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3 Ways Small Businesses Can Get Big Benefits with Google Analytics

Posted by Ngan Ton on Dec 9, 2016 12:30:00 AM
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Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful insights tool for ecommerce businesses to track, analyze, and optimize their tactics based on behavior data from site visitors. In previous posts, we have guided you through implementing GA tracking via Google Tag Manager (GTM), as well as setting up marketing campaign tracking.

In this post, we share three ways businesses can gain insights from the use of GA, setting a solid foundation for your analysis. This is by no means a comprehensive guide on using Google Analytics for an online store, but rather a primer to start utilizing your GA account.

1. What Matters Most: Set your ‘Goal’

While our previous posts showed you how to set up pageviews and visitors for tracking and attribution of campaign traffic, that was just the beginning. For an online shopping business, visitors actually making purchases is what matters. Google Analytics doesn’t automatically tell you how well your business is doing, unless you tell GA first what to track--via “Goals”.

  1. In your Google Analytics account, go to Admin.
  2. Under View, select Goals. Click on +NEW GOAL.
  3. Under Goal Setup, choose Checkout Complete.
  4. Under Goal Description, name this goal as you please. There is currently no need to change the Goal Slot ID field (it is more relevant when you have a complex tracking strategy). For Type, choose Destination.
  5. Under Goal details, input as follows. This is the URL that will trigger a goal. Don’t enter in the full URL, use only what comes after the domain. This URL construct is GearLaunch’s order confirmation page that users land on when they have completed their checkout.
  6. For Value and Funnel, toggle OFF. These are optional settings that enrich the Goal Completion counts with predefined monetary values (usually for non-commerce goals) for the customer journey through the checkout process. At this time, they are not crucial to tracking goals.
  7. Click Save. And you’re set!

As you can see, in Google Analytics, you have five types of goals you can track: URL, duration, pages/visit, event, and Smart Goal. Depending on your strategy, you can create as many goals of as many types as you need in order to gather insights that are uniquely valuable to your business. However, as an online store tracking sales performance, you can go with Destination to track ‘quality’ visits that end in a purchase. This serves as the key performance indicator (KPI) to benchmark campaign effectiveness.

2. Enable Data Collection for Advertising Purposes

Beyond data on pageviews, sessions, and goal completions, marketers also need to focus on the visitors themselves. Google Analytics can provide Demographics and Interests Reports as well as enabling Remarketing cookies – but only after they are explicitly enabled. Before following these steps, make sure you and your site adhere to the Analytics Advertising Features Policy Requirements.

A. Enable Advertising Features Report and Remarketing

To use data to run advertising campaigns, it is necessary to enable Google Analytics to collect site visitors’ data in the form of ‘cookies,’ which can then be used for Search and Display remarketing on associated accounts (e.g. Google AdWords, DoubleClick Bid Manager, etc.) To enable, follow these steps:

  1. Under Admin, choose the relevant account/property.
  2. In the Property column, click Tracking Info, then click Data Collection.
  3. Under Data Collection for Advertising Features, toggle Remarketing and Advertising Reporting Features to ON.
  4. Click Save.

B. Enable Demographics and Interests Reporting

After enabling Advertising Features Reporting as shown above, you also need to enable Google Analytics to report on Demographics and Interests data associated with the cookies. Such data accumulate into a wealth of valuable audience insights, crucial to your decision making.

  1. Under Admin, choose the relevant account/property.
  2. In the Property column, click Property Settings.
    Under Advertising Features, toggle Enable Demographics and Interests Reports to ON.
  3. Click Save.
  4. You should see data in your Demographics and Interests reports within 24 hours of enabling, by going to Audience > Demographics > Overview

3. If You Remember Only One Thing About Using Google Analytics for Actionable Insights, Make it “Segmentation”

Ecommerce merchants know it is important to track sales, customer activities, and marketing campaigns with GA. But when it comes to finding actionable insights, merchants need to adopt segmentation. Why? Aggregate numbers aren’t enough. There are many preset reports that give you what you need, if only you know what insights you are seeking. Here are some essential reports for ecommerce merchants:

A. Traffic Source Overview (Acquisition > Overview)

B. Geographic Regions (Audience > Geo > Location)

C. New vs. Returning Users (Audience > Behavior > New vs. Returning)
user type.jpg

D. Device Type (Audience > Mobile > Overview)

But it does not stop there. The preset reports are insufficient for answering a specific business analytics query. Don't worry, that is why there are Custom Reports.

To start off, segmenting by day of week (or time of day) is both a beneficial report for ecommerce merchants, and also a good way to demonstrate Custom Report creation. A look at this data can give you insights into which day of the week you want to prioritize marketing efforts in order to amplify positive results. Here is how to create a Custom Report:

  1. Navigate to Customization tab.
  2. Click on +New Custom Report.
  3. Choose your desired dimensions and metrics. In this case, our desired dimension is "Day of Week Name" and the metrics we want to see are Sessions, Goal Completion (Conversion), and Goal Completion Rate (Conversion Rate).
  4. Click Save.
    You should then see the new Custom Report created to your configurations. We see that according to the report, Mondays and Fridays have high purchases, with high conversion rates, perhaps due to shoppers preferring not to make shopping decisions in the middle of the week.
    Of course, we can always deep dive into Time of Day as well as Behaviour Flow to really understand what is going on. That is an additional topic for another time. Meanwhile, check out 7 Time-Saving Google Analytics Custom Reports by Search Engine Watch to see what you can achieve with Custom Reports to gain efficiency in your analysis.


These are just a few first steps for ecommerce merchants using Google Analytics to extract actionable insights: i.e. setting goals, enabling data collection, and creating custom segmentation reports. The vast and customizable interface of these free tools is likely to present a steep learning curve for users. Hopefully, this post was able to guide you through the essentials to getting started.

Much is left to be explored, especially when it comes to building Remarketing Audiences for advertising campaigns via Google AdWords: from the most basic to more advanced Dynamic Remarketing – so stay tuned!

Bonus Some additional Google Analytics resources-

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