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Online Store Optimization Tips (from Miva Merchant Blog)

Building an online store is just the beginning in an ecommerce business that is destined to grow and become more profitable each year.  Once you have your site up to approximately 100 visitors a day or 3,000 visitors a month it is time to start figuring out where you can make improvements.  The first step is to use an analytics tool such as Google Analytics, ClickTracks or WebTrends.  Google Analytics is very powerful and best of all you will love the price, free!

Analytics software allows you to know how many visitors come to your online store which is the equivalent of counting the people who come through the door of a retail store.  If you do not know this information then you should immediately install Google Analytics or find some one to do it for you; whoever maintains your website should be able to complete this task.  The easiest way to install in a Miva Merchant store is to add the Google Analytics code to the global footer.  The basic installation is easy but I would highly recommend setting up ecommerce tracking, conversion tracking and site search tracking.  Each of these requires setup within the Google Analytics interface along with some additional Google Analytics code added to your online store.

When you first start off with analytics most likely you will be impressed to now know how people are finding your online store, what page of your site they started on, how long people are staying, what pages people are visiting and what page they are leaving your site from.  You can also find out what percentage of people make a purchase, what part of the checkout process people are leaving and what people are searching for once at your online store.  All of this data is great but doesn’t really mean anything unless you are making changes to the site and using the data to decide if the change made a positive or negative affect on purchases (conversion rate).

Analytics software contains a wealth of data but knowing what to focus on is not always readily obvious. Here are three important metrics also called key performance indicators (KPIs) that are essential to an ecommerce business’s success.

Conversion Rate – Conversion rate is the percentage of people who purchase from your online store out of the total people who visited the site.  It is calculated as Orders/Visits and indicates the ratio of window shoppers to buyers.  Most ecommerce sites have a conversion rate between 1 – 2 percent.

Bounce Rate – Bounce rate is the percentage of people who only see one page of your online store before leaving.  The best way to think of this is someone who walks into a retail store and leaves after looking at the first display.  It is calculated by taking the number of people who visited just one page and dividing by total people who visited the online store.

Pages/Visit – Pages per visit measures the average number of pages each person sees on your site.  This is important because if the number is lower than the minimum pages to place an order then people are not even seeing enough of your online store to become a customer.  You should determine the number of pages required to place an order from the home page along with other entry pages such as landing pages, product pages or category pages.  Use these numbers as a benchmark to measure against pages/visit; the idea is to make changes that get pages/visit close to the benchmark or above.   Note it is much more important to see a lift in conversion rate than pages/visit.

How To Optimize Online Stores

You can use analytics to test every part of your website from color combinations, different images, fonts, page layout and even content wording.  The key is to start by making one change and compare the metrics for the change to an equal time period before the change.  A more accurate approach would be to send a certain percentage of visitors to a test page with changes while the majority of visitors see the original page.  This is known as A/B testing and can be a great way to measure changes quickly.  If you do not know what sample size to use for A/B testing run an A/B test where page A and page B are exactly the same.  Once traffic to both pages yields very similar conversion rates, bounce rates and pages/visit you will have a solid idea of the relevant sample size for your online store.