Raise your hand if you’re confused and overwhelmed by all the google platforms… analytics, tag manager, search console, optimize, merchant center, data studio, OH MY! Shit, raise your hand if you’ve never even heard of some of these.
What I’ve seen from working 1:1 with clients in their eCommerce business is that it’s kind of a mixed bag. Most of you know some, but don’t necessarily fully understand what they’re for and how to use them… and then some of you have never even heard of some or all of them. And I’ve found that there are varying levels of proficiency out there, so today we’re going to go through ALL the Google Tools available to eCommerce store owners, what they’re for, and most importantly how to use them.
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Google Tag Manager
Do you have programs like Google Analytics and a Facebook pixel installed on your website?
You probably have those along with a bunch of other tracking codes so that other sites can track the activity on your website. One of the biggest issues with this is that it can easily get messy and confusing in the code of your website and if you ever change or upgrade your theme (which you should be periodically upgrading by the way) you will have to make sure all that code transfers to the new version of your theme. If you miss one, the tracking functionality is gone.
Google Tag Manager is the solution to this problem. It allows you to install ONE code to your site, for tag manager specifically, and then all the other tags you need to install, like google analytics, Facebook pixel or any heat mapping software you use gets added into Google Tag Manager itself.
It can seem a little overwhelming when you first get in there, but it’s a lot simpler than it looks. This week's freebie has some resources on how to set this up.
When you’re just getting started, it’s okay to only use the analytics in your eCommerce platform — but you should always install Google Analytics from the jump because it can’t collect data retroactively. Even if you NEVER look at it, it should be installed from day one.
Even the highest Shopify plan won’t give you as much data as Google Analytics. You can manipulate reports to dig deeper into your data and figure out things like whether your blog posts generate revenue, what pages on your website are the most valuable, where you’re losing most of your visitors and way more.
Google Analytics is the best way to understand what is growing and hindering your business. Overall, the reporting is much more accurate.
For example, I often see very big discrepancies between Shopify and Google Analytics when it comes to reporting on traffic sources like social media and email. According to Shopify data, it may look like email isn’t driving revenue, but Google Analytics tells a much different story.
Using Google Analytics to figure out what marketing activities are driving the most business
Have you ever heard the word attribution? It sounds fancy, but all it means is what marketing activity is this revenue being attributed to — who is getting credit for the sale? Was it an email, an ad or did the customer come direct to your website?
By default, Google goes by something called last-click attribution which means whatever the last action someone took before they made a purchase is where google will credit the sale.
But it’s rare that a customer only engages with you once before finally making their purchase. In fact, they likely engage you much more than that.
For instance, someone finds you on Instagram and goes to your website and browses around. Then they sign up for your email list. They receive an email from you, go to your website again, browse around and then leave. Then you hit them with a retargeting ad on Facebook, where they finally come back and buy your product.
According to the regular Google reports, the retargeting ad gets the credit for the sale.
So you may think, shit Instagram or even email in this case isn’t really doing much for me, maybe I should scale back on that to save myself from time.
BUT… both of those engagements were an important part of the buying process. And google has a way for you to track that. There are a few different attribution models you can look at in Google Analytics, like first click for instance, that would have given the credit to Instagram – but that can all get a little complicated and overwhelming.
Which is why there’s a super cool report called assisted conversions. This shows you how each channel contributed to your overall revenue. So while maybe Instagram doesn’t have a lot of direct revenue, they assist in almost every sale and that’s where most customers discover you.
That’s really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the value that Google Analytics has. I promise it’s worth the work to set it up and learn how to use it.
Google Data Studio
Google Data Studio lets you create visual dashboards of your Google Analytics data.
Yes, Google Analytics has its own dashboard builder so you can create cards for the reports you look at the most, but Data Studio provides much more flexibility and customization.
There are even templates you can import so you don’t have to build your dashboard from scratch. It’s pretty cool and self explanatory.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is one the biggest mysteries to most eCommerce entrepreneurs. This is a super valuable free tool that tells you how your website appears and performs in Google, specifically in terms of SEO.
It will tell you your average organic rankings for different keywords, which pages on your website rank the best and how fast or slow your website loads — a VERY big factor in SEO.
It’s a really great way to see what keywords you are already ranking for so you can prioritize what to focus on. For instance, if you see that you’re ranking on page 2 of search results for a keyword that has a lot of potential, you can focus on building content around that keyword to get yourself to page 1 before you focus on something you show up on page 10 for.
This is another one of the tools that you should install from the very first day you open your store because it will take time to build up data of course.
You should focus on SEO at least a little bit from the very beginning of your eCommerce journey because it can take a while before you reap the benefits of your efforts. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll see results.
Check out Epsideo 6 to learn more about SEO
Previously called Adwords, this is the platform you use to run search ads, display ads, or remarketing ads on Google.
A lot of people are afraid of Google Ads because the technical side of it can be overwhelming. If you don’t really know what you’re doing you can also burn through money very quickly.
