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Google Analytics series, part 2: Understanding e-commerce metrics

What exactly is meant by “bounce rates”, “conversions”, “pageviews” and other terms in Google Analytics? Here is an introduction to the different metrics that can be tracked and measured in this powerful analytics tool.

Getting your head around the terms used in Google Analytics will assist enormously in measuring how your e-commerce website is performing. In part two of this three-part Google Analytics series, we explain the most important dimensions and metrics for e-commerce and some food for thought around what they could mean to you.

Defining metrics and dimensions

Google Analytics generates multiple reports that are generally made up of dimensions and metrics – think of them as the building blocks of your reports.

Dimensions are descriptions of your users’ characteristics, such as the browser they are using, the city they are in and the URL of each page they view. Metrics, on the other hand, are defined as “quantitative measurements”. Rather than descriptions, metrics are a numerical data measurement of a particular type of action. They might tell you the average amount of time visitors spent on your site or the number of sessions that took place on your website over a certain period of time.

Many dimensions and metrics can be changed, paired, added or taken away in order to create unique views of activity on your site. Knowing their specific meaning will help you figure out what is going wrong with your website, what is working perfectly, why people visit and what they do once they have arrived on your site.

Bounce rate: The percentage of sessions (site visits by individuals) that result in only a single interaction. This means a user visited one page on your website, then left. A high bounce rate can indicate a website that is difficult to navigate, looks unprofessional, does not meet expectations or is simply attracting the wrong type of people. Tracking bounce rate can give you answers to what types of people are sticking around and what types are bouncing. You can then market more heavily to the group that shows greater interest.

Conversion rate: This is a measurement of the percentage of sessions that resulted in a conversion to at least one of your goals. It helps you find out if visitors to your website are performing the action you want them to do such as “Download an e-book” or “Add to cart”. It is essential to measure this metric because you may have the most visually stunning site on the web, but if visitors are using it like an art gallery – wandering around and spending no money – then you need to re-think your online strategies.

Pageviews: This is a count of every time an individual views a single page on your site. If 10 users visit your site and they all view the same three pages, that will be counted as 30 pageviews. You need to find out which pages of your website are getting the most pageviews and what is of such interest on those popular pages of your site. This will enable you to share some of that magic on the less popular pages.

Revenue: This can be customised to show total revenue or revenue per item, per user and several other variables. This is a simple way to figure out which items are performing well on your site. It is also valuable for figuring out return on investment for individual marketing campaigns.

Sessions/visits: Periods of activity on your site by a user, from the time when they entered the site to when they leave. Tracking this will help you find out what could be used to hold users on the site for longer periods, such as videos, blogs or in-depth reviews.

Visitors/users: Number of unique users visiting your site during a particular time period. This can be separated into new users and returning users. Measuring this can help you find out what is easier – attracting new visitors or bringing current ones back. You can experiment with various marketing methods and use this to identify the methods that attract the highest number of visitors.

Load time: This is the amount of time your site’s content takes to load in the visitor’s browser. Very few Australians enjoy NBN data speeds, so make sure that images and videos on your site are not too heavy (large in size and resolution) as that makes websites too slow to load for most users.

Internal search: Analyses search words used by visitors while on your site. Measure this to understand if there are any surprises and to find out if people coming to your site are searching for an item you don’t stock.

(For an exhaustive list, click here.)

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