How to Use On-Site Analytics to Improve eCommerce Conversions

So far in our eCommerce conversion series, we’ve focused on the bread of butter of on-site optimization, such as improving copy and images to drive more sales. The areas we’ve covered require relatively little upfront analysis; they’re simply best practices you should start following as soon as possible.


This time around, we’re going to focus on active investigation to see where further improvements can be made. We’ll be introducing 4 simple on-site analytics reports you can run to identify both obvious problems and quick wins.

There’s no complicated conversion tracking or fiddling about behind the scenes here. You can start gleaning insights straight away – as long as you have a functioning Google Analytics account.

Let’s kick things off with a look at an old favorite.

1. Use Bounce Rates to Qualify Your Traffic

Half the battle in driving up eCommerce conversions across the board is identifying the right traffic sources to target. If you’re throwing the wrong people at your site, the game is going to be a long and hard one, regardless of how you play it.

Looking at your bounce rates across different traffic sources and landing pages gives you an excellent overview of which types of traffic aren’t giving your site a fair shake of the stick to begin with.

How to Find Your Bounce Rates by Channel

To see your bounce rates by channel, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels:


What You’re Looking for With Bounce Rate

Breaking out bounce rate per channel gives you a quick way of spotting underperforming traffic sources. A quick look should be enough to instantly spot potentially problematic channels, and you’ve always got the option to drill in deeper. For a great overview of bounce rates generally, check out Analytics Ninja’s take on the subject.

2. Use Site Search to Hone in on User Intent

Users are goal-oriented creatures and if your site isn’t meeting their expectations, they’ll be heading for the exit door as soon as possible. Keeping a close eye on your bounce rates is one way to see if you’re hitting the mark, but it only gives you part of the picture – digging into your Site Search report can fill in a lot of the blanks.

This is the only report on our list that you’ll have to do some preparatory work for. You’ll need to start by making sure Site Search is enabled on your Google Analytics account.

How to Find the Site Search Reports

To find the site search reports, go to Behavior > Site Search:


What You’re Looking for With Site Search

There are two key pieces of information you’re getting from this report:

  1. Where people are starting their searches: Go to Behavior > Site Search > Pages.
  2. What they’re looking for: Go to Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms.

The first gives you an insight into overall navigation matched against user intent – use this to hone in on specific sections of your site where you’re obviously not coming through for potential customers. The second helps you plug gaps in overall content by seeing what users are actually searching for.

Once you’re familiar with the basics, you can then start digging into more detail. For an excellent in-depth breakdown of options available here, check out Shopify’s guide to using this report.

3. Spot Leaky Pages Quickly With the Exit Pages Report

Running an Exit Page report helps quickly surface where exactly on your site people are heading for the hills. Bear in mind that certain pages such as order confirmation pages are places you actually want people to be exiting. If, on the other hand, you find a huge number of people are exiting the minute they hit your checkout page, chances are you’ve got a problem that needs to be fixed pronto.

How to Find the Exit Pages Reports

To find the exit pages reports, go to Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages:


What You’re Looking for With Exit Pages

Look for pages with meaningful traffic and high exit rates, and compare on-page elements to pages that are performing well. Put simply, you’re after anything that might be putting users off – on product pages in particular.

4. Know Your New Versus Returning Visitors Rate

Making the sale on an average eCommerce site isn’t generally a one-shot affair. More often than not, you’ll need to do a lot more work with new visitors to seal the deal than you will with regular customers.

Working out what percentage of your traffic is actually new goes a long way towards helping you decide where best to focus your optimization efforts. Fortunately, Google Analytics makes things nice and simple in this regard.

How to Find the New Versus Returning Visitors Report

To find the new versus returning report, go to Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning:


What You’re Looking for With the New Versus Returning Report

If you’re dealing primarily with new users, there’s a good chance that focusing your short-term optimization efforts on email capture is going to pay off significantly down the line. If you’re dealing with a more mature site, checkout funnel optimizations and upsells may be the way to go.


Google Analytics is a tremendously powerful tool, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible here in terms of eCommerce analysis. Detailed conversion analysis, for example, is a topic for another day.

It’s important not to get overwhelmed when you’re starting off, though. The simple reports we’ve introduced make excellent jumping-off points for further investigation, and will help you get to grips with the beast that is Google Analytics.

Let’s recap them one more time:

  1. Use bounce rates to quickly qualify your traffic by channel.
  2. Use site search to identify user intent and plug holes in your content.
  3. Use exit pages to see where potential customers are jumping ship.
  4. Use your new versus returning visitors rate to orientate wider strategy.

Do you have any eCommerce Analytics tips or tricks to share? Get in touch via the comments section below and let us know!

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