6 Ecommerce Metrics Critical to Long Term Success

If you’ve ever explored Google Analytics, you’ve probably felt overwhelmed by the countless metrics that can be measured.


However, if you’re not tracking key performance indicators, you’re flying blind. You might be able to wing it for a little while. But with the immense competition online, it’s a near certainty that sooner or later, a data-driven competitor in your industry will come along and overtake you by focusing on the fundamental metrics that help an ecommerce business scale.


Below, find the 6 fundamental metrics you need to know to build a successful, scalable online store.

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Questions a Prospective Client Should Be Prepared to Answer


When I am talking to a prospective client regarding their online marketing strategy, the interview process is as important to me as it is to them.


While I can give them an overview of online marketing tactics, it takes a deeper understanding of their business, resources, and goals before we can mutually determine if working together would be a good fit and how we would approach their strategy.

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Introduction to SEO

An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

Everyone wants their business to appear at the top of the Google search results. However, most business owners don’t have the first clue about what it takes to achieve this. Google results are broken up into 2 sections – paid and organic. Paid vs Organic Search The most important part to recognize is there is no quick and easy way to get to the top of the organic (free) results – unless you want to risk getting penalized. It takes considerable planning, time, and effort.

Moz offers a comprehensive introduction to SEO, but for the sake of simplicity, here are the fundamentals you should understand.

1) Determine Your Target Keywords

Building a SEO strategy starts with selecting good target keywords. It’s important to make sure your keywords are highly relevant, not overly broad (as those will be more difficult to compete for), but popular enough that there is some interest in the terms.

Tip:  If you have existing traffic to your site, examine your analytics to find out how your visitors are finding you and look for keyword clues there.

2) Optimize Your Website For Your Target Keywords

With target keywords in mind, it’s time to begin implementing your SEO strategy throughout your website.  Each page on your website needs to include the various elements that help Google understand the relevancy of the page. Each website page should have the following elements focused around one of your keywords:

  • Page Title (under 70 characters)
  • Meta Description (under 155 characters)
  • H1 & H2 Title Text (break up main content by describing it with sub-headers)
  • Alt Text (every image needs a title)
  • Keyword in Content (a few times, naturally)

Tip: Write content for your users, not for search engines. Create useful, information rich, and original content for your website without “stuffing” it with keywords, and you’ll find that both users and search engines alike will benefit.

3) Develop An Ongoing Website Content Strategy

Once you build your site, it’s important to continuously create new content. This helps grow the amount and quality of pages that are relevant to your business, as well as ensures your site doesn’t get stale, which is something Google looks down upon.

Great content answers the questions your audience is asking in their minds (or out loud), informs and educates, exudes candor and authenticity, and is ultimately captivating. Google looks favorably upon this engaging content that serves the user well and keeps them on your site.

To further support your website content strategy, you can create a blog.

Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads than those that don’t. – HubSpot (Inbound Marketing Company)

Every new post that you publish is an opportunity to target new keywords. These articles can also be promoted and distributed socially to drive additional traffic to your site and help you build authority.

The key to effective blogging is to write about the kinds of things your visitors are interested in learning about. Don’t be overly promotional about your own products or services. As mentioned, your content should be authentic and valuable.

Tip: You can create links to pages within your own site to help create connections between your content.

4) Obtain Quality Backlinks

Inbound links to your website, or backlinks, are created when other websites link back to your website as a relevant resource in support of their content. Obtaining links from vendors or other partners as well as authoritative sites within your industry can send great signals to search engines that your site is relevant.

Finding good distribution channels for your content is critical so that your target audience may discover it and ultimately link back to it. Be proactive about promoting your site and content through channels such as social media and engaging with your audience outside of your site and you can really speed up the process of search engines taking notice.

You can also contribute quality content to other relevant sites, typically in the form of guest blog posts.  The idea behind guest posts is that everyone wins.  The site posting your content gets quality content that benefits their audience, while you get to expose yourself to a new audience and position yourself as an authority in your industry.  A natural, properly placed link back to your website you also provide a quality inbound link that will benefit your search engine optimization efforts.

Tip: Backlinks are no longer about quantity as much as they are about quality. Focus on creating valuable content that earns you relevant backlinks from prestigious sources.

5) Analyze, Refine, and Repeat

It’s important to monitor your metrics to determine what tactics are most effective and uncover new opportunities. Give extra attention to keywords that aren’t moving enough and repeat the steps you took that brought results in the past. You’ll get better as you go and as you build momentum, you’ll see an exponentially increasing impact.

