E-commerce Tracking in Google Analytics: The Quick-Start Guide

February 26, 2020

Accurate conversion tracking in Google Analytics is crucial for any ecommerce company looking for a holistic cross-channel view of their website’s performance.

Given that consumer shopping habits are becoming more complex and heavily reliant on optimal ecommerce experiences, marketers need the ability to quickly unlock powerful insights from transaction data and use those insights to make data-driven decisions that generate more sales and revenue from ecommerce stores.

Once ecommerce tracking is set up, we still get a lot of questions from clients about setting up ecommerce tracking, understanding ecommerce analytics, and identifying the best metrics to measure website sales and revenue performance. In this post, we share the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Google Analytics ecommerce tracking.

What is ecommerce tracking?

Ecommerce tracking is the ability to track your customers’ purchases on your website from Google Analytics. It helps determine how your users navigate your website and on which pages they’re convert. It allows you to understand which sources generate the most conversions, so you know where to double-down on your optimization efforts and where to let it ride.

Ecommerce tracking empowers marketers to accurately tie sales data with website activity and user behavior. For example, setting up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics enables users to analyze top-performing traffic sources that are driving revenue as well as identify underperforming products that would benefit from discounts or sales promotions.

How do I track ecommerce conversions in GA?

GA has three types of goals: Destination, Engagement, and Event. Today we’ll focus on Destination goals, which allow you to track when a user visits a certain page. For ecommerce, that page is typically the /thank-you/ page that indicates the customer has completed a purchase.

By placing your GA tracking code on your receipt or order confirmation page, data is sent to the Google Analytics server the moment the page loads on the customer’s browser. Through this code, GA automatically receives data from the transaction and stores it, so ecommerce marketers can review product performance, analyze ecommerce conversion funnels, glean insights from transaction data, and make data-driven decisions on the fly that boost sales and improve ROI.

To track visits to your /thank-you/ page in Google Analytics, set up a custom Destination goal by following these steps:

  1. First, give your goal a name in the Goal Description page in GA. Select “Destination” as the Goal Type, then click Continue.
  2. Copy the URL slug of your Thank You page, then paste the URL into the Destination field (Equals URL). You can also use the “Contains URL” option from the drop-down to track a partial URL or UTM parameters.
  3. Click “Verify this Goal” to ensure you’ve set everything up correctly, then click Save.

Should I assign a goal value or set up e-commerce tracking? 

You can assign an overall or average order value to your goal if you only have a few products and your customers typically buy the same amount each time. However, the recommended method is to enable e-commerce tracking for more detailed, specific prices per product. You should not use goal values in place of e-commerce tracking – e-commerce reports offer a wealth of important transaction data and product performance insights that your marketing team needs to arm themselves with in order to make data-driven decisions that drive revenue for your e-commerce business. 

An overall or average order value may be the easiest solution to tracking your orders in GA, but it is also the most limited. The more granular you can get, the better – which is why setting up e-commerce tracking is the preferred solution. Remember, e-commerce tracking should be used in place of assigning a dollar value to your goals. If you use both, you risk inflating total revenue figures. 

E-commerce tracking is easiest to set up through Google Tag Manager, but you can also set up the tracking code through GA (web or app). Just be sure you have basic page tracking set up first. Also, if you use a third-party shopping cart, you’ll also need to set up cross-domain tracking if your domain differs from your e-commerce site. 

How do I link my Google Analytics e-commerce goals and transactions with Google Ads? 

Once you’ve set up your goals in GA, linking it with Google Ads is a breeze. Simply go to your Campaigns view within “Google Ads” > “Tools & Settings” > “Google Analytics.” 

This will open a new tab with GA. Just select the property you want to link, click Google Ads Linking, and set up your new link group. Then all you have to do is turn on linking for each view in the property within GA. Be sure to enable auto-tagging within Google Ads to finish linking accounts since this process will tag all URLs with tracking variables so you can see search performance within GA as well. 

Linking your GA goals to Google ads is important to have closed-loop reporting. If you’re an agency looking only at Google Ads, but your client uses GA, you’re likely to have a data discrepancy looking at two different conversion sources. Alternatively, if you’re an in-house advertiser, you may need to be optimizing to the same goal as other sources within GA, so it’s best to have GA data within Google Ads. 

How do I link my Google Analytics e-commerce data with Search Ads 360? 

Once you’ve linked your GA account with Google ads, be sure to also import your GA data into your bidding platform, such as Kenshoo, Marin, or Search Ads 360. For SA 360, navigate to your “Advertiser Settings” > “Integrations” > “Google Analytics Integration.” 

Once you’ve linked SA 360 and GA goals, you can easily pull in GA reporting columns into SA 360 to see how you’re performing at more granular levels. 

You can also use your GA goals instead of SA 360 floodlights in your bid strategies. This is especially vital if your revenue or conversion numbers are inflated in one of the two sources. This way, you’re bidding to exactly what your client or the rest of your company is optimizing. You’ll all be on the same page. 

Why is my Google Analytics transaction data different from my shopping cart sales data? 

It’s normal to see a data discrepancy between Google Analytics transactions and actual sales data – GA data is intended to be directional, not to accurately measure your day-to-day sales. No ad platform or analytics tool will ever give you 100-percent perfect data, so the key here is to understand why data doesn’t always match, and how to remedy the more severe discrepancies. 

Let’s review a few reasons why your analytics data may vary from your back-end e-commerce data. Here are some of the most common causes of data discrepancies between Google Analytics and shopping cart software systems like WooCommerce and Shopify: 

  1. Cancelled orders & refunds: Most shopping cart software systems can exclude canceled orders, unfulfilled orders, tests, and refunds. However, Google Analytics doesn’t have this functionality built in. Google Analytics counts a transaction from the moment your GA tag fires on an order confirmation or receipt page, and does not communicate with the site or ecommerce platform after that event. The tracking code is still recorded by GA even if the order ends up being refunded or canceled. 
  2. Improper ecommerce tracking setup: Ecommerce tracking may not be properly set up in GA. Read How to Set Up Enhanced Ecommerce in GA & GTM to make sure that you have implemented the code properly. 
  3. Ad-blocking: You may be seeing fewer transactions in GA that in the back-end, which is the most common scenario. This is most likely due to the use of ad-blocking or privacy protection extensions, which prevent Google Analytics from recording the session or transaction data. It’s also possible the user has disabled JavaScript, or simply decided to opt-out of allowing GA to track them altogether. 
  4. Drop-offs right after payment: Transactions can be under-reported in GA if users close receipt pages before the GA tag fires. This can happen for several reasons: the GA snippet may be incorrectly placed too low on the page (instead of in the header where it belongs), or customers may be exiting your site without waiting for the thank you page to load due to slow page load times. 

If you’ve noticed a small data discrepancy in e-commerce transaction performance, do not be alarmed. A 5-to-7-percent discrepancy is normal and expected when working with a directional marketing tool like GA. However, if your discrepancy is larger than 10 percent,contact us today for a free analytics consultation with our team of Google Analytics-certified experts. 

Have more questions about e-commerce tracking? Learn how ourmarketing analytics team can help you accurately track product performance on your site and grow your e-commerce business. 

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