A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO PUTTING WEBSITE ANALYTICS INTO ACTION
Digital commerce has transformed the U.S. wholesale distribution marketplace. As more businesses implement eCommerce channels to meet the demands of their tech-savvy buyers, B2B online sales continue to climb. Digital Commerce 360’s 2019 U.S. B2B eCommerce Market Report states that B2B digital sales grew 11% in 2018 to reach $1.08 trillion. Forrester believes its upward trajectory will continue to soar, and predicts B2B eCommerce will reach $1.8 trillion and account for 17% of all B2B sales in the U.S. by 2023.
If you are a forward-thinking manufacturer or distributor that has invested in a digital sales channel, you have already taken a big step in the right direction. The next step in your digital journey is to mine the rich data that comes from your site, examine it, and then use that insight to make better business decisions that will accelerate your ROI. Without properly tracking and measuring data on your website, you will never have a good gauge of your site’s performance nor will you know just how profitable your site can be to your organization.
Every time Unilog implements a website for a customer, we stress the importance of collecting data and using analytics tools to measure the site’s effectiveness. But more times than not, the abundance of data remains untouched. Why? Some realize the advantages of analytics but cannot get their organizations’ decision makers to agree to the investment needed to support their efforts. Others feel their ERP system provides a clear enough picture of their website sales, and they do not need additional analytics tools. While it’s true your ERP will tell you your transactions and revenue, what it will not tell you what is driving that revenue. An ERP is not going to show you opportunities lost from bouncing users or a broken site’s search engine. It is not going to tell you if buyers are shopping your site and then calling the local branch to execute the order. It’s not going to identify that the shipping step is causing the most fallouts in the sales funnel, but with a proper analytics package, all these questions can be easily answered.
If you need help gaining executive buy-in, are an analytics skeptic, or are simply unfamiliar with analytics, you’ll want to read on. This white paper demonstrates the usability, customization, and power Google Analytics can offer your business and, through detailed process steps, shows you how to obtain a more accurate view of your customers’ behaviors and site performance. With the help of digital marketing and analytics expert, Chris Jones, we will show how to build a case for investing in better analytics tools and illustrate how, unlike your ERP, Google Analytics pinpoints the drivers behind your web sales.
WHY GOOGLE ANALYTICS?
Launched nearly 15 years ago, Google’s analytics tool was one of the first free, comprehensive product offerings in the web analytics space. Using unique insights and machine learning capabilities, Google Analytics offers a clear view of a website’s data so that businesses can use it to become smarter and more effective online.
When configured correctly, Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about a website in the way of reports and visual dashboards. These outputs drive answers to questions and provide solid, actionable data to improve a site’s relevance and viability. Additionally, Google Analytics reporting has these advantages:
- Gives a better understanding of the customer’s journey through your website
- Empowers you to make sound business decisions backed by reliable data
- Boosts people and process effectiveness when data is visible to the entire organization
- Maintains a historic record of information that is accessible and transferable if any staff leave
- Provides visibility to product conversion rates so you can build marketing campaigns (e.g. create AdWords) to help increase revenue via your online channel
Chris Jones, Founder of Rezenent, a full-service digital marketing and analytics company based in Birmingham, Alabama, is a huge advocate of Google tools, including Google Analytics, Tag Manager, and AdWords. He utilizes their SEO and marketing products to help attract and convert visitors to his clients’ websites, and Google Analytics reporting to gain a better understanding of customer online behavior.
Jones explains that the analytics tool offers more than 220 different reports for users, giving businesses the ability to capture a multitude of segments and dimensions. But while there is a plethora of metrics available within the tool, he is a big proponent of a walk-before-you-run mentality. “Google Analytics is a comprehensive tool, which can be overwhelming to some people,” says Jones. “But if you start out slow and focus on a core set of metrics, you’ll get more meaningful data that you can take action on.”
Visually impactful and easy to read, Google Analytics reports can tell a compelling story about a website. For instance, the Acquisition Overview report (see Fig. 1 below) provides a clear picture of where your sales are derived. By clicking on a particular channel, you can access more detailed information like which newsletter led to the most eCommerce conversions, which social media channels drove traffic to the website, and which specific posts resonated with buyers.
Fig. 1: Acquisition Overview report
The Audience Overview report (see Fig. 2) gives an overview of the engagement on a site. It shows the number of new and returning visitors per hour, day, week, or month, and can display those metrics against prior months so businesses can track and compare momentum.
Fig. 2: Audience Overview report
These are just two basic samples of the many powerful reports you can create with Google Analytics. If you’d like to yield these kinds of reports using your website data, we have a four-step process to get you there. Our staged approach will jump-start your analytics efforts using the free version of Google Analytics, and then provide a more advanced level of reporting by integrating a custom-developed web app that is fully automated from start to finish.
