7 ways to use Google Analytics for an LMS with eCommerce Eoghan Quigley Published on August 16, 2016 If you use an LMS with eCommerce features, you could also benefit from using Google Analytics. Understanding the nature of your traffic and how it fits key goals will help you to steadily improve course sales over time. As a Business Analyst at LearnUpon, I check Google Analytics multiple times a day to assess how campaigns and content are performing. Here are 7 tips for using Google Analytics with an LMS with eCommerce functionality. Set your goals The very first thing you’ll need to do is to identify the place on your site where a conversion has definitely taken place and set it as a "Goal". In eCommerce terms, this is almost always the “thank you” page after a transaction has been completed. It might also be the acknowledgement page after someone has subscribed to an email list or downloaded something. Setting goals in your Analytics profile makes measuring everything else easier. To do this, login to Analytics, and go to “Admin” on the main nav bar. Then, under “View” in the right hand column, select “Goals”. Click the “+New Goal” button, and follow the instructions there to detail your goal. Analytics provides templates for the most common transaction types here, and they’ll usually meet your needs for eCommerce purposes. Are you measuring the right thing? Google Analytics gives you hundreds of things you can measure. Almost anyone you ask will tell you that “you need to make sure you’re measuring the right thing”. This sentence comes with two meanings - first, is what you’re measuring actually relevant to your business, and second, are you measuring the thing you think you’re measuring? If you sell online courses, then the thing you want to measure, first and foremost, is whether you’re actually selling. How many times has that thank-you-for-your-business page been reached? Don’t be distracted by pages per session, or repeat visitors. Repeat customers are important, but you’ll get that from your CRM tool or your eCommerce package more easily than Google Analytics. Don’t fall into the trap of looking for all your eCommerce data from Analytics! Next, pay attention to the real definition of the other metrics you’re measuring. There are important differences between sessions and visitors, between smart goals and goals, and bounce rate isn’t nearly as important as many people seem to think it is. The Analytics help pages are good here, and many areas of the interface will give you more information if you hover over them for a moment. You will undoubtedly spend a great deal of time explaining these differences and definitions to other people, so it’s good to have a solid handle on them yourself. Different conversions As noted above, you can have more than one form of conversion. Someone signing up to an email newsletter can be nearly as important as a sale, for instance. Don’t overburden yourself with loads of different conversions, though, and remember that setting goals makes the data on that conversion easier to find, but doesn’t actually add anything. If you decide later that you should be measuring visits to the pricing page as a goal, you can go back and find that information regardless. Check your sources For most eCommerce websites, there is one thing that distinguishes traffic that converts from that which doesn’t: the source. Frustratingly, though, it’s different for every site. You can see sources of traffic under “Acquisition” on the left, and it’s usually clearest as “Source/Medium” (under “All Traffic”). Use the “Conversions” dropdown at the top right of the table to view different goals, and the conversion rate for each source. Identifying your most valuable sources allows you to concentrate investment and effort where it’s having the best effect. If you’re getting a better conversion rate from Google Adwords, then put some more budget in there and put some time into working out which ads are working best. If you get the best rates from referral traffic, then work on your link-building, reach out to journalists and to the administrators of sites in your particular niche. If you’re doing best from direct traffic, this is often an indicator that offline advertising is working well for you - this is most usually a feature of local business sites. Learn more: How to do SEO for eLearning in 3 easy steps Quality of traffic If you’re not seeing many conversions yet, or not seeing conversions at all, don’t panic! You can still work out where to best spend time and effort by looking at the quality of the traffic you get. This is a place where bounce rate has some importance, but there are two other metrics you should consider as well: session duration and pages per session. Both of these measure, in different ways, the engagement and interest level of visitors to your website. A visitor who spends 20 minutes reading details of what you have to sell is clearly better than one who spends 30 seconds doing so, or one who bounces, even if they don’t buy. They’re interested in what you have to sell; they may even be browsing on a phone prior to moving to a desktop device to actually buy. In the same way, high numbers of pages per session indicate engaged visitors who are looking for something in particular. Do bear in mind, though, that session duration and pages per visit can be a sign of frustration on the part of the visitor - they may not be finding what they’re looking for. However, at this stage of development of online sales, people are more likely to simply leave the site and look elsewhere if they’re not finding what they want. This isn’t what you want, of course, but it does mean than the quality metrics are now a reasonably direct measure of quality. It can be useful when you’re looking at the quality of traffic to exclude visitors who bounced (that is, viewed only one page on the site and took no further actions). We’ll deal with that further under “Segmentation”, below. Geofence Sometimes, through no particular action of your own, your site is going to get traffic from parts of the world that are unlikely to buy your product. Maybe the course content you sell is only relevant to people in particular countries or can only be shipped to specific locations. You can use a breakdown by country, or by language, under “Audience” and “Geo” on the right-hand-side, and view a number of other interesting demographic breakdowns there as well. Segmentation Segmentation is probably the single most useful tool that Google Analytics doesn’t show you. Many people use the application for years and don’t realise it’s there. Essentially, it allows you to tell Analytics “Show me only visitors who…” and fill in the rest of the sentence. Toward the top right of the page is a blue circle, with the words “All Users / 100.00% Sessions” beside it. Click on this, and you’ll see the variety of other segments that are available. Segments like “Converters”, “Made A Purchase”, and “Performed Site Search” are of evident value - they allow you to break out the visitors that completed particularly valuable actions and consider them in isolation. You can also build your own segments - if “People who visited the pricing page” or “People who spent more than 10 minutes on the site” or even “People who spent more than 20 minutes on the site but didn’t buy anything” are useful breakdowns for you, go forth and make them. You can even compare two or three different segments. One of the most useful segments, as I mentioned above, is to exclude bounced traffic. People who only visit one page distort your measurement of the rest of the site - it’s like including people looking in the store window in your time and movement analysis. So if you exclude them, you can see what the “real” visitors are doing on the site. This is built in as one of the “System” segments, and is called “Non-bounce Sessions”. If you haven’t used it before, go now, tick the box beside it, untick “All Users” at the top, and start learning about the most valuable parts of your website’s traffic. Summary If you use an LMS with eCommerce features, Google Analytics will help you to delve beneath to surface and figure out how things are working. While Google Analytics shouldn't be your sole source of eCommerce data, it can help you to understand the fundamentals. Getting to grips with important data points like what you're measuring and why you're measuring it. Use Google Analytics to understand your traffic: where it comes from, what segments it's made up of, how closely it matched the kind of audiences for your courses. The better you understand your traffic and conversions, the more likely you are to improve them.