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These sites and articles were extremely useful in my research on this topic.
Hello, Scott Austin here.
I'm a big fan of Google Analytics. It’s a free reporting tool that most websites use. It's extremely powerful and will let you get a lot more information than you can get from Shopify reporting. But, as with every powerful tool, there's a learning curve behind it. And it takes a bit of configuration to get it working optimally for your Shopify store.
So in this episode, I'm going to go over the steps you'll need to take to get Google Analytics up and running optimally for a Shopify store. Now this is a detailed set of instructions. So I've also created a checklist that you can use when you are sitting in front of your computer. To follow the checklist, you'll need a Shopify Store, a Google Analytics account and a Google Search Console account. A link to the checklist is included in the show notes.
For now, in this podcast's audio, I'll cover some of the background and theory that is not covered in the checklist. After listening to this episode, you should sit down at a computer with the checklist and implement it in your Google Analytics and Shopify configurations.
So let's get started by talking about Google Analytics which is also referred to as GA. A GA account has 3 levels: Account, Property and View. A business will usually have one account. And then create separate Properties for different websites or apps. Views are used to look at Properties in a certain way. For example, you may have two separate Shopify stores, one for consumers and the other for the wholesale part of your business. You can place both stores under the same Property and that will allow you to see aggregate data about the two stores and how customers interact between the two. You can set up view that allows you to see the combined data of the two stores. And then you can use separate views to see the data about each store. So in this scenario, there are three views all looking at the same property in different ways.
When you setup the property to be used for your Shopify store, you are going to want to have at least 2 views. The first view will be the raw data from GA. In fact, I usually call this view Raw. It has no filters and no special settings applied. This will serve as a backup and a way to check the other view. The second view will be the view you will setup using the checklist to see the data in a way that is optimized for Shopify stores. When I create this second view, I usually just name it 'Shopify'.
And one thing to note is that many of the settings and changes that you'll do in a View are not retro-active. They will only affect reporting moving forward. So, while a new view can show older data if the property already existed, many of the new view's advanced settings will only apply to data from the moment you turn them on and afterwards. I recommend that when you go through the checklist, you also create a GA annotation saying that advanced settings were turned on new views were created. That way, you'll have a reminder months and years from now on why data may different before and after.
So let's first talk about the changes we want to make in Google Analytics at the Property level. In the Property settings, we'll be enabling 3 features:
- Demographics and Interest Reports. This enables the Demographics reports under the Audience section. This will let you see the age and gender of your customers, which of course can be great insight to help direct your marketing. The checklist also contains a custom report that you can add to GA that shows the demographics of your purchasers.
- Enhanced Link Attribution. This allows you to see a visualization of which links on a page customers are clicking. There's also a link in the checklist for a Chrome extension to add to your browser. It will show clicks on each page from your customers as you browse your store. One limit of this method to note is that the tracking can't differentiate between multiple links to a second page on the current page. So every link on the page to the same second page will get the aggregate link results. So if you have the same link in the header and footer, both links will show the combined clicks.
- User Metric in Reporting. This turns on Google Analytics' user metric. I recommend looking at the user metric over other metrics like sessions as much as possible. And that's because the user metric is much closer to measuring actual people.
The next thing to work on under the Property is the Referral Exclusion List. The reason for this is to provide better tracking of the sources of traffic to your store. We need to exclude referrals, or other domains the customer may be on while in your store's shopping experience. For instance if a customer uses Paypal during checkout, they'll go to the Paypal domain for a moment and then back to yours. We don't want to count that return from Paypal as a referral. So we can add a list of domains to not consider as referrals which generally should include:
- Your .myshopify.com domain. For example acme.myshopify.com.
- Your customer facing domain. For example acme.com.
- Any other domains that you are using that are related to this site. That could be for landing pages, a blog or other purpose.
- Checkout.shopify.com - this gets used with Draft Orders
- Pay.shopify.com - this gets used during accelerated checkout
- Any other domains of payment providers you may use like an installment payments provider
Now, let's shift from the Property in the Admin to the Shopify view that you have created and talk about how we'll be configuring the view.
In the view settings we'll be turning two features on.
