Let's assume you have an ecommerce website and you have been successful in getting traffic to it. A next logical step is to focus on your conversion rate and determine what you can do to improve it. To do this, glean clues about user behavior by analyzing the conversion and abandonment paths.
The prerequisites to experimenting with the ideas in this article are that you have a Google Analytics account and that you have installed the Google Analytics tracking code on all the pages of your website.
Review Current Activity. In Google Analytics, go to Content -> Top Landing Pages and then Content -> Top Exit Pages. These two reports will show you where people are mainly arriving and leaving your site. They give you a baseline read of your current activity.
Create Goals and Funnels. Go to Actions -> Edit at your Google Analytics profile settings and scroll down to the Conversion Goal and Funnel section. (This edit button is on the Overview page and beneath the Actions header on the far right of that page. You must have administrator access to your Google Analytics account to edit your settings.)
Identify your goal page, which typically, on an ecommerce site, is the "Thank You" page that shoppers see after they complete an order. Google Analytics has some helpful hints, located on your profile settings edit page, for making sure you set up the goal URL correctly.
Establish the funnels, which are the steps of the checkout process that lead up to the goal page. Perhaps you have a two-step checkout that includes an order summary page and a separate customer information/checkout page. These two pages would make up the two steps of your funnel.
Test Your Settings. Test to make sure that the tracking code is working correctly. To test, go to a search engine or external site and click a link to your site, follow the link through and place an order. The next day you should see an indication of your successful order in your analytics data. If you get a large flow of orders each day, you can likely forgo your own test and cross-reference the goal results in Google Analytics with the actual orders on your site. The number of orders should coincide with the successful goals reported by Google Analytics.
It Takes Time. Give a little time for your data to accumulate, perhaps two weeks to a month.
Landings and Exits
Everyone who enters your site will leave it at some point. In addition to the Top Exit and Landing Page reports already mentioned, you can visit the Content -> Top Content report. Here are some key metrics to look for to identify high exit pages.
Which pages have high bounce rates? Visitors are arriving on these pages and leaving without going further.
Which are your top exit pages?
Exits are a key element to analyze. If your home page represents the lion's share of your entry and exits, you probably have some work to do on your overall design and message.
If you see a high percentage of exits coming from your product pages, it is time to do some competitive analysis of your pricing and scrutinize how you are presenting your products.
If customers are making it through to the checkout process and then are leaving you, it is time to look at the usability of your shopping cart system. Ask yourself, for example, is shipping information presented clearly? Is the order process easy to follow? Is your commitment to security clear?
If you don't have a budget for doing any type of formal testing, pull in some friends or business associates who have not used the site before, sit down with them in front of the computer, and watch them closely as they navigate through your site.
Funnels and Goals
If you have set up funnel and goals, you can glean some very useful information as to where your site might be "leaking" visitors. The intent for setting up funnels and goals is to isolate and analyze specific paths through your site. In fact, funnels and goals are ideally suited for ecommerce shopping paths. If you have set up a funnel/goal series in Google Analytics, click on Goals -> Funnel Visualization. If you have set up a goal for your checkout process, you will get a clear look at the numbers and percentage of users who move through the steps you have defined.
Each funnel step will show you the number of users who departed and where they went. A high exit percentage is a clear indication that you need to evaluate each factor of the checkout page to determine what is causing the leakage.
As you track your users' conversion paths, it is just a matter of time and systematic testing to maximize the effectiveness of your web pages, retain visitors and increase your conversion rate.
Google Analytics: Edit page for goals, funnels.
Google Analytics menu, with Goals section expanded.
Funnel Visualization sample in Google Analytics.