that metrics always have the answers, and there’s a way to use Google Analytics that will put your questions to rest.

Here’s how to enable the report:

  1. Audience > Demographics > Age > Select the most recent 3-month period available > Apply > Advanced.

  2. If you have over 1,000 visitors per month, say 100k, change the value to exclude any sessions that account for less than 2.5% of your monthly session count. Skip this step if you have less than 2k visitors, however. All this does is eliminate any sample size data that’s too small to factor in accurately.

And here’s how to use the report:

  • Find the age range with the highest conversion. Sort by E-commerce Conversion Rate.

  • Find the age range with the most transactions overall.

  • Calculate average order value by age bracket by dividing the total revenue value by the number of transactions for each age group.

  • Find the age bracket with the highest bounce rate.

Now that you know the truth based on numbers, you know which age range to appeal to the most, and which one should become more of a focus moving forward (bounce rate).

Location

Of course, there’s one aspect of demographics that is so important that it requires its own special section: location. This is because as a business, you are located somewhere, and as such, your immediate bubble is your best network. Why focus on a customer in the UK, miles and miles away, before you focus on the ideal target audience three blocks down?

The only sensible answer is that your customers are predominantly UK based, right? Suddenly it would make sense, if your local network wasn’t at all interested in what you have to offer.

But if you’re suddenly feeling alone and lost, here’s some good news: most entrepreneurs have no clue where their most loyal customers are located. It takes a little research to figure that out, but once you do, you can market more effectively in those areas. Suddenly, your ad filters would look different, and your numbers would skyrocket.

That being said, your own town should become a focus at some point, since it holds the highest revenue potential. You’re already there, physically, all the time. If for some reason you’re not converting in your own town, it’s time to rethink your local marketing strategy.

Here’s how to use Google Analytics to learn which locations generate you the most revenue:

  1. Audience > Geo > Location.

  2. Select the country with the most visitors.

  3. Then review your top locations within that country.

Now that you know the top 3 countries you’re popular in, it’s time to use that information wisely. You could try the following:

  • Using the data to influence marketing activities offline.

  • Adjusting your ad filters.

  • Planning a trip to some of the specific locations to better learn about them, and see how that can influence your products and services moving forward.

New vs. Returning

Every now and then in business, you’ll need to figure out the conversion rate difference between established customers (returning), and new customers.

This has many benefits, such as being able to take that data to better predict your future revenue potential, using it to anticipate the goods and services that they would probably enjoy based on what your established customers seem to gravitate toward, and even using it to create a different version of your homepage that is optimized for new visitors. Think more coupon codes for one-time use, or new customer offers.

Here’s how to enable the report:

  1. Audience > Behavior

  2. New vs. Returning

That’s it. Super simple, very insightful. Use it as you see fit, but most certainly to enhance a secondary version of your homepage that triggers for new customers only. Doing so may increase your revenue per visitor by quite a large margin, because we all know that discount codes always go a long way.

Mobile

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So, this is something we’ve touched on before: despite the constant emphasis you’ll see marketeers placing on things like mobile optimization, it’s honestly not as urgent of a thing as it’s made out to be. Sure, it’s helpful, you should definitely get around to doing it, but it should only be a major factor if your data tells you that a large amount of your traffic is coming from mobile.

Makes sense, right? If most of your traffic is from desktop, and only 5% is coming from mobile, it’s really not a huge deal. But if even 25% or more are coming from mobile, then it’s time to take action.

Now, the best way to go about determining where you stand, is with a mobile report:

  1. Go to Audience > Mobile > Overview.

  2. Make sure that under Advanced Settings, you exclude: Sessions, Less than: 1000.

Then you’ll be able to review the numbers by device type, allowing you to clearly see where the bulk of your sales are coming from. This is valuable insight, because then you’ll be able to see your weak spots, and work on optimizing user experience on the devices with a low conversion rate, perform user testing, etc.

Referrals

Next up is referrals, which is a good way of finding out which of your guest posting efforts are truly paying off, and which ones you could afford to let go of in favor of something more promising.

This is especially valuable if you’re currently juggling your own blog content, along with several different guest posts and columns, in an effort to obtain more traffic and engagement. After all, your time is gold, especially as an entrepreneur. You want to do the maximum impact for as little effort as possible, which often involves knowing where to place the bulk of your efforts.

This also works for things like PR investments and even advertising.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals.

  2. Make sure that under Advanced Settings you Exclude: Sessions, Less than: 1000.

  3. Take a look at your referrals by transactions.

Once you have all of your data figured out, consider this: could you write more content for the top referrers? Maybe hire someone to tackle that for you, so you have more time to tend to other business matters that you’re required to attend?

If they’re not really guest posts, but more paid placements, take a look at marketing spend. Are you making a good ROI on them, or breaking even?

You could also do things like advertise with them on other channels, or have them link to a specific landing page that’s specifically optimized to bring new customers onboard.