The first is Bot filtering. We're doing this to clean up spam. The world is full of spam and Google Analytics is no exception. Crappy players on the internet will exploit GA in order to get your attention. A good way to see this in action is to go to Google Analytics > Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. You will probably see some referral traffic from places that have no links to you and that traffic has an average session duration of 0 time. They are just trying to get you to click to them. The GA Bot filtering will hide most of this spam traffic for us.
The second is site search traffic. If you have a search box in your store, you'll need to tell Google Analytics how to track search. If you do a site search in your store, you'll notice that in the URL of the search results there is a /search followed by a question mark followed by q and then followed by the search query from the customer. Well, the q is Shopify's way of classifying the query. Other sites structure their search URLs differently. So, we have to tell GA how Shopify structure's its search results. And that is as simple as putting a q in the Query Parameter box. We'll also tell GA to strip other query parameters from the URL. This will make for cleaner, easier to read reports.
One valuable use of search reporting is seeing what people are looking for on your site that you do not stock. These could be products to add to your catalog. Another use is to see what words customers use. For example, are people searching for blouses or tops? Understanding how people search on your site can help inform you on what wording to use in navigation and product pages.
The next thing we'll do in the View settings is create a goal. Now the main goal of an online store is pretty easy - its to generate sales. So we'll need to tell GA how to know when a sale has happened. Now every Shopify purchase ends up on the Thank You page. The url of the page is /checkout/thank_you. So we'll let GA know that and the urls of the other steps in the checkout process. Doing this enables a whole set of reports under Conversions > Goals. For some stores, there may be other goals that you want to track. Some examples of other goals that could be tracked include:
- Doing a store lookup in a locator app
- Signing up for an email list
- Filling out a form
Accurately determining and implementing your store's goals can help you better track conversion.
The next setting for the view is then to create some content groups. This will allow us to bucketize like groups of content together and see them aggregated in GA reports. GA only allows for 5 content groups so we'll create ones for Collections, Products, Blogs, Account and Pages.
Next is to filter out your own traffic on the site. That way, all of the activity that you and your team take on the site won't affect your site metrics. So under the view settings, go to filters and add a filter to exclude traffic from your IP address. You can see your IP address by just searching on Google 'What is my IP'? If your team is in one space, all the computers are probably sharing the same IP through your router. But if your store staff is in multiple locations, you'll need to add an IP address for each location. And you should also add IPs from home, mobile and contractors too. Now don't worry much about getting every internal IP address added. Just do your best and move on to the next step.
Another thing you can filter out is full websites. Remember the earlier example I gave of one property that had two sites under it, one for consumers and the other for wholesale? Well here's where you would add a filter in the Consumer view to exclude any traffic on the wholesale domain. And in the wholesale view, you'd exclude any traffic on the consumer domain.
Next in the view settings is to turn on Ecommerce and Ecommerce reporting. This will open a whole set of Ecommerce reports in the conversions section that tracks things like products and revenue from sales.
That's it for the Admin setting in GA. But there is one remaining task in GA. And that is to connect GA to Google Search Console. Google's Search Console is a must-have for your SEO efforts. You should connect your Search Console account with your Google Analytics account so that they can share information. You can do this by going into Google Analytics > Acquisition > Search Console and following the instructions. This will open up a set of SEO-specific reports.
So, that's it for set-up on the GA side. The Shopify side is much easier to set-up. That's because Shopify has built support for GA into their platform. So we don't need to do a lot of the messy stuff a generic website would need to do to get GA running properly. The GA settings in the Shopify Admin are under Online Store > Preferences.
And that's it for the setup! It's best to give GA 24 hours to process all of the changes. Then you should go into the reports and ensure that data is coming through properly. The checklist includes a list of reports to check and see if data is properly flowing.
So now that you have listened to the background in this episode, I encourage you to set some time aside to go through the checklist and get your GA configured properly. Now the GA user interface is a bit complex. So if you are following the checklist and get stuck on where a particular setting or report is at, just do a quick web search and you'll find plenty of documentation and videos to help you find your way. You should be able to get through the whole process in an hour or two. It will take much less time if you are already comfortable with the GA interface. The effort will be worth it as your reports will be more accurate and you'll have access to more data than the default Google Analytics/Shopify setup.
Thanks for listening.