FOUR STEPS TO PUT ANALYTICS INTO ACTION
With expert insight from Jones, Unilog has developed a multi-step analytics guide that starts by capturing the best metrics for your business and ends with building visual reports and dashboards that interpret the data. We will also share Jones’ magic equation for site optimization and show how even the smallest positive changes to its variables will increase your revenue.
STEP 1: CONFIGURE YOUR DATA
Before you can start reviewing your website data, you must first configure your Google Analytics account with the appropriate administrative settings to ensure the most accurate results.
- Create three separate views of your site’s data: Raw, Test, and Master
- The Raw view provides an unfiltered, continuous feed of the data captured from your site.
- The Test view is used to set up different data dimensions so you can test them first.
- The Master view is what you use to report and analyze your data.
- Under the Master view, click on the All Filters icon to filter out all unwanted traffic that could skew your metrics; this includes all internal and business partner IP addresses (see Fig. 3).
Fig. 3: Create separate views and filter out unwanted traffic
- Under each view setting, choose the time zone that reflects where the majority of your customers or target buyers are located; this will help you understand what time of day they are researching or transacting on your site.
- Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders by clicking on the Bot Filtering box.
- Enable site search tracking so that the tool will collect all the search terms your users type in your onsite search box. Unilog platform users will also need to enter “keyWord” into the Query Parameter field to pull the search terms (see Fig. 4).
Fig. 4: Indicate the proper time zone, exclude bots, and enable site search tracking
- Next, it is best practice to manage all tracking codes and snippets on the website using Google Tag Manager (GTM) so that you may deploy numerous tracking codes without the need of a developer each time (see Fig. 5). Google Tag Manager also makes it easier to deploy advanced features such as UserID tagging, custom dimension segmentation, and eCommerce tracking. To do this, sign up for a GTM account and have your developer install the GTM tracking code on all pages of your website.
Fig. 5: Manage tracking codes and snippets with Google Tag Manager
- Lastly, publish the Google Analytics gtag code within GTM using the Universal Analytics tag and the built-in All Pages Page View trigger to begin collecting your website analytics (see Fig. 6).
Fig. 6: Publish Google Analytics gtag code within GTM using Universal Analytics
Now that you have created your three analytics views and configured your capture settings, you can then move on to identify the specific metrics you want to track and measure.
STEP 2: TRACK METRICS THAT SPEAK VOLUMES
There is an enormous amount of data procured from your website and nearly unlimited dimensions to extract from that data. Do not become overwhelmed by trying to track too many metrics. For the best results, Jones suggests tracking no more than nine or 10 metrics at one time. “Stick to your core metrics and cycle others in or out based on your market or seasonality,” says Jones. “Otherwise, if you try to track too many different metrics at once, you’ll just go into analysis paralysis.”
Begin by tracking the four most important metrics that affect your website’s relevance:
- Sessions – This represents the number of visits to your website. Each session includes the group of interactions a user makes within a given time frame on your website which can include browsing pages, downloading resources, and purchasing products.
- Conversion rate – This rate indicates the percentage of website visitors that visited your site and completed a transaction, whether they made a purchase, registered as a user on your site, or filled out a lead form.
- Average order value (AOV) – AOV is the average amount of revenue you can expect from online transactions. It is calculated by dividing total online revenue by the total number of online purchases.
- Revenue – This is the amount of money your website generates from selling products and services.
These four metrics make up the variables in Jones’ site optimization equation – a formula he says is the best method for calculating – and improving – your online success. The analytics formula is as follows:
Sessions x Conversion Rate x AOV = Revenue
He explains if you can positively affect any of the first three variables, you are guaranteed to increase your revenue. “There are a number of tools to help improve these metrics. For instance, you can increase AOV by recommending products using upselling and cross-selling tools to help grow your buyers’ shopping cart. If you want to increase sessions, you can build relevant e-mail and social media marketing campaigns to drive people to your site,” says Jones.
By focusing on these four metrics as part of your analytics tracking, Jones maintains that even the slightest growth in any of those areas will boost your online returns. To help drive his point, let us say your current metrics, when rounded up, equal $6.75 million in revenue:
|Sessions||x||Conversion Rate (%)||x||AOV||=||Revenue|
If you were to start an AdWords campaign to bid on keywords for products you sell on your website, you could yield an additional 10% in website traffic. Using the same formula, that boost in sessions would provide a $670,000 increase in revenue:
|Sessions||x||Conversion Rate (%)||x||AOV||=||Revenue|
While this example demonstrates the powerful role these metrics play in eCommerce, Jones recommends tracking an additional four to five metrics for more website insight. Here are a few of his favorites:
- Site search terms – Typically, site search leads to more transactions, so track this metric to learn how many people use your onsite search, see which are the most popular search terms used, and see how often those searches led to a purchase. Jones typically runs a site search report to gather the top 100 search terms used by visitors. Then he conducts a manual search of those top search terms on the site to review the result pages of each term. This exercise confirms if the products displayed on your site actually represent the search term and alert you to products that you either need to strategically boost or squash due to search ineffectiveness.
