How We Use Google Analytics To Improve Our Online Store

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Recently, I was featured in an article published on discussing how analytics has improved our online business. While the article was well received, I ended up getting a good amount of questions asking for more specifics on exactly how and what we track for our web store.

So, the purpose of this blog post is to point out a few important metrics that we analyze and look at on a regular basis.

First off, I just want to emphasize that analytics is more than just looking at the number of visits or the number of pageviews that your website gets.

Don’t get me wrong, checking your traffic levels is both fun and rewarding but ultimately Analytics is about tracking specific metrics that will allow you to improve both the engagement and conversion rate of your website.

Make Sure You Set Up Ecommerce Tracking

Google Analytics has many ecommerce specific features which are not setup by default with the standard javascript snippet. While many shopping cart packages support Google Analytics ecommerce tracking out of the box, you sometimes have to enable this feature in the admin panel of your shopping cart because it involves sending Google all of your conversion rate information.

And by all your information, I really mean ALL which is why some people get a little apprehensive about giving all of this data to the big G.

For example, once you have the full blown ecommerce tracking set up, Google will know exactly which products you sell, how much you are making as well as how much you charge for shipping.

However, while you are sending Google a lot of private information, they will never access your records without your permission and the tracking that comes along with it is invaluable. Trust me.

In any case, once you have ecommerce tracking set up is when the fun begins. Here are a few things that Google Analytics will help you track.

  • The total amount of revenue broken down by products sold and correlated with every traffic source that you receive
  • Your conversion rate depending on the traffic source. Do certain mediums convert better than others?
  • The demographic data of your customers. Is someone in New York more likely to spend more than someone from Wyoming? Is someone from Georgia more likely to buy a certain item from your shop?

As you can see, ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics essentially allows you to gather and cross reference many key pieces of data for your online store. Very valuable stuff.

Refining Our Google Adwords Ads And Our Product Mix

So what are some of the primary ways we use Google Analytics? Probably one of the most important uses of Google Analytics is to refine our Google Adwords ads.

By tracking all of the search queries that customers type in when searching and clicking on our Adwords ads, we know exactly what the customer is looking for and we can adjust both our ad keywords and our landing pages accordingly.

For example, if a customer arrives at our website looking for something that we do not carry, we can add negative keywords to our Adwords campaigns.

Negative keywords prevent Adwords ads from showing up when a customer types in a query that contains a specific keyword. As a result, we save money with our ad spend because we will never pay for ads for customers that don’t stand a chance of buying from us.

Another way we use Google Analytics is to decide on what new products to add to our online store. For example, if we look at our reports and find that a disproportionate number of people are searching for “European Handkerchiefs”, we may decide to carry them in our store.

In fact, we added European imported lace handkerchiefs to our product mix earlier this year for precisely this reason.

Focusing Our SEO Efforts

Once you have ecommerce tracking setup, you can immediately start correlating your revenues based on which keywords customers are using to arrive on your online store through organic search.

For example, when we found that our conversion rate for the term “ladies handkerchiefs” was on the order of 15-20%, we immediately started focusing our SEO efforts around this particular keyword.

Today, our online store fluctuates between the top 2 spots for this search term and it brings in a good amount of revenue every single month for free. Without keyword analytics, it’s hard to tell which search terms will bring you the most revenues.

After all, you only have a finite amount of resources and the only way to succeed is to focus your time and effort on activities which will maximize your profits.

Tracking Marketing Campaigns

The problems that most brick and mortar stores face when launching an ad campaign in a newspaper or magazine for example is that it’s difficult to determine how much in sales and foot traffic were generated as a direct result of the advertisement.

With an online store however, it’s very easy to track all of your online marketing campaigns via click tracking in Google Analytics. For example, whenever we send out a broadcast email to our store email list, we insert a link to our online store within the email that is specifically tagged with our promotion.

