Google Analytics have a special place in my heart because it has helped me recognize and fix my mistakes for many years. That’s why I make sure every website we launch is fully ready to collect data.

Unfortunately, not that many developers, web agencies or website owners place Analytics set-up on their priority when launching a website. And it’s completely fair, after all, they have so many things to worry about. The only problem is, after a few months when someone on their team (SEO, CRO, Marketing, dev, business and so on) want to check the data, they realize that they all that time the website didn’t track goals, events, search… sometimes they don’t even have any Google Analytics at all.

Months of data lost.

So I thought that if we could make a simple step by step checklist detailed enough we could help web workers make sure that each and every website collects the data they need.

The Timeless Google Analytics Checklist

  1. First of all, make sure the tracking Code is set properly.
    If you want, you can simply set up a new Google Analytics account, and paste the tracking code in your header or footer. The script looks like this:Google Analytics tracking code

    If you need more information on setting up the tracking code click here.

  2. Include the tracking code in every page: stand-alone pages, different templates, forms, anything that doesn’t use the header or footer where the main tracking code is.
  3. Subdomain and cross-domain. If you use sub-domains or multiple domains you can easily track them with Google Analytics in the same property. Find out how to configure Google Analytics for subdomains and cross-domains.
  4. Create a second view or profile. Google Analytics collects data for each profile/view differently. So if you make a mistake in your settings, you might lose data. Always keep a default view with everything, just in case. It’s like working in a lab and keeping a control sample. To create a new view simply go to Admin > View > Add new view. We will assume from here that all the changes you’re making are in the newly created view.add a view in google Analytics
  5. Exclude your IP from the tracking. You don’t want your data to interfere with the real visitors data. Here is how to do it.
  6. Sync Google Seach Console with Google Analytics. Somewhat easy. The idea is to make sure that you can get all the data from Google Search Console transferred to your Analytics account. You will then get access to some very useful features:google analytics search consoleYou can learn more about linking Search Console to your GA if you’re not sure how it works.
  7. Link Adwords and Analytics if you have any Adwords campaign running or plan to run any. Here is how to do it.
  8. Enable Demographics if you’re interested in Audience data. If your website has enough traffic, it could be quite useful. Just remember that the data is not very accurate since it’s based on the user’s browser history and social media profiles (like Google Plus). Also, visitors under 18 are not represented, they are mixed with the rest. But it can still be a great way to A/B test, segmentation, and remarketing. Read more here.
  9. Enable Site Search. If you have a Search field anywhere on your website, enable site search. Go to Admin > View Settings > Enable Site Search and specify what are the parameters.Google Analytics enable search settingsThe parameter, or query, depends completely on your search system. If you pass the query in the URL like this “mysite.com/search.php?q=keyword” then you can simply specify the q as the parameter. If you use a plugin, for example, you can use a custom javascript code to make sure the parameter is passed to Google like this:

    Custom javascript code for site parameter Google Analytics

  10. Enable Benchmark. This is another underestimated feature in Google Analytics. Basically, you agree to anonymously share your data with your Industry, and in return, you can compare your results with them. Pretty cool eh? here is how to do it.
  11. Speed sample. If you don’t change that value, GA will test the speed of your site once every blue moon. If your traffic is high it’s OK, but if your traffic is under 100 visits/day, you might want to collect more samples. For this you must change your tracking code to this:site sample rate Google Analytics
  12. E-Commerce Tracking (if relevant). There is so much to say about tracking E-com with Analytics that I recommend you read this great article by SEMRush about it.
  13. If you’re like me, you’ll want to set up Goals to try and put a number on your actual goals. It could be every time a visitor subscribe to your service, clicks on your phone number, or buy a product. Goals are powerful and are based on two different tracking systems.
    • Destination page: Ideal with conversion funnels for E-commerce (e.g. cart > checkout > thank you).
    • Event-based: A user clicked on the Call Us Button. More common but requires setting up Events.
  14. Event Tracking. Time-consuming and sometimes tedious but oh! so powerful. You can track any interaction a user has with your website. Probably requires some javascript knowledge. here is a complete guide to Event tracking in GA.
  15. Marketing Campaigns. Even if your campaign provider tracks data, you want to make sure you have your own website tracking system. Basically, you create a link that contains data for a specific campaign and everytime user use that link to go to your website they will fall under the campaign name in Google Analytics. You will need Google URL Builder to build your campaigns URL.
  16. Filter Spammers to keep your data as clean as possible (hint:it will never be 100% accurate). We follow this very useful article to filter spam.
  17. Weather Conditions. What? Well, this one is for fun. But it could actually be helpful. With GA you can tell what’s your website’s conversion rate based on day and time, source and location. That’s great, but maybe you should add the weather to it. What if a rainy day happens to have twice as many conversions? Here is how to do it.
  18. Update your Privacy Policy depending on your country’s regulations to make sure your users know how much data you’re collecting and for what purposes.