Running search ads on Google can be very lucrative because it’s based on what people are actually typing into the Google search bar. The customer is saying – hey I want this thing who has it?
If you wanted to ramp up brand recognition and catch the customer earlier in the buying cycle, you can also run display ads. These will have the lowest ROI — but because you’re still able to target the type of interests and locations your ads show, they might still be viable for your business.
The highest ROI, just like on social ads, will definitely be by remarketing or retargeting. You can do this in Google just like you can on social media. You can target people who have already visited your website but left without making a purchase. You can show these ads on Youtube, in Gmail, and all across the internet and even on apps through the Google Display Network, which reaches over 90% of internet users.
Google Merchant Center
As a product-based eCommerce business, if you really want to take your Google Ads to the next level you’re going to want to use Google Merchant Center. This is how you get your actual product listings in Google Shopping and Dynamic Remarketing.
The Google Merchant Center itself basically just holds your product data feed. Then, you link it to Google Ads in order to use those products in either Shopping or Dynamic Remarketing. There are also True-view video ads and local inventory ads, but the former two are most relevant to the majority of people.
Most of you already know what Google Shopping Ads are — the products that show up at the top of your Google search results and under the Google Shopping tab.
Up until just a few months ago, all Google Shopping results were paid. However, Google has returned to its roots by making Google Shopping results organic with the opportunity to boost your performance by paying for ads. Now it works more like regular Google Search works — a page of organic results with a few paid slots available.
If you’re running remarketing ads and you want them to be dynamic based on the product a customer was viewing on your website, you’ll need to have Google Merchant Center with your product feed.
If you’ve ever viewed a product on someone’s website and then seen an ad in Gmail for that specific product, that’s what you’re seeing.
This one is for our more advanced eCommerce businesses who already have a solid grasp of the eCommerce basics.Google Optimize let’s you run A/B tests on your website to optimize the user experience with the goal of driving more revenue.
A very simple example of this would be testing the color of your add to cart button for example.
If you’re still struggling to get traffic, haven’t nailed down your overall processes and inventory flow or don’t have a solid email marketing program then all the testing in the world isn’t going to give you a profitable business.
When is the right time to think about A/B testing and optimization?
When you’ve got all your other marketing and operations ducks in a row or when you’re investing a lot into advertising and you want to be able to test different landing pages for those coming through your ads.
Setting up, running and analyzing these tests takes work so if you’re already feeling spread thin, or there are other basic things you’re neglecting in your business and it’s not something you can outsource, this is only going to distract you from other items that are more important. This is really next level stuff.
What can you really do with Google Optimize if you’re ready for the next step?
First thing to know is, there are other site optimization and personalization tools out there. Google Optimize is the only one I’m aware of that you can actually get started with for free!
There is also a paid version for more advanced functionality, but when you’re just getting started the free version will be just fine.
What can you test?
The color of your add to cart button or landing pages against each other – either by changing one element or even splitting URLs so they get completely different layouts and design
You can personalize the content the user sees when they land on your website. For example, if you have a clothing store maybe you want to show a banner featuring your winter coats to those visitors who live in cold climates, but for visitors from Southern Florida or Southern California, you want to show them your long-sleeve tees instead.
You can even change the order of the links in your navigation bar. This can be especially helpful if you have a wide assortment of product or sell to a few different customer avatars. I’ve actually seen this in action many times.
We read left to right, so it could be really powerful to reorder your navigation menu based on the person that is looking at it.
Sometimes you may just want to try a couple of different headlines, or images to see which has the best engagement.
There are an endless number of tests you can run — you’re really only limited to your imagination. Whenever you do get to the point where you’re ready to start testing things, start small and go slow. This takes time, energy and effort to do, so make sure you’re either really committed to it. Or focus on testing one thing at a time like your ad landing pages.
There is an entire discipline related to conversion rate optimization so this isn’t a fly by the seat of your pants kind of thing.
What you should focus on
At a minimum, you should be using these platforms:
- Google Tag Manager — to hold all your tracking scripts
- Google Analytics — stats for your business and the health of your website
- Google Search Console — for how you show up in Google search
These are the three that you should be using from the beginning. And even if you’re not actively using them, you should get them set up.
Google Data Studio is great for when you want to visualize your most important metrics front and center. The good news with this one is, while it takes a bit to get set up in the beginning, it’s just a dashboard of reports so it’s there for you to view anytime you want.
The next one would be Google Merchant Center especially since the majority of Google Shopping Ads are now organic. When you’re ready to boost your visibility on Google you can dive in with Google Ads.
Save Google Optimize until you’re already a full-fledged profitable business. The other thing to keep in mind here is you need enough people to run through each test before it’s statistically relevant, so it doesn’t make sense to do this in the very beginning.
Once you start diving into these and really taking advantage of the tools that are out there for you is when you REALLY start stepping into that eCommerce Badassery level, babe!