Tip: Without reviewing and understanding your metrics you’re working blindfolded. Use tools to help you plan your strategy, manage your tactics and monitor your results.


This should serve as a road map for your efforts and help you understand the time and resource commitment that you should expect.

How to Set Up Google Analytics Goal Tracking

I’ve often written about the critical importance of goal tracking as it pertains to measuring and optimizing your website conversion rate. A goal is whatever action you are trying to get the website visitor to take on a page, I.E. submit a form, click a link, complete a purchase, or even stay on a page for a certain amount of time. By setting goals for your site and measuring them in Google Analytics, you can establish a baseline to iterate against, as well as measure the effectiveness of each source of traffic in achieving those goals. So you can gain insight into how your organic search traffic performs compared to your paid search, or how each email or social media post contributes to your goals. You can get very granular in how you segment this data and better understand where to focus your efforts.

So how do you actually set up Google Analytics goal tracking for your site?

To start:

  1. Go to Google Analytics
  2. Click on the “Admin” button in the top right
  3. Click on “Goals”
  4. From one of the Goal sets, click “+ Goal”

Then you have to decide what type of goal you want to measure. Google provides a few sample ideas of goals, but essentially they are just named variations of the 4 types:






A specific location loads

Thank you for registering! web page or app screen (I.E. thanks.html)


Sessions that lasts a specific amount of time or longer

10 minutes of longer spent on a support site

Pages/Screens per session

A user views a specific number of pages or screens

5 pages or screens have been loaded


An action defined as an Event is triggered

Social recommendation, video play, ad click, link click


Destination Goal

Google Analytics Destination Goal

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A destination goal is useful for tracking an objective that requires a specific page to load and one of the most commonly used types of goal tracking since it is often used for major activities like tracking leads generated or orders placed. .

Ex. If you would like to track the number of ‘contact us’ form fill-outs, you could use a URL destination goal to track the number of times the ‘thank you for contacting us’ page is loaded. Or if you’re tracking the number of orders placed, you can track the “order complete” page.

Goal funnels allow you to see exactly how many people move through each step of the goal conversion process. For example, if your checkout process is split up into 3 pages (cart, shipping/payment details, and confirmation) you can add each of these URLs as steps in the  process. You will then be able to measure where visitors fall off once they start the process, if they do not complete it.


Duration Goal

A duration goal is used to track the amount of time that a user spends on your website.

Google Analytics Duration Goal

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Ex. If you would like to know when a user is engaged with your site and spends 3 minutes or more on your website, you could use a visit duration goal to track instances where this happens. If you have a customer support related site, perhaps you want to measure if visitors are easily finding what they need within 3 minutes of landing at your page. You can use duration goals to track this metric as well.

Pages per Visit Goal

The pages per visit goal is ideal for when you want to track a certain number of pageviews in a single visit.

Google Analytics Pages Goal

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Ex. If you would like to know when a user visits 5 pages or less in a single visit.

Similar to visit duration goals, instead of tracking how much time people spend on your site, this goal tracks the number of pages each visitor sees before they leave.

Event Goal

An event goal uses an event (clicking a link, playing a video, etc.) as the basis for a conversion

Google Analytics Event Goal

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Ex. An event goal is ideal for tracking conversions around objectives that require the user to take a specific action on the page.

Event goals are a little bit more complicated because you have to set up the events and you have to add a bit of JavaScript code to the element that you want to track. This tells Google Analytics when an event has occurred. For more details on how to do this, please refer to The Google Analytics Event Tracking Guide.

Goal Values

Wouldn’t you like to know how much money you make from organic search? Or the ROI of your individual marketing campaigns? Google Analytics Goals does a great job at telling you where customers came from but they don’t immediately calculate the value of that traffic.

Goal values allows you to define the worth for each of our goals and then cross references that data within your traffic reports so you can determine your sources of revenue. If you have an average value per lead or a single product website, it’s easy to plug in that amount as a goal conversion value. The exception is if you have a multi-product ecommerce retail site, there are dynamic ecommerce conversion and revenue tracking options that are much more suitable. I’ll explain those in a separate post. Remember to keep your goal values current based on your internal metrics.

By now it should be abundantly clear that goal tracking is essential to understanding how your website and marketing is performing. What goals are you tracking on your site? Tell me in the comments!


Split Testing

What is Split Testing?