I hope you enjoyed that Google Analytics Checklist and that it will help you collect useful data to make your website even better!

If I missed anything don’t hesitate to contact me at anthony(at)noblepixels.ca to let me know.

Recently I was answering a question about the limitations of hosted e-commerce platforms and though I would share it here as well.

the limitations of hosted ecommerce platformsHosted platforms are generally great for two scenarios:

1. Start a new online business

2. Sell niche products (for example on Etsy)

 

 

For these two cases, Hosted platforms offer a (pretty much) ready to use online shop with no need of a web developer, designer, and online marketing specialist. This will save you a lot of money.

For option #2, you might never need to leave hosted e-commerce, since their rate on transactions are not too bad and you don’t have to worry about anything except selling.

For option #1, you can use them to try your business plan, meet your audience, perfect your seller skills and get your logistic going. It’s a risk-free investment since most of the time you pay close to nothing on set-up and then pay a rate on each sale.

Shopify ecommerce platform    big commerce ecommerce hosted platform     zoey magento saas ecommerce

What are the limitations of hosted E-commerce platforms?

The limitations you’ll meet are mostly in terms of customization. These platforms have a limited space for growth. You won’t be able to:

  1. Integrate most APIs, for example, connect with a POS system, or inventory systems
  2. Design your own. Most of the time these hosted e-commerce platforms have tools and themes but if you need something really custom you’ll need help from a web designer and a web developer. And they’re going to tell you that they can’t work on this platform.
  3. Do custom Sales and promotions. If you want to do buy one get two free in California, you might require custom development. And again, the platform won’t let you add custom code to their system.
  4. Customize account pages/ payment pages/ Emails triggers, etc… Again, these platforms only offer a limited amount of customization, and these generally focus on the most common demands from shop owners. Being original is not really possible within these limitations.
  5. Growth. At some point, you’ll be stuck and want to move to your own solution. Make sure you can export your catalog, orders, and client base when you do.

Read more about hosted e-commerce platforms.

Welcome, and thank you for reading this guide on how to start an e-commerce website. How many of us have thought about starting our own online shop? How awesome would it be to work from home every day? How helpful would this e-commerce website be to our local shop? Imagine the money coming in 24/7, all year long, from anywhere on the planet… Well, it’s not that simple.

What? Thanks for ruining it Anthony!

Don’t worry, this guide will help you achieve your goals so if you’re ready, let’s start!

Bad news #1, you’re not the first one to think about an online shop.

ecommerce is not easy

Amazon launched their e-commerce website in 1995. Compared to actual bookstores, they had no limitations and could literally sell any book in the world. Because of their initial success, they started to grow and sell pretty much anything. I can’t recall how many times clients asked me to build a kinda Amazon website. Not easy…

In 1998 Google and Paypal definitely made it easier to sell online. One would generate traffic, the other allow you to process transactions.

In 2004, the PCI security standards started regulating this wild ecosystem, reassuring buyers all around the world.