As a result, whenever someone clicks on that link to shop at our store, we know exactly which marketing campaign resulted in that new customer. Analytics will also tell us exactly how much money we made as a direct result of the email promotion.

Using similar principles, we also know which sources of traffic generate the most revenues for our store and can make the necessary adjustments.

This past year, conversions from both Bing and Yahoo have started increasing significantly which indicates that we may want to focus more efforts on these 2 search engines. In addition, traffic from Facebook has eeked into the top 10 this past year as well.

Tracking Visitor Information

One other trend that we’ve been noticing lately via analytics is that more and more people are now shopping on their mobile devices. This month, over 5% of our revenues have resulted from orders placed from a mobile phone.

At around the same point last year, this number hovered around 1% or less. Depending on the percentage of mobile traffic to our store, we may want to consider creating a separate design specifically optimized for mobile phones.

Another way we use Analytics is to track where our visitors are coming from. This comes in especially handy when deciding how to allocate our advertising dollars.

For example, certain wedding websites charge based on how many regions you wish to display advertisements for your store. Because it’s way too expensive to advertise nationally, we use Google Analytics to tell us which states bring us the most revenues and purchase our ads based on this information. After all, there’s no point in paying for ads if there’s not a lucrative market.


These are just a few ways that we use Google Analytics to improve our store. Just because you run a small shop does not mean that you can’t track customer behavior.

Google Analytics is very powerful and completely free so there’s no reason not to use it. What are some ways you use analytics for your business?

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37 thoughts on “How We Use Google Analytics To Improve Our Online Store”

  1. I’m curious as to how you integrated the ecommerce analytics with OSC. I can’t figure out how to do that. Is there a tutorial that you used?

    1. Hey Sandy,
      I actually did all of the Google Analytics integration with OSC myself. If you need help in this regard, I can show you my source code. However, I believe that there are several OSC GA plugins that are available as well on the OSC website.

  2. Thanks for responding! I have a stand alone OSC site right now. I’m working on using WordPress as a front landing for the site and then using the WordPress OSC plugin in the back end and just switching everything over from the old database. If that doesn’t work I have to do it manually. It would help to see which products are worth moving over first. If I don’t find a plugin that works I might stalk you for the source code.

    1. @Sandy
      If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to see your online store.

  3. Sure no problem. Let me know how it goes as I’ve never used that plugin before. In general though, there are better open source ecommerce solutions out there now if switching is an option

  4. I am a blogger who has been fortunate to go into partnership with an internet techie geek. His my mate so i can get away with that. He loves google analtics, where i used to love another similiar product. But he has certainly proved time and again its value for both our blogs and our ecommerce shop. We are about to set up our first wp shop and combined blog so i assume it will show its value even more.

  5. Great post! I actually do some of the same types of analysis with the keywords that come in to my blog. I want to know what keywords bring the visitors that spend the most time, click around etc. Sometimes I even write posts directly from a long tail keyword like my post on ‘Would QE3 Cause Stock Prices to Go Up?’ This was an incoming keyword with a visitor that spent some time on the site so I know they would come back for that post or some one similar to them would. It takes ‘writing for search engines’ to a whole new level when I can use search engines to ‘write for the reader’.

  6. @Larry
    Nice! It’s always good to have a tech geek around when you need them. Good luck with your shop and send me the URL when it’s up!

  7. @Financial Success
    Come to think of it, I do the same thing with my blog and Adsense. Whenever I find a topic that has a high PPC payout, I tend to write more about that topic to maximize earnings. Thanks for bringing this up.

  8. Hey,
    Most of the Points are very-well highlighted. Pretty insightful. I would like to that the Google analytics through its GOAL features also tell you from what Page or the product did User convert or which particular page is not performing well. The new feature of Multi-channel has taken analytics of E-commerce websites to the new Level of perfection which could give out information upto City level.Further,Could also throw similar insights on Recently launched Twitter Analytics.