- Landing and exit pages – This information helps you analyze how effective your pages are to visitors. The landing page is the first page they “land” on when they visit your site while the exit page is the last page a person browses before leaving your site. High bounce rates (visitors navigating away from your site) could mean your content did not meet their expectations, the page was irrelevant to the intent of their visit, or the page has performance problems such as a slow page load speed.
- Micro-conversion goals – While not every visitor to your site makes a transaction, their visit to your site may result in a positive action or conversion via an alternate channel. These actions are called micro-conversions, and while they didn’t result in traffic revenue online, they still count as a vital connection with your audience. Jones suggests creating goals to track onsite actions like phone number clicks, video clicks, quote requests, and visits to your Locations page.
- Geo location – This metric allows you to compare activity by visitors within your company’s geographical footprint to that of people who live outside of your immediate sales area. Geographic location data can be broken down by specific cities, states, or regions to help you better understand your customers and their needs.
- Devices – If your site is not designed for mobile use, the devices metric will show you the percentage of people who accessed your site via a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. A high percentage of mobile users could build your case for creating a mobile app.
You can decide which metrics are best for your business, but if you are unsure, a consultant like Jones can audit your company’s digital commerce site and identify the ones that will provide the biggest impact on your business.
STEP 3: RUN INSIGHTFUL REPORTS
With your metrics defined, Google Analytics is now able to capture and store the data which will be used for reporting. Google’s standard reports are divided into five categories, or segments, based on different aspects related to your website. While these reports feature preset data points, many can be customized to your needs.
- Real-Time – Reports that track activity on your website at that moment
- Audience – Reports that provide detailed visitor information (who they are, where they are located, when they visit)
- Acquisition – Reports that show how the visitors came to your website whether it was through marketing channel efforts, keywords, etc.
- Behavior – Reports that paint a picture of your site’s page performance, site search usability, and more based on visitor interaction with your site
- Conversions – Reports related to transactions, sales and product performance, goals, and funnels
Pulling reports from these different segments will not only give you a comprehensive view of your website, your visitors, and current customers, it will also bring to light any content gaps, performance issues, and opportunities to improve the efficacy of your site. When Jones analyzes data for his clients, he uses the following reports to gain a complete picture of their website’s performance and identify opportunities for improvement.
- New vs. Returning User: Measures the stickiness of a website and shows if visitors tend to stay a long time and make return visits
- Geo Location: Segments your brick-and-mortar footprint from everything else
- Search Console Landing Pages: Focuses on where search engines deliver customers to a website and measures search results positioning, behavior, and conversion statistics
- Channels: Delineates your different channels like direct, organic search, and social media, and measures each by acquisition, behavior, and conversion statistics
- Google Ads Keywords: Displays site performance metrics based on the campaigns and keywords active in Google AdWords
- Social Value: Separates social traffic from other channels and provides insights on the social media networks and posts that bring visitors to your website
- Campaigns: Covers all digital campaigns – from to AdWords and e-mails to online advertisements – and reports the performance of each so that an ROI may be measured against conversions
- Site Search Terms: Lists all the terms users searched for using the onsite search box and reports statistics on user behavior after conducting the search, including refinement and search abandonment per keyword
- Landing Pages: Provides a list of the initial page each user visits when coming to the website and reports actions and conversions thereafter
- Exit Pages: Creates a list of the last page each user visits when leaving the site; results could be an indicator of poor product pages
- Top Events: Reports on the top events configured for the website like e-mail and phone number clicks, newsletter subscriptions, and checkout funnel steps
- Site Speed: Uncovers key elements of the website that are slowing down page performance and provides detailed and comprehensive recommendations to remedy the opportunity
- Funnel Visualization (Standard eCommerce implementation): Tracks multi-step workflows, user registration, and transactions, and pinpoints visitor activity once they enter the funnel, when they drop out, and where the visit ends
- eCommerce Overview (Standard eCommerce): Details the revenue, conversion rate, and AOV for an eCommerce site
- eCommerce Overview (Enhanced eCommerce): Includes the Standard eCommerce report, as well as marketing campaign, internal promotion, coupon, and affiliate revenue reporting
- Checkout Behavior: Provides funnel visualization detailing each step of the checkout process, starting with when the visitor drops out of the funnel and where they go, and continuing through transaction completion
- Product Performance: Records all the products sold and metrics like unique purchases and quantity, as well as shopping behavior such as shopping cart to product detail page rate, and purchase to product detail rate
While some Google Analytics reports are relatively easy to read and understand, others may be more challenging to identify potential issues or trends. That is where analytics consultants can bring added value. They act as a second set of eyes to review your reporting and provide advice on improving your web sales drivers. Jones adds, “Analysts like me live and breathe data. We are able to read between the different dimensions to see what’s causing low numbers and negative trends and recommend specific actions you can take to improve those metrics.”