That’s when e-commerce websites exploded. I started making them in 2009, and at that time there was still some room even though some industries were starting to be crowded.

The e-commerce bucket

No it’s not a new viral challenge ( I wonder what that would look like), it’s a way to visualize the e-commerce online shopping market. Imagine a bucket that was empty at first and was filled over the years.

ecommerce before 2004

Between 1995 and 2004, the market was mostly filled with big companies and a few start-ups. The reason why is fairly simple: e-commerce websites were very expensive to make, not really mainstream, and definitely not in most entrepreneurs preoccupations.

Between 2004 and 2010 the public started to learn more about e-commerce and some entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to start a business. Most of the big companies that haven’t adopted it before finally joined the herd.

ecommerce between 2004 and 2010

The bucket starts to be filled, but it starts to change a lot. Some big companies failed to succeed online and some small businesses became huge.

After 2010, everyone joined the party. Making an e-commerce website became much easier, with an array of solutions for every need.

ecommerce market today

Not only this, but artists can now sell on specialized platforms like Etsy, anyone can sell on Ebay, Market Places like Amazon are huge, people sell on Social Media, on Blogs, everywhere…

The good news is that the bucket gets bigger every day. In 2000 the value of e-commerce was about $27 billion, $143 billion in 2009 and $630 billion in 2014. Between 2000 and 2014 the bucket got 23 times bigger , and no one knows when it’s going to stop.

Before you start an e-commorce business, evaluate the market

Like any business, you must evaluate what’s the market like in your industry, find a niche, and study your competition. The good news is that it’s not too hard to do online.

  1. Google, Google, Google. There is no secret, you must know by heart who’s leading the industry in Search Engines. I recommend you spend time searching for what you’re about to sell and see who shows up. Don’t get scared or start copying anyone, just look and take notes.
  2. Social Media: That’s also pretty easy. Search for hashtags related to your industry, with a social media twist to it. Here users don’t buy; they like, they comment, they ask, they share, etc… so think fun and interesting.
  3. Adds: Google Adwords, Instagram adds, facebook adds, blog adds, anywhere that your products could be sold, there must be adds. Learn who pays for them.
  4. Market Places: Amazon, Ebay, Specialized platforms, etc… again, study your competition.
  5. Blogs: Always a great place for e-commerce since buyers and sellers can both talk about the products and get some traffic.

By now you should have a pretty good idea of who’s leading the industry, and who’s investing in what. I’m sure you will see the same companies over and over again. And you’ll realize that there might be a spot for you.

I recommend you get some help for these long nights of research:

For SEO: You must know the keywords since you’ve googled them. If you don’t have all of them, it’s ok, you can use MOZ Keyword Explorer, a great tool that will give you Search Results and more importantly suggested keywords with useful data associated to it.

ecommerce SEO analysis

For knowing how many visits a competitor gets and who’s linking to them, what keywords they rank for, etc… I use SEM RUSH. Even though it’s not perfect, it’s one of the best tools to get competition’s data.

For anything Social I use Social mention, You enter a keyword and the system tells you who’s talking about it across all social media and blogs.

For Adds, I recommend you use every platform add-generator to get to know how much is an add. You can do so on Google Keyword Planner and any Social Media that has an add system. That will give you a lot of insightful data and help you plan your future Advertisement budget and strategy.

The rules of e-commerce Business

ecommerce rulesAre you still there? Really? Wow, you must be really motivated. Good.

E-commerce has a bunch of rules, and you kinda have to follow them. Creativity is great, but don’t change everything. Why, you ask? Because user (buyers) know how to online shop and anything new, while potentially great, is also scary and confusing. Keep what works, and have fun with the rest.

In general, make sure that users can find the products easily, the navigation must be so awesome that anyone, even your 70 years old grandpa, can find the product they are looking for.

The search should also be awesome. Don’t make your visitors use a basic search that only looks for the exact keyword. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but users assume that every search bar works like Google now.

