You put time and effort into your marketing. So why are your sales lower than you'd expect? If your answer is: "I just need to do more marketing," or any other guess not based on data, you may be speaking too soon.

If you have a stomachache and you'd like to get rid of it, you need to figure out the cause. Maybe you ate too much - in which case you should eat lightly and give your stomach time to rest. Maybe you haven't eaten anything nutritious for the past three days - in which case you should sit down to a decent meal. Either way, if you act without knowing the cause of your problem, you're likely to make the situation worse - or at least not any better.

We saw that recently with someone who came to us for consulting. He wasn't getting as many sales of his product as he hoped, and he knew there was very little real competition. We saw together that he was on page 1 of Google for some of his target keywords, and then he commented, "It might just be a bad business venture."

Not necessarily, we told him. In order to find out, you have to actually see data. You have to go into your Google Analytics reports and see how many people are coming to your site and how they got there. His lack of sales could stem from a few VERY different issues, which would need very different treatment plans.

To name two possibilities:

If he had very few visitors, that could mean that people might not actually be scrolling down to where he appeared in the search results


the search terms he appears for aren't being searched for often enough


the title or description in the search results is a turn-off.

If he actually had a large number of visitors, but still no purchases, that could mean that people are qualified customers but are being turned off by the website


that the website is showing up for irrelevant searches and drawing unqualified customers

So which one was it? Let's take a trip through his Google Analytics account (all identifying information has been concealed), and have a look:

First stop - the overview page, what you see when you sign into your account:

What is the number of unique visitors?

For this site analysis, we took data from about 3 months, from December 1st through February 22nd.

956 unique visitors - how many people have come to the site in a given time period

956. Not bad. Maybe he'd like it to be more, but that's certainly not nothing. Enough to make a reasonable number of sales if there's virtually no competition for what you offer.

Now let's see how these 956 people are interacting with his site. Go down a few numbers in the overview to the bounce rate. That's the number of one page visits - people who came to the site and left from the same page. They didn't bother to click through to any other page. In the words of Avinash Kaushik, "I came, I saw, Yuck - I am out of here."

bounce rate 76 percent

76.54%. That's a lot of people to be saying, "Yuck - I am out of here"!

Let's go a little deeper and check the bounce rate for each page of the site individually.

We're going to do this via a custom report, which will enable us to get the data we want all in one report (and leave out the data we don't). If you're used to working with custom reports, fantastic. If not, let's do a walk-through:

click on custom reports tab and then on new custom report button

You'll get the following screen:

give your report a name, click on metric (these are the figures you will get), start typing entrances as you want to see number of visits that entered on every page, when correct metric shows up, click it

Great - now we'll add the rest of the metrics for the report and go on to dimensions:

metrics are entrances, bounce rate, pageviews and % exit; dimension is page - that is what you will see the numbers for

Once you save, you will see your beautiful new custom report. Let's take a look:

of the 916 visits that entered on the homepage, 3/4 left, leaving only 229 to continue within your site, and the bounce rate is comparable or worse for other pages. The exit rate from any page is lower once they've actually continued on past the entrance page.


Maybe it's because the site is getting irrelevant visitors? People looking for a hammer in a fruit store?

Let's check out another custom report. The dimension is keywords, the metrics are unique visitors and bounce rate. This way we can see how many people came through each keyword, and what their level of interaction with the site was. I filtered the report to show non-brand keywords only, taking out (not set) which indicates a direct visit, brand mentions, and the infamous (not provided).

Here is the top of the resultant report:

non brand keyword report all with bounce rates between 60% and 100%

Most of his visitors (63%) are coming from non-brand keywords. And while I've blurred the actual keywords, I'll tell you that they are ALL RELEVANT. (Well, I didn't look through every single one of the 300+ that sent one visit apiece, but certainly a cursory check gives that impression.) All these 600 visitors are searching for EXACTLY what this site is offering. But the bounce rates are all through the roof. Why are they leaving without buying - without even giving any other page a click?

All this information helped to confirm what I had thought when originally looking at the site: it needed a redesign.

The niche of the site was health products. Most people need to feel they're buying health products from someone professional and reputable. That was not the impression the site gave, as a result of a combination of spelling and grammar errors, the pictures that had been chosen and the lack of testimonials and/or certification. While the product sounded impressive when I saw the seller in person and listened to him speak, had I just happened upon the site, I also would have run away.

But now we had figures to back up my impression.

Postscript to the story: the website owner is currently in the process of redoing his site, and even some minor initial changes that he made in the existing site (i.e. fixing typos), have reduced the bounce rate. We'll see if business picks up once he has the new site which will be designed to give a professional, reliable impression.

So... wondering why you have less sales than you think you should? Maybe it's time to head off to check your Analytics account.

If you do, and have any questions or insights about what you see there, feel free to ask or share in the comments below. I'd be happy to discuss it with you.