Split Testing Overview

Split testing (also referred to as A/B testing or multivariate testing) is a method of conducting automated and random experiments with the goal of improving a predetermined website metric, such as number of clicks on a specific element (I.E. add to cart button, register button, play a video, click for more info), form completions (I.E. registrations, opt-ins, contact requests), or purchases. Incoming traffic to the website is distributed between the original (control) and one or more variations. This is transparent to the visitor, who does not know they are part of an experiment. You, the tester, waits for a statistically significant difference in behavior to emerge. The more traffic the page gets, the faster you can obtain statistically relevant results. The results from each variation are then compared to determine which version showed the greatest improvement. If it is determined that there is a clear winner, you would likely update your site to incorporate the elements from your winning experiment. (And then start a new experiment to improve it further!)

What Types of Elements Can Be Split Tested?

Nearly any element can be varied for a split test. For example:

  • Visual elements: pictures, videos, and colors (Does a photo of a smiling man help convert better than a serious man? Does an orange button convert better than a green one?)
  • Text: headlines, calls to action, and page copy (Does “Get Your Free Quote” convert better than “Receive an Instant Quote?” Do bullet points convert better than a paragraph? Does adding a customer testimonial help increase conversions?)
  • Layout: arrangement and size of buttons, menus, and forms (Does a form with 3 fields convert better than one with 5? Does a register button on the left convert better than having it on the right?)
  • Traffic flow: how a user gets from point A to B (Does a 2 page checkout convert better than a 3 page checkout? Do more people sign up for a free trial on page 3 after visiting page 1, then 2, then 3? Or Page 1, then 4, then 3?)

ab split testing

Split Testing Email

Split testing isn’t only used for testing webpages. It can be very useful for testing your emails as well. You can answer questions such as, What’s the best day to send your email marketing campaign?  What time? What kind of subject line works best? Something promotional? (Save 10% on Widgets Today Only!) Or something more subtle and informative? (Find Out How Our New Widget Can Save You Time.) You can set goals such as opens, clicks, or ROI for each email variation. First, make sure you integrated analytics into your emails. Many email service providers such as Mailchimp and Aweber can do this for you automatically and also offer certain reporting capabilities such as the number of opens and clicks directly in their system. You can then set up segments of your email list, perhaps sending one version of an email to 10% of your list and then 10% to another version (or the same version, but at a different time.) You can then see which performed better and send the remaining 80% out using the winning version, or at the winning time.

A/B Split Testing

(Courtesy: Mailchimp.com)

Some Split Testing Best Practices

  • Simplify: generally, fewer page elements create less distractions from the conversion goal.
  • Don’t forget about the overall business goals: test with the overarching goal of the website in mind, not just the goals of individual pages. For example, one page might generate more clicks, but fewer checkout completions. Or, one version of an email might generate more opens, but less sales.
  • Test one element at a time: Testing one element at a time is called A/B testing, while testing multiple elements on a single page is called multivariate testing. Unless you have a testing tool capable of interpreting more complex multivariate results, it’s important to test one element at a time (although you can have multiple variations of this one element.) For example, just change the call to action, or an image on the page, or the position of your testimonials. Otherwise you can’t be sure which element had an impact, and by how much. If you test two elements and one results in an increase on performance of 10%, while the other results in a decrease of 10%, you might assume that the net benefit of your changes is zero; that there was no difference in page performance. In reality, if you only added the positive performing element, you would have seen a 10% increase which could be a big win.
  • It’s not all about drastic changes: Don’t be seduced by the idea that all variations in an A/B test have to be huge, obvious transformations. Even subtle changes can have a demonstrable effect, such as slightly editing a list of product features to persuade users to request more information, or phrasing a call to action differently to drive user engagement. It’s a gradual, granular process. Keep iterating until your conversion rate for that page is maxed out.
  • Don’t make assumptions: Just like a scientist tests a hypothesis, that should be your approach to split testing. Use hard A/B test data to make informed business decisions – no matter how much it surprises you.
  • Resist the temptation to jump to a conclusion: Even if you’re getting strong initial results, let the test run it’s course.  Economists and data scientists rely on a principle known as statistical significance to ensure that the data has a high probability of accuracy and this relies on a large data sample. Without it, you run the risk of making business decisions based on bad data.

Split testing doesn’t have to be complicated. Services such as Visual Website Optimizer, AB Tasty and Optimizely offer interfaces that allow you to create page variations without touching your website code. Conversion Rate Experts has a great breakdownof the numerous split testing tools and platforms that are available. With easy ways to do split testing of your website and emails, there is no excuse for settling for the status quo. There is always room for improvement throughout your site. So once you find improvements, don’t stop there. Keep testing!

8 Simple Questions for Google Analytics to Improve Website ROI

Google Analytics can be overwhelming in that it provides so much data and reporting options. Particularly with inexperienced users, you can get lost for hours sifting through it in order to find key, actionable metrics to improve your website ROI. While there are numerous other useful reports that can provide important insight into specific user behavior and provide clues about how to improve website ROI, for small businesses with limited time and resources, start with the simple, “low-hanging fruit” and you might be amazed by the results.