Search result for “mintoun bind”: Do you mean MOUNTAIN BIKE? Yes, we have some, they are right there.

Anything that helps the user is great. You should spend time on building your catalog, make it logical and self-explanatory. The Information architecture and the UX must be well-thoughts, for any type of users.

Don’t assume every customer is like you.

Don’t forget that customers shop on any type of device.

Write UNIQUE product description. You want to know the difference between you and your competition? The product description. Most of the Online store owners will simply copy the brand description, yes, the one you’ve seen everywhere and you thought you could use too. Sorry but that’s a bad idea. First of all, your creating duplicate content, that means your page will rank badly. Then, what do you feel when, as a customer, you finally find a product page that has a lot of professional information, useful tips, and great pictures or videos? You’re much more enticed to buy.

Your price is not the most important criteria for customers. If you offer great service, good quality products, great choice, good advice, free shipping, reward programs, money-back policy, customers will not care about a few dollars difference.

Treat your customer right!

You know what e-commerce website you want, let’s build it.

build e-commerce websiteNow that you know what website you want, let’s start the technical conversation.

I suggest you talk to a Web Team (like us) to define what technical solution will fit your needs. Most of the times quotations are free and very helpful.

If you want even better advice, offer to pay for the proposal, you’ll get the Web team more involved and everyone will benefit from it. 

Here, at Noble Pixels we’ve prepared a small questionnaire that helps gather information in order to design the proper solution. You can get the full e-commerce client’s questionnaire here, but here are some questions to start the conversation with:

  1. What are your main goals?
  2. What does success look like? What about your current situation do you not like?
  3. Which institution do you identify as your main competitors online?
  4. Could you describe your audience groups?
  5. What additional services apart from traditional e-commerce are you interested in offering your clients?
  6. Are you interested in having other languages on the website? Other currencies?
  7. Are you interested in working on Search Engine Optimization?
  8. If interested in paid advertising, which channels do you prefer?
  9. Are you interested in Social Media developments?
  10. Are you interested in Email Marketing?

The best e-commerce platform

There are dozens of e-commerce platform out there, and most of them are great.

You can choose yourself the best platform for your project, or ask advice from a Web Team. If you want to know more about what is available you can Google “best e-commerce platform” and you will find a lot of answers. For example, this comparative test between the most popular e-commerce platforms in North America (weirdly missing Magento?!).

Some e-commerce platforms are free, some aren’t, some are hosted, some require their own hosting, some platforms are ideal for small catalogs, some for big catalogs, etc…

Below are four of the most popular e-commerce platforms. I will only talk about these since I’ve worked with them.

 

magento ecommerce platform

Magento. Huge and powerful. Magento offers three different options as I know off, and a bunch of different versions for each.

There is Magento Go, a simple, hosted system, ver limited but ideal for small projects and no development skills.

Magento Community, the main Magento, incredibly powerful but hard to handle since any customization must be done by a Magento web developer, and these guys are expensive.

Magento Entreprise, supposed to be the finest of all, is incredibly expensive and requires specific hosting and specialized developers (both being very expensive and quite mysterious…). If one day I suggest you use Magento Entreprise, well it will be because your Wallmart and I don’t know what else to do.

 

woocommerce ecommerce platformWoocommerce. Well, this one is much simpler. It is often used on existing WordPress website that suddenly start selling a few products. You know like a blog that start sellings shirts. It’s customizable if you have a PHP developer, our friend Changyong created a complete plugin for a client that needed different levels of admins, different POS management and a lot of custom things.

Apart from that, Woocommerce is cheap and plugins are quite cheap. But it’s limited.

 

Shopify ecommerce platform

Shopify. We’ve used that one for a big organization that was transiting from POS to Online shopping. For us developers, it was not super easy to do what we wanted to since Shopify is not really meant to be customized by devs. But it has a lot of features, is easy to administrate and pretty cheap. You also don’t have to worry about hosting and development since it’s hosted on their platform.

