An Intro to Web Analytics for Ecommerce Sites

Determining the success of your online business always comes down to the numbers. But if you’re not a web analyst or former business major, it can be hard to find those numbers, much less know what they mean or how to use them to your benefit.


To help you better understand the all-important world of web analytics, we sat down with our very own Neil Garrett, Senior Analytics Manager, to provide you with insights on how to better measure your website performance and boost your business.

Should I be utilizing analytics?

I can’t imagine a scenario in which collecting and viewing high-level demographic data (e.g. location, time of day, page popularity, etc.) wouldn’t be interesting, if not very useful, to just about any website owner. If you’re running a business online, this information provides valuable insights into what people like about your site, what they don’t, where you’re losing customers, how they’re getting to your site and so on. Without trying too hard, you can quickly find a dozen interesting things about your visitors that you can help improve your website. Fortunately there are several web analytics tools with intuitive interfaces that provide this data for you in no time.


What should I look for when selecting a web analytics tool?

This largely depends upon a person’s budget and ultimately who’ll be looking at the data within the tool. There are terrific products that cost money, typically on an annual or monthly basis and then there’s Google Analytics, which has Free and Paid (“Premium”) versions with great features for most any small to medium sized company/site. One important distinction to note is that unless you’re a business with the resources to hire a dedicated web analyst, you’re likely in the Free Google Analytics arena. Keep in mind that even though the platform itself is “free,” you’d still be well-served to invest in human capital to help understand what the data is saying, not to mention ensure that you’re correctly implementing the code that’s required to capture all of that wonderful information.


Which are some of the most important, basic analytics that I should use to measure site performance?

This is one of those things that’s so specific to your business; however, generally speaking, something like bounce rate (which measures how often people land on your site and then immediately bail) is a great high level metric that can be used to approximate how well your pages are holding prospects, which is the first step to any conversion, sale or otherwise. Also within the arena of “high-level” metrics, “percentage new visitors” is one I like because it quickly gives you a sense of visitor loyalty and allows you to see large shifts one way or the other; these shifts are often an indicator of something else that may be going on with your site.

As your view of data becomes more sophisticated, “conversion rate” is very important. This metricshows the percentage of people that come to your site and complete a favorable action (like buying your product) compared to those that just come to your site. The great thing about web analytics tools is that you can easily begin looking at these metrics within the context (referred to segmentation) of a smaller group of people. For example, you could ask, “What’s my homepage’s bounce rate for people that come in from my Paid Search Ads vs. those that come in from a blog post that was written on my products?” Answers like these help give you a clearer picture of how different people interact with your site.


How can I effectively measure the success my website?

With an ecommerce site, the most effective way to measure success is to see if your sales are increasing as a percentage of your visitors. However, increased engagement (measured by metrics called “Pages per Visit” or “Time on Site”) could also be leading indicators that your site is being well-received. Just remember that nearly every metric could mean something positive or something negative, so guiding your business by one metric alone would be a mistake.

For example, an increased “time on site” could mean that people are more engaged with your site, but could also mean that people are lost and stumbling around your pages. To keep your measurements on track, it’s important to determine the metrics that help you see what those who actually convert on your site are doing. By monitoring that group of people first, you can see what elements help lead to conversions, and if you see one going in the opposite direction, you can then explore why.


Big thanks to Neil for taking the time to chat with us! Have any other web analytics questions for our guru? Leave your thoughts or inquiries for him in the comment section below and he’ll get back to you soon.

Happy selling!



Neil Garrett is the Sr. Manager of Web Analytics for Volusion responsible for maintaining the overall consistency of data through web-based business applications including web analytics, CRM and site-optimization.  He works with the Marketing, Sales, Product and Customer Experience Teams to gain insights into visitor behavior to help guide decisions that lead to better web and product experiences. 

Neil holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from Texas State University. He has been a web analytics practitioner for over 10 years and enjoys spending time with his two kids, wife, dogs and the occasional round of golf.



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One Response to “An Intro to Web Analytics for Ecommerce Sites”

  1. Margaret Kasten

    This article is very much informative.
    Thanks for sharing!


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