Using Analytics to Improve Website ROI

Here are some simple questions to ask Google Analytics (or another website analytics application you are using) that can help you quickly and easily identify areas for improvement:

1. How much traffic am I getting?

Obviously the most basic question is how many people are actually visiting my site. While in theory you might want this to be consistently increasing and generally as high as possible, keep in mind that for practical purposes you will want to understand more details about this traffic and focus on attracting relevant, targeted visitors to maximize your website ROI…particularly if you are paying for any or most of your traffic.

Additionally, if you have very low traffic, it will be more difficult and time consuming to optimize your site because it takes longer to accumulate enough data to get statistically relevant reports. High traffic means you can make constant tweaks and quickly see if they are having an impact.

Your overall traffic is an aggregate baseline from which to measure your efforts against.

2. What is my conversion rate?

I blogged previously about how important conversion rate is to website ROI. In analytics, you can track numerous goals, from making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or “liking” your page on Facebook to even watching a video or increasing the amount of time users are spending on a page.  You can set up multiple goals for your site and track how well your site is converting. You can even track which sources of traffic or pages are converting best (and worst) and make adjustments as needed.

3. What is my bounce rate?

Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors that land on a particular page, visit no other pages in your site, but instead leave your site completely.  Typically this means a visitor didn’t find anything related to what they were interested in or intended to find at your site. For example, they searched for shoes and landed on a page of your site that sells umbrellas, so they left without exploring anything on your site. Investigate the sources of the traffic visiting your high-bounce rate pages and tweak the content to better match what customers are looking for or to help them find a path towards potentially relevant content on your site.

4. Where is my traffic coming from?

Your traffic comes from a variety of sources, including search (organic or paid,) direct (they type in your URL or click from a newsletter,) or referral (clicking a link from another site.) You can learn where your visitors are coming from, which websites are sending you the most traffic, which keywords are sending you the most traffic, and which source is sending you the most traffic. This is extremely valuable to identify potential marketing targets for your offerings, whether it’s sites within a particular industry, keywords to focus on for SEO, or how your email and social media marketing is performing for you. If you are getting other sites to link to yours, you can also use tracking URLs to help you easily identify these sources in your analytics and track their performance.

5. What search terms are people using to find my site?

Uncovering what terms people are using to find your site can help you understand what they are looking for (and make sure you are offering it,) trigger ideas of new content or products to add, and where to focus your efforts for additional search engine optimization.

There have been some changes to the way Google provides organic search term data in analytics where most keyword data is missing (AKA “not provided”). KISSmetrics has some good tips to uncover those missing organic terms.

6. What are the most popular pages on my site?

Looking at the most popular pages on your site can help you determine where to concentrate on for conversion optimization (start with the most popular pages that have a lot of room for performance improvement,) how to best merchandize your site, or where to focus your efforts expanding your marketing. Finding and focusing on your most popular content first will help you see a quick boost to your website ROI.

7. Which pages do customers most often land at when they arrive to my site?

A landing or entry page is any page on a website where traffic is sent (or naturally arrives at as the result of a search of clicking on a link) specifically to prompt a certain action or result.  Sometimes you may want to set up specific, customized landing pages where you will intentionally direct traffic that originates from certain sources (an email campaign, a banner campaign, etc.) Other times an entry page may simply be a search engine or site linking to a specific page within your website other than your homepage. To maximize website ROI, make sure your landing pages and top entry pages are optimized to convert a lead or at least push them down the conversion path.

8. From which pages are customers most often leaving the site?

Exit Pages are the pages from which visitors leave your website. That sounds a bit like “bounce rate,” right? The difference is that the visitor may have been to other pages on your site before exiting, whereas when a visitor “bounces,” they only viewed the one page they landed on. Which pages are your visitors most often finding a dead end? To improve your website ROI, it’s important to understand where they are getting stuck or hitting dead-ends and make adjustments that help move them through your funnel towards your goal.

Improving Website ROI – Conclusion

The longer you work with your analytics to optimize your website ROI, the more questions you will have, causing the depth and complexity of those questions to deepen. You can then start to expand into new areas or even create custom reports and segments of traffic particular to your business.

Remember, these incremental changes you make to your site have a compound effect that can really start to snowball as you continue to make improvements. Additionally, investing in optimizing your website means that the improvements in ROI will not only be lasting, but have a positive impact on every new marketing tactic you deploy.

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