Channels

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Much like the referrals report focuses on telling you which outlets/partnerships are bringing you the most traffic and sales, the channels report tells you which channels are driving the most revenue.

It could be your Instagram, thanks to your ad campaigns, aesthetically pleasing feed, and community engagement. Or it could be Facebook, thanks to your accurate use of ad filtering. Better yet, it could be one of your referrals.

To find out:

  1. Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.

  2. Make sure that under Advanced Settings you Exclude: Sessions, Less than: 1000.

  3. Then order the results by conversion rate.

Before you jump the gun and begin investing more in the top converting channels, you’ll have to do a little math. Figure out cost per acquisition for each one of the channels, and see which ones would deliver the most impact for less money.

Remember, whenever you invest more, it should be only to either elevate the results, or maintain your marketing share. Never make a choice that puts you in a rocky position.

Search Terms

This is a smart way of figuring out what people are searching for on your website. It sheds light on what your popular goods and services are, what they heard about first, and even what they really want.

But then again, this only works if you have a search bar on your website to begin with. If you don’t, then people won’t have anywhere to really search for anything, they’ll simply have to click around until they find it.

To combat that, try using a heat map, which tells you exactly where they click on the most while visiting your website. It’s not related to Google Analytics, but it’s still a resource you can use to obtain this useful data in a different way.

That being said, most heat maps are paid tools, so consider adding in a search bar. You won’t regret it.

Here’s how to view and use the report:

  1. Behavior > Site Search

  2. Click Search Terms.

That’s probably the simplest report you’ll ever generate on Google Analytics, aside from browser report (see below).

Now, suppose you’re selling clothing items, and you see that your top searched for item is a jacket.

You can do two things:

  • You could check to see how often you go out of stock on the item, to see if people are really just looking at it, or actually purchasing it.

  • Or you could immediately invest in increasing your product offering on similar items. In other words, let that one top-selling item dictate a whole line of similar jackets. Maybe some are made from more premium materials, or have a different cut to them.

You’ll also find that many times the search terms won’t point to specific products, but more so sales. For instance, a search term may be “end of year sale,” or “buy one, get two free.” This is in large part because people just love a good deal. But many times, if you’ve done similar sales in the past, people will automatically assume you’ll run them again and again.

In that case, consider running more of the promotions that they’re clearly already hearing about and looking for. They’re interested parties looking to purchase something from you, assuming you have the deal they’re looking for, so send out those discount emails.


Browser

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Think of this like the channels report, which told you which outlets were directing the most traffic and conversions. Only this time, it’s all about how different browsers and devices are performing on your website.

A browser report will tell you if Google Chrome is leading to more conversions for your business, or if Firefox and Safari are, for instance.

And based on this, you can learn which browsers need some further testing. After all, there’s always a reason why something isn’t converting quite as high. It could be settings, it could be that something you’ve implemented on your website isn’t working quite as well on Android vs. Apple, it could be many things.

So, here’s how to go about it:

  1. Audience > Technology

  2. Click Browser & OS.

Now you can use this report to segment data. For example, on the top right-hand corner of the page, select the last 30 days. This will give you a solid data range to work with. Then click Advanced, and fill out the menu to “exclude new users greater than 500”. Now you’ll only see browsers with over 500 new users per month, and that tells you where the bulk of your traffic and conversions are coming from.

If you want to take it a step farther, and look at your lowest conversion rates, make sure that the conversions select menu is set to ecommerce, then click Goal Conversion Rate. This will rank them from top performing, to the absolute lowest.

Then focus on the worst 2, maximum. Do some usability testing on them. If you have a chance, or want to go the consulting route, go ahead and check out your website on the browser/device in question. You may find that your website load times are terrible, or that a pop-up isn’t quite working well, and won’t close properly, hence inhibiting visitors from browsing the site as a whole. Finding glaring issues, such as these, gives you an opportunity to resolve them, and elevate your conversion rate on that browser.

As a reminder, one of the most popular issues you’ll come across is due to responsive designs. They may look good, and function well on your primary browsers, especially the ones they’re designed in, but that doesn’t mean they’ll translate tell to other browsers.

Site Speed

The site speed report is exactly what it sounds like: it tells you how well your webpages are loading.

Mind you, this is different than the browser report, which tells you how well your website is functioning as a whole on different browsers and devices. It could be design related, it could be functionality, etc. This report doesn’t focus on anything but speed.

And although it sounds pretty mundane, it’s actually quite helpful: it’s been shown that 79% of online shoppers won’t go back to a website with a troublesome load speed. In fact, 47% will expect it to load in 2 seconds flat, while 40% will abandon it if it takes longer than 3.

To pull up this report:

  1. Go to Behavior > Site Speed.

  2. Click on Page Timings.

  3. Fill out the advanced menu to “exclude page containing ?” This will remove duplicate URLs.

  4. Finally, look at your report, and select Average Page Load Time (Sec) in both columns.

Now you can see which page load times are taking the longest, and which are just fine. Ignore the ones that are already well-optimized, and instead take a look at the pages with slower loading speeds.

