Several of our previous posts on analytics have dealt with the “how to” aspect of setting up various things you might want to track across your website and your booking engine. A recent online forum discussion among innkeepers about this topic prompts an overview of what things you can track, why you might want to track them, and some potential problem areas.

1. Is your site set up to use Google Analytics?

[pullquote]Does your booking engine support ecommerce tracking? Is it set up correctly?[/pullquote]Do you have Google Analytics set up on your website? It should appear on every page (any page that doesn’t have it, will not be tracked). How do you verify that it is set up?

  • Open your favorite browser and visit your website. In most browsers, you can press Ctrl-U on the keyboard to view the source code of the page you are viewing. On all you can right-click on the page and select View Source (or something very similar) to see it.
  • Look through the source (or press Ctrl-F to search, if you prefer). You are looking for code which will include “_gaq”. By the way, if you find code that includes “_gat” you are using the older, slower, form of Google Analytics, and it should be updated to use what is called the asynchronous code. If you don’t find either the “_gaq” or “_gat” sections, you don’t have Google Analytics installed.
  • Once you find the code, check to see what it looks like. Basic tracking looks like this (the XXXXX-X is your Google Analytics ID, and don’t worry if the lines don’t break at the same points):

<script type="text/javascript">

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXX-X']);
_gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();

</script>

Most changes we are interested in will be made between the first and second lines of the code that start with “_gaq.push”.

2. What is tracked with basic tracking, and what is not?

Basic tracking (using the code we see above) in Google Analytics will allow the default reports (which are quite extensive, by the way) to track where visitors to your site came from (the site they visited where they clicked on a link to your site), the number of visits, time on page, bounce rate, etc.

What basic tracking doesn’t do is track visitors after they leave your site. Under some circumstances, this is not a problem. However, if, like most small lodging properties, you use a booking system that requires the visitor to go to another site for the actual booking (like virtually all booking systems in the B&B world), Google Analytics will stop tracking the visitor as soon as they go to the booking engine.

3. What else could we track that would be helpful?

There are two things that are most helpful to track. You could do one or the other, but we recommend using both, as they each provide different information.

A. Ecommerce

If your booking engine supports it (some partially support it, but many do not support it at all!) you can set up Ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics. Among other things, this will allow you to see what other site referred a guest to your site when the guest completed an online booking. In addition, with the addition of Multi-Channel Funnels, you can see what other sites help to produce bookings for you.

B. Goals

If you set up a Goal in Google Analytics for a completed booking, you can track how guests proceed to the booking, where they abandon the process, and also see what sites contribute to your online bookings. Again, not all booking systems support this fully, but it requires less work on their part than Ecommerce tracking.

4. What do I need to do to track these things?

First of all, be sure your booking engine supports Google Analytics. Scott Crumpton of Whitestone Marketing has worked with many of the booking engines, and gives the following list of systems and their ability to work with Ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics:

  • AvailabilityOnline: Since no dollar amount is taken with the booking, ecommerce tracking is not available
  • RezOvation GT: Works properly.
  • RezStream: Works flawlessly though Scott says he has run into bugs from time to time.
  • SuperInn: May not be currently working
  • Webervations: To track visits and goals you must put your GA ID in a box. However, to use Ecommerce tracking you must actually insert proper GA code in another box.
  • ResNexus: We’ve seen it work, but have also had complaints of it stopping working from time to time.

It is possible that other systems work with GA’s Ecommerce tracking, but it is not a simple process, and often the booking engine will say it works when it only works to a limited degree.

In addition it is possible to set up Ecommerce tracking to capture the specific items purchased (rooms booked, etc.) via the booking engine. However, so far as we are aware, none of these booking engines have not set up their systems to provide that level of detail.

If your booking engine is one which supports ecommerce tracking, you need to enable ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics. To do this, go to Admin -> Profile Settings, and under Ecommerce Settings select “Yes”.

The second step will be, to add two lines in your GA code on each web page. These lines should be added before the line which reads

_gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);

The lines to add (changing YOURWEBSITE to your actual domain name) are:

_gaq.push(['_setDomainName', 'YOURWEBSITE.com']);
_gaq.push(['_setAllowLinker', true]);

In addition, any links to the booking engine, or forms which send information to the booking engine, must include GA code, as outlined on the GA Help site.

Once you have Ecommerce tracking (and/or Goals) set up, you will be able not only to see where bookings are coming from, but also to use Multi-Channel Funnels to see what sites are contributing to your online bookings.

Happy tracking!

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