January 6, 2015

Is Your Cart a Top Google Analytics Landing Page?

People are landing on your cart?

Posted In:

If the title didn’t resonate with you, and you have an e-commerce website, go do this right now: check out Google Analytics and look at the landing page report, look for your shopping cart. You might just see something like this:

That’s messed up. The screen shot above is from a search landing page report over a 3 day window. There can’t be that many people landing on our cart, right?

Here’s some caveats to this scenario to rule out the obvious:

  • The cart is on the same domain as the main site
  • No sub-domains or any other cross-domain action happening
  • Everything is tracking properly (we’ve tested)

On that last point, I tested things like getting shipping quotes, applying coupon codes, adding/removing items from the cart, etc.  None of these actions cause a new session.

So why is this happening?  To find out, we need to dig into more specifics.

Understanding what we’re seeing

It’s important to know one thing, these are not new users. Nobody is visiting your site for the first time and landing on your cart. At least, not likely. In every instance of this problem, through landing page analysis, I’ve found, the visits to the cart are actually direct, not search or referral traffic.

Here’s how you know this is the case…

View a Top Conversion Paths report with a secondary dimension of “Landing Page”. Use a filter to only look at paths where one of the sessions landed on the cart.

We see something like this:

This report tells us that in each instance, a user started by taking a traditional acquisition channel landing them on a traditional landing page. Later, they returned via direct traffic and landed on the cart.

Because standard GA reports attribute everything to the last non-direct source, our landing page reports are saying these folks came to the cart via organic, PPC, etc.

So does that mean people are leaving the site and bookmarking or typing in the cart URL directly? Probably not! Here’s a way to get us closer to an answer to that question.

Getting closer to what’s happening

For one, we can make use of a conversion segment to find out a little more around the behavior here. Create the following segment to look at these users specifically:

Obviously change the URL to match your cart/checkout URL structure.

Once you have this segment created and applied, look at a time lag report. Mine looks like this:

Almost all of these conversions are happening in a single day. The tricky thing is, a user could start on 11/1, come back 11/5, come back a 2nd time on 11/5 (“landing” on the cart) and it would be a 5 day lag.  But at the very least, people aren’t generally leaving the site for days and returning directly to the cart. That helps a bit.

So what’s the deal?

My guess?  People are adding items to their cart, then doing comparison shopping or coupon hunting.  This process lasts over 30 minutes (maybe they wander off to lunch or for a coffee break), and when they return to the browser with your site’s cart open, a new session starts.  In that new session, the landing page is the cart and it’s direct traffic.  Because GA rolls with the last non-direct source, it’s attributed to search/email/whatever.

But how can we validate this?  Here’s one way…

We have to figure out: when does a default analytics session expire? I created a new UA property, as to not mess up ongoing data.  In that property, I changed the session handling settings to the max timeout (4 hours).  Here’s how you do that via the GA admin:

In the scenario I outlined, it’s reasonable to believe that the majority of those users would do their comparison shopping or coffee break in under four hours.  So if my hunch is right, this property should report way fewer people landing on the cart.

Let’s look at the same landing page report as before in this new property and find the cart…

That’s a pretty big dropoff.  And it’s always possible people snuck into this report from before I made the settings change.

Looks like we got it!  If this trend holds up, we should see the correct landing pages getting attributed with goal completions and revenue.  At least, the correct landing page based on the last click model, but that’s a whole other discussion.

Caveats and whatnot

The biggest thing to note is that if you don’t get a lot of landing page hits on your cart/checkout, there’s no reason to worry.  Also, changing session settings can have negative impacts elsewhere, so I’d definitely recommend testing in a new property and comparing data before just diving in with a change.  But if you see landing page data skewed like this often, and your site has a lot of people comparison shopping, you might want to test this out yourself.

And what say the rest of you?  Surely there are other possible explanations for this behavior.  What have you found?  What can we test???

What do you think?

Contact Us

We'd love to hear about your business and find ways we can help.

Learn More About Us

Want to know about us first? Go right ahead!


#FreeAdvice: The Truth About SEO Audits

We get a lot of questions about what an SEO audit is, what an audit looks like, why your website should get an audit and more. Check out some of the most commonly asked questions.

Lindsie Nelson
#FreeAdvice: How to Advance Your Search Marketing Career (Bonus: Tips for new grads)

How can I advance my search marketing career? It is important to keep up and put yourself ahead of the competition. Here are a few ways you can make progress with professional growth and gain the confidence to reach for bigger and better things. Be better than the rest! 

Chelsea Scaffidi
#FreeAdvice: Search Intent vs Keywords

What is search intent? Why is it so important and how can you optimize for it? Some keywords can have multiple meanings, show up for the right one.

Chelsea Scaffidi
Podcast - Impact of COVID-19 on Search Strategy

The current COVID-19 outbreak has made every business reevaluate how to connect with their customers, but how does this impact search strategy?

Lindsie Nelson
#FreeAdvice: How to Lower Your CPA

There are three ways to make a major impact on your CPA for the better that are entirely within your control.

Jay Ratkowski