From Like to Checkout: Google Analytics & Social Tracking

Social sites continue to grow and become a part of the everyday experience. According to Nielsen, consumers spend 23% of their time online on a social media site. The study raises questions about how visitors originating from social media sites behave on eCommerce sites. Are they purchasing? Should you consider increasing your Facebook PPC budget? On what sites should you increase your online social presence? If someone likes a product on your site, does this increase other visitor purchases? Google Analytics can help you answer all these questions.

Website Social Interaction Tracking

Adding social interaction buttons to your eCommerce site via various share widgets is a great way to allow visitors to easily share items of interest from your site with their social network. You’re essentially receiving free marketing. Fantastic as that sounds, it’s hard to measure the efficacy of such social media exposure. However, by implementing extra Google Analytics code to the share widget, you can find out if anyone purchased the item after it was shared with a social network. It is important to note that social interaction tracking is different from the recently incorporated Social Reporting addition, and despite this addition, you will still need to add tracking code to your site in order to provide all social interaction data, unless you are only interested in tracking Google+ interactions, which won’t require extra code.

Google Analytics Social PluginsOnce you have social interaction tracking installed, data will populate in the Social Plugins section of Google Analytics, found under Social on the Traffic Sources tab. This information will pertain to pages or products that have received social plugin interaction and what has become of this interaction. For example, did a visitor like or comment on a product or page? Combining this information with eCommerce data will allow you to determine if there is a correlation between social plugin interactions and sales and if enough sales are being yielded to provide a healthy ROI.

Google Analytics Social Reporting

Recently, Google Analytics implemented Social Reporting which automatically populates data in your Google Analytics account for services which provide data from many sites, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Google Analytics provides more detailed data for the Social Analytics Hub partners. This was all made possible because Google purchased PostRank. If you previously used PostRank, Google Analytics Social Reporting will look familiar.

So what exactly does Google Analytics Social Reporting provide for eCommerce sites?

Social Reports, found in the Traffic Sources tab of Google Analytics, provides extensive data related to traffic originating from social sites and how visitors from social sites are using your site. Specifically relevant for eCommerce sites, this report provides purchasing information related to visitors from social sites. You’ll be able to determine if such a particular segment of visitors are purchasing, and if so, do they purchase when they originally visit the site or when they return later? The Overview feature of Social Reporting in Google Analytics gives you the best overview and easiest way to access this information.

Looking at the Overview gives you a way to see how visitors from social sites purchase. In the example below, we received 14 assisted social conversions, meaning these purchasers visited the site from a social site. Interestingly, this site had 8 last interaction social conversions, meaning these visitors made their purchase within the same visit to the site, following their referral from a social site.

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A way to view this in more detail to see which social networks are providing the most conversions – whether via assisted or last interaction – is by looking at Conversions within the Social section. In this example, we see 14 total social conversions: 6 assisted conversions and 8 last interaction conversions.

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Another really useful aspect of Google Analytics Social Reporting is using Social Flow to see where social visitors are going on your site after arriving and how many explore your site past the landing page. In the example below, we see that of the 230 visitors from Pinterest, 226 only visited one page. Very few continued explored further in the site. Using this information, you may want to provide a special offer for Pinterest users to keep them engaged on your site and increase Pinterest conversions.

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How to Leverage Social Information for Your eCommerce Site

The social data available through Google Analytics will give you a good idea of which social channels are providing the most traffic, but identifying these channels is only the first step. Using it to increase sales is your final goal. It is important to devise a plan that helps you to increase traffic from sites that have a high conversion rate and offer incentives to visitors from sites with high traffic to explore your site further. Such systematic use of your social data will help you get the most our of your social media efforts and determine if these efforts are yielding an acceptable ROI.

by Conversion Consultant
Amanda is our resident scientist at Blue Acorn. You won’t find any contractions or oxford commas in her articles. She’s always quick to pick up on new techniques and even faster at teaching them to us. We count ourselves lucky to have her here. In her free time, she volunteers for the Analysis Exchange, a group that offers free web analytics consulting to nonprofits and NGOs around the world. She spends the rest of her spare time hanging out with Charley, her wicked-cool miniature schnauzer, who you can also follow on Twitter @charleydoggy.

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