Pull up these pages and time them. If they are taking longer than 2-3 seconds, you’re losing customers before you can even present them with a beautifully designed website. Instead, your slow loading speed is your first impression.

Optimize these pages if you’re serious about ranking higher, and converting more effectively. And don’t be afraid to hand off the task to a more tech savvy employee or contractor who can resolve things like technical errors or malware, as these can also affect loading times.

Ecommerce

Finally, we’re capping things off with the ecommerce report, which is basically your main report. Every single report listed above is critical if you want a more detailed, hyper focused view on one aspect of your business standing...

But this report will give you an overall view of just about everything, including revenue, transaction volume, average orders by select time frames, and more.

In other words, it’s highly recommended that you get every single one of these reports to better plan things out, and set annual goals for your business, but if you’re really only investing the time into one report, let it be this one.

To pull it up:

  1. Select Conversion, then Ecommerce.

  2. Select Overview.

  3. Then select the last calendar month, and compare it to the one before.

What this does is show you how your KPIs changed from month to month, literally. It shows you any changes, for better or worse.

For instance, you can better understand how different seasons affect your sales, and thereafter. If you have more sales the months of November and December, you already know it’s due to the holiday season. Come January, sales will slow, and you’ll get plenty of returns and exchanges as well.

Then again, if you’re a fitness brand, you’ll likely keep making more sales around January and February, when people are still sticking to their New Year’s resolutions.

You’ll also see spikes around back to school time, summer swimwear, Valentine’s Day, fall wardrobe change (when the weather goes from warm to chilly), etc.

But seasons aren’t the only factor to consider. There’s also marketing. When you spend more on marketing one month vs. another, are you seeing more sales? Is it playing off one of the booming seasons listed above, or is it just because you had a product launch? Maybe you even rebranded, or began working with new affiliates.

Of course, there’s also conversion rate to consider. How did traffic quality and source affect your conversion? Look at each channel, see the changes that were implemented month to month, and see what the overall result was.

For instance, maybe you began working with a new referral, and they boosted your conversion rate. Perhaps they doubled the conversion for the previous month, making them a valuable resource. Now you can go ahead and talk to them about potentially taking your partnership further in a mutually beneficial way.

The opposite could be true as well. Maybe your Facebook traffic conversion got worse, for whatever reason. If that happens, take a look at the changing factors. Maybe you spent more on advertising the previous month, hence explaining the traffic fallout. Or maybe you changed your ads altogether and the rebranding, or new CTA is just not cutting it for your customers, old and new.

This report also allows you to see how your monthly transaction volume changed. Maybe you had more transactions during a month when there was a promo running, such as “buy one, get one free.” Maybe you had less this month, but made more money, because there were no promos running at all. Just because you have less transactions, it doesn’t mean you can’t make more of a profit.

Likewise, you could have more transactions and make more money. It all depends on what it is you’re selling, what promos and discount codes you make available, and what people are wanting to purchase from you.

Still, this allows you to make better decisions. Remember, your objective is to get higher average order values, in order to keep paid customer acquisition profitable. If you need to tinker around with sales and purchase prices, this report can help point out the glaring issue areas to start modifying.

Finally, you can answer important questions with this ecommerce report. Can, and should, you increase your average order value with product bundling? Is product bundling even something that fits within your business plan and industry?

Better still, can you increase average order value with recommended products, Amazon style? Every time you purchase an item on Amazon, or even just click into its product page, you get a whole list of recommendations that are similar to it, or that could work with said item. It’s a smart use of consumer psychology.

For instance, if you’re selling clothing, and one of your customers clicks into pants, you could recommend the top, shoes, and accessories that the pants were styled with in the original product image. You could also recommend similar pants, or other tops that would pair well with them.

Cart upsells are another way to go, since they allow customers to add something else in their cart in exchange for some kind of reward. Many choose to use the classic “Spend $25 or more for free shipping,” and will often remind customers in cart with “You’re $3.20 away from free shipping!”

It’s an incentive for customers to spend more, and it gives them an excuse. They might have just needed a new pair of pants, but they chose to spend an extra bit of money for the top to go with it, rather than spend that money on shipping. In other words, the money they would have spent on something mundane, like shipping, was put to better use. It feels like smart shopping, and it eliminates the feeling of guilt, while bringing you, the business owner, more money.

In Conclusion

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It goes without saying that Google Analytics has many uses, especially when it comes to ecommerce. It’s an absolute must if you’re trying to better understand your audience, the elements of your business that people are drawn to the most, and even the things that make your product lines the most successful.

Learn enough about what it is you’re offering people, and how they’re reacting to it, and you’ll undoubtedly pick up on the changes you can make to course-correct. That means an increased conversion rate, ROI, and traffic.

So which of these Google Analytics reports do you think you’ll focus on first, and why?

Remember, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments! I love hearing back from you all.