How to use Google Analytics goals?

Updated 25th June 2018

Hello!

I’m going to go through the benefits of having Google Analytics on your website and specifically talk about Google Analytics goals, what they are, how they work, how to set them up and how you use them.

Do I need Google Analytics?

If you have a blog, a simple website or a complex ecommerce website, it's a really great idea to use Google Analytics. If you're new to Google Analytics I've written a beginner’s guide to Google Analytics post here, that you might want to read.

Google Analytics doesn’t tell you how your website or online business is doing, it only collects data. You have to tell Google Analytics to keep track of the things that are important to you, your website or your business. To do that you use goals.

What are goals and why should I make them?

Simply put, Google Analytics goals help you measure how often users on your website complete specific tasks or actions. 

Goals measure how well your site is doing and if it is doing what it was designed to do. A goal represents activity on your site that is completed and this is called a conversion. These can help with the success of your business.

Examples of goals include the completion of an online purchase or the submission of a specific online form. Having well configured goals allows Analytics to provide you with valuable information. This can be the number of conversions or the percentage of conversions based on total visits. This helps you to tweak the effectiveness and the success of your online business.

Goals give you a huge amount of valuable information, as you can track users actions on your site and determine whether or not they are doing what you expect or want them to. Not only that, you can use the ‘Funnel’ option of goals