Answers to 5 Common Questions about Web Analytics

In our most recent installment of this two-part series, our web analytics guru, Neil Garrett, discussed the value in measuring website performance, utilizing valuable analytics tools and effectively measuring website success.

Today, he’s back to cover more analytics hot-topics such as competitor analysis, ROI tracking and social media metrics. Check out his thoughts to learn more about tracking the progress of your online business.

How do I know if my site is doing well in relation to my competitors?

Competitive intelligence is a very important thing, but it isn’t as much about web analytics as it is about finding sites that can provide insight into what others in your industry are doing.  Admittedly, these sites can generally provide only high-level, publicly available data, such as visits, visitors, etc. A couple of examples of include Alexa and Compete.

If your competitor is a public company, SEC filings on sales, revenue and income are available, but that doesn’t provide any information related to their strength on the web specifically. I would also advise you to take advantage of Google Alerts and Google Insights, which are good resources to keep up with your own reputation management and brand awareness.

How do I know if my marketing efforts are working? How can I use web analytics to help identify my ideal marketing mix?

Depending on the type of marketing you’re doing (i.e. paid ads on Google, emails, etc.), each of these items can be viewed as “sources” within a web analytics tool, and each tool has the ability to customize the values you see. For example, you may send a Newsletter to your customers each quarter that includes an offer. To help track its performance, you could easily tag the link in that newsletter that sends people back to your site, or better yet, a specific page on your site that’s specifically designed just for that offer (i.e. a targeted landing page). Ultimately, a site’s ideal mix will be based upon the cost and efficiency for each source of visitor to convert. That being said, I’ve rarely seen websites that wouldn’t benefit from more “free” traffic than less.

What’s the best way to measure my ROI?

Measuring ROI is dependent upon determining the amount of revenue you drive versus the cost you incur to get it. Web analytics tools are generally great at doing the first part (usually with the implementation of some additional code on your site), and in all likelihood, the latter is set as a function of budget planning.

In the quarterly newsletter example given above, using your analytics tool, you can view the number of visitors that came from that newsletter and, with a little coding, measure the number of sales and dollar value derived from them. That way, you can conveniently measure conversion rates and the average value of a visitor from the newsletter versus someone coming in from another source, such as organic search on Yahoo, which can also help feed back to the “ideal marketing mix” previously discussed.

What type of social media metrics should I be tracking?

Social media continues to evolve and most analytics tools now incorporate varying levels of sophistication around the “listening” aspect of social influence. If you’re just getting started, basic metrics such as “likes,” “retweets,” and “shares” will likely be your starting point. However, you’ll quickly realize that these items don’t tell much of a story and that there are more useful and actionable ways to measure your social influence, such as demand, reach and engagement. For a deep-dive into how one can calculate these, see Avinash’s (GA evangelist and all around very smart guy) blog post.

What’s the best way to determine if a product is performing well?

The short answer is “if you’re selling it,” but if you’re not, using analytics can help to determine if it’s the product or the experience that’s possibly underwhelming your customers. Typically a funnel analysis is useful in understanding where the greatest drop-out points exist, which will give you direction on what to fix first.

In Google Analytics, you can set up goals that define an action that you want to measure, which for example, could be a purchase, newsletter signup or even a customer’s arrival at a specific page. Within the goal definition, you have the option to define a funnel, which is where you’d define the sequence of pages your customers “should” follow to buy.

If you find that the largest drop out point is the price page, perhaps you should look around and see if you’re prices are consistent with the market.  If your highest drop out point is on the shipping page, perhaps the design is confusing and requires more information, so you might want to consider shortening it to just the essentials. By measuring where you’re losing customers, you can quickly come up with strategies to increase your conversions.

What are some resources I can utilize to better learn how to use Google Analytics (GA)?

There are countless blogs and user groups with postings for just about any problem you may be trying to solve; just Google it to find what you’re looking for. That being said, there are a few that I follow very closely including GA’s own blog, which is a great source of information about how to setup GA, but also how to use the reports that are in continuous development/improvement.

Check out these resources for more info:


Big thanks to Neil for answering these analytics questions! Still scratching your head over a few things? Leave your questions for Neil in the comment section below and he’ll be happy to get back with you.

Happy selling!


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One Response to “Answers to 5 Common Questions about Web Analytics”

  1. The eWAY Team

    Thanks for posting this, Neil! Alexa and Compete may only provide publicly available data, but they’re still valuable tools for any eCommerce business. Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards,
    The eWAY Team


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