It’s great to start an online business but if you want to move to bigger, more customizable you’ll have to start fresh on another platform.

 

 

prestashop ecommerce platformPrestahop. Do you even know about that guy? Probably not. But I guarantee you it’s huge in Europe. It’s an open source system, easy to customize and full of plugins. These are generally cheaper than Magento which is good. Prestashop allows you to expand and grow your site as your business grows. It’s also pretty good with SEO.The main reason why store owners don’t pick it over Magento is because Magento looks stronger and beneficiate from a bigger community.

The main reason why store owners don’t pick it over Magento is because Magento looks stronger and beneficiate from a bigger community.

 

Alternate method: the Proprietary Solution. You can get a tailored e-commerce website made by a talented Web Team from scratch. It’s doable and even though less and less common, it stills offer great advantages:

  • It’s 100% Customizable and tailored to your exact need. That will give you an edge since no one else will offer the same features.
  • Less risk of being hacked since hackers generally attack existing platforms.

But it has some downsides:

  • It could be expensive.
  • You might be stuck with your developer.
  • Make sure your developers know E-commerce CMS and take security seriously.

 

A good thing to keep in mind is that your system will need new features that weren’t planned initially. Make sure that the platform you choose allows that new feature, offers it, and how much it will cost.

Once you have your perfect E-commerce website it’s time to sell

how to sell with ecommerceNow that you have a great e-commerce platform, you’re ready to hear that chin-chin sound of money coming in. After all, you just spent $50,000 for your website and $100,000 for your products.

And that’s when it hurts. Sometimes money doesn’t come in. Your online store is perfect, but empty. It needs customers! Normally if you’ve worked with a good web development company you know exactly what your SEO strategy is doing, and you should get some customers. Not a lot at first, because SEO takes time: a few months at least. Sometimes the competition is so hard that SEO is simply too time-consuming, or simply unadapted.

Example: you sell handmade products that no one knows. Therefore no one is looking for your products.

Advertising. Remember the time you spent on Adwords and advertising at the beginning of your project? Well, now it’s paying off. At least you have an idea of what to do and how much it will cost you. You can read online a lot about how to conduct an Adwords campaign, or hire someone to do your SEM for you. You can also invest in Social Media paid campaigns or blogs affiliation.

What matters at the end is that your campaign doesn’t cost you more than a certain percentage of your sales. That percentage must be known since the beginning of your project. It’s generally around 15%. That’s the percentage you can invest without losing money or working for nothing. This percentage depends on your Conversion Rate. You must know it, for each source, every hour of the day, each audience type, etc… It will help you to optimize the money you invest and the ROI you get from each channel.

For that purpose, you need Google Analytics. And you need to set up e-commerce goals as well as tracking events, conversion funnels, and other awesome Analytics.

The ultimate goal is to optimize your conversion rate.

It’s the web, try stuff!

ecommerce tips and adviceOnline shopping is not like brick and mortar commerce. You might realize that you sell a product that you never sell in your shop. It’s a weird color, a giant size, a specific model… well, guess what? If customers can’t find it in their local shop, they will search online.

Each industry has its own rules, but none of your competition will be the king or the queen forever. If you bring something fresh, something great to the equation, customers might turn to you. Sometimes it’s a great UI, sometimes it’s aggressive prices, sometimes it’s a great catalog.

Be imaginative for your promotions, sales and reward programs. I remember working with a store owner that kept asking me custom sales features. It was hard to develop and I was always amazed at what new promotion he would think off.

The recipe for success in e-commerce business

After all the advice I just gave you must have a pretty good idea of how to start an e-commerce website. Although I think it’s great to start with, keep reading about e-commerce all the time, keep researching, and challenge everything you hear. There is a lot of misinformation out there.

My last advice would be to listen to people that have succeeded.

Here is a  complete guide on how to start an e-commerce business. It focuses more on the business part, which I leave to experts.