STEP 4: CREATE VISUAL DASHBOARDS
Reports are an essential component to analyzing your website because they provide your organization with the deep insights needed to support informed decision-making. However, when you need to communicate vital metrics in a manner that speaks to a larger audience, dashboards or widgets are a great alternative. They tell your website’s story in a succinct, visual manner for easier understanding. While still impactful, dashboards and widgets should never be a replacement to your Google Analytics reports; consider them a supplement to your reporting.
Jones offers up four different ways to visualize your key metrics – from simple PowerPoint slides to custom-developed web app dashboards – depending on your comfort level and organizational needs. However, he stresses the importance of targeting the right amount of metrics based on your audience. For example, do not overwhelm your executive committee by presenting them with 40 different metrics. Instead, Jones suggests providing them up to six key metrics that give a clear but general overview of your site’s health. Then, for staff members such as brand managers, provide a larger, more comprehensive group of metrics or widgets that will help them plan their marketing spend on traditional and digital channels.
- PowerPoint dashboards (The simplest) – If you are just starting your analytics journey, Jones suggests using PowerPoint dashboards to create a simplified graphic account of your website’s performance. After running your reporting, you can either copy and paste the data results into a chart in PowerPoint or take a screenshot of the information to paste onto a slide. “Always start your first slide with the site optimization equation to show those all-important four metrics, and then show a monthover-month comparison for executives,” explains Jones. “Those are the numbers that are going to mean the most to them.”
Sample PowerPoint dashboard
- Google Analytics dashboards (More advanced DIY) – As you become more comfortable with Google Analytics, you can try building your own dashboards with their free basic dashboards tool that includes a default dashboard and a collection of widgets to help visualize your data. Once you run a report, you can segment the data and add secondary dimensions, which can then be saved as a dashboard item. While not fully customizable, Google’s dashboards give users some flexibility and creativity to display key metrics, which may be sufficient for your particular analytics reporting needs.
Sample Google Analytics dashboard
- Custom-developed web application (Preferred) – For more advanced and intuitive dashboard reporting, Jones suggests moving to a custom-developed dashboard application. Jones is a big proponent of this completely customizable app because it automates everything for his clients. “If my customers aren’t using PowerPoint dashboards, they are opting to go directly to this custom web app that pulls the data directly from Google Analytics, and many other sources like HubSpot, Mailchimp, or SurveyMonkey, and displays it in their specially designed dashboards,” he says. “Plus, the data is automatically refreshed multiple times throughout the day, so whenever they view the dashboards, they’re seeing real-time results.”
Sample custom-developed dashboard
- Google Analytics 360 (Advanced pay option) – Google offers another method of building interactive dashboards and reports through their paid analytics tool, Analytics 360. This advanced paid analytics tool provides more comprehensive reports and dashboard options, and integrates with their other Google products to create custom Google Sheets and MySQL dashboards. Jones proposes this dashboard option for those businesses that have more than 250,000 visits to their site per month and are staffed with experienced analysts dedicated to their analytics efforts.
Sample Analytics 360 dashboard
START YOUR ANALYTICS JOURNEY
We have shown that website analytics is not only a possible undertaking for small to mid-sized businesses, it is also an integral component of eCommerce success. Only with the help of tools like Google Analytics, though, will you get a true barometer of your site’s efficacy and significance to your buyers.
If you are trying to convince your business leaders that analytics is a worthwhile investment, activate the free Google Analytics tool now and begin tracking the essential metrics to build a baseline of your site’s performance. Demonstrate the flexibility and level of insight Google Analytics offers, and calculate your site’s optimization equation to share solid, actionable numbers everyone will understand.
If you would like more specialized advice on how to improve your site through Google Analytics, reach out to Chris Jones at Rezenent for a no-obligation consultation. He will provide pragmatic, actionable ways to increase traffic, boost conversions, and grow your online revenue.
Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions for the B2B marketplace. Our cloud-based eCommerce platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve, and enhance their digital channel. Unilog is an ISO 9001:2008- and ISO 8000-certified company with North American headquarters outside of Philadelphia, PA and international headquarters in Bangalore, India. For more information, visit www.unilogcorp.com.
Rezenent is a full-service digital marketing and analytics company based in Birmingham, AL. Founded by Chris Jones, Rezenent uses the latest analysis tools to find opportunities to improve site traffic and convert visitors to buyers on your website. Additional services include custom software development, including site search services and SQL/database data mining. For more information, visit http://www.rezenent.com/.