  9. Hey Steve,

    Most of your Points are really very well highlighted and pretty insightful. I would like to that the Google analytics through its GOAL features also tell you from what Page or the product did User convert or which particular page is not performing well. Thanks for sharing mate…Love to see more from you….I have bookmarked your website and love to visit again and again.. :)

    1. @Vacation Rentals
      Sorry for the late reply. For some reason your comment got stuck in the spam queue. Setting goals is absolutely crucial with analytics as most of the stuff I mentioned in the article would not be possible with out it. THanks for the clarifcation

  10. These are good points on how and what’s of Google analytics.

  11. The Google analytics certainly plays an important role in determining the site’s performance.

  12. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I really do agree that any business should use Google Analytics, especially because it’s free! I’m fairly new to it – I started working for a small IT support company about a month ago so am still working on Google Analytics and getting used to how it works – but it is so handy in seeing how many pages ofyour site are viewed and how long for. I’m working on SEO and improving the website, so this is so useful for me! I have personally found that whenever we send our monthly newsletter, we get more views than the rest of the month.
    There is also an article on our website on Google Analytics – it has some similar points but differs in some ways, it might be a useful read

  13. Thanks for your informative article Steve – it was very interesting to see how you used your results to improve the business, such as including European Handkerchiefs as a product on your online store as a result of many searches. I think that it’s all well and good having the tools to measure analytics (and google analytics is great for that as well as being free!), but a lot of people struggle with using this information in order to address problems within their business. Similarly to you, we discuss how important this is, and ways people can for clear goals and a defined strategy

  14. Giant Google has made a unique platform from where we can easily get our resources. I think there is no alternative way today without Google Analysis for business.

  15. This article was highlighted in a most recent email from analytics and drew me toward it.
    Have to agree with the points, albeit point One, is far less effective today than it was 9-10 months ago when google started masking keywords for people who have signed into google. In fact that seriously hampers point One, and requires a lot of sophisticated work arounds to grasp this critical point. Unfortunately it will continue to get worse over time.
    We definitely focus on point 5 for a critical point. The above referenced business and some of our others are very attached to search and because of that naturally google. We work all the time to review how our off line efforts reflect bottom line results.
    Just reviewed a business re: August results this year and last. Noticed a marked difference and one reflection had to do with some offline advertising which may or may not have contributed to a significant change in revenues.
    Now here is a different perspective that we had using–not only analytics, but our in house analysis of results and adwords along with analytics.
    The business is local and regional. We noticed “impressions” was way down for a critical geo portion of the market in adwords. Other locations were consistent.
    We checked analytics for the two comparative time periods …and yep not only less people thinking about the topic via adwords…but the geo portion of analytics told us less visits to the site.
    We had less sales that corresponding month from that target geo region.
    Meanwhile in the comparative month…we had run a newspaper campaign. Definitely insights that helped us with regard to understanding off line results.
    thanks for the article.

  16. That was a great read, Steve. I do recognize that any company needs to utilize Google Analytics. I’m reasonably new to all of these concepts and this article definitely helped me grasp the idea better. Google definitely produced a unique system in which we are able to very easily gauge how our businesses’ websites are doing. I do believe there is no other viable option that can offer this kind of good quality service, particularly since it’s free of charge!

  17. Hi Steve,
    Great post on GA – Google Analytics is a powerful beast and hence one needs to learn how to get the best out of it.
    Can you recommend any decent beginner-level courses on GA?

  18. Great article, we use Google Analytics to analysis the keywords potential customers use to reach our client websites. This is a great way to learn if your choice of keywords is targeting the right audience.

  19. Great Article–We have tried a few analytical programs but believe Google’s Analytics is by far the best.

  20. Great article Steve. Companies should utilise Google analytics to help grow their web presence or at least get an ideal of where they are receiving traffic from and how much. Unfortunately most of the other tools on the market came at a cost but as a free tool you can’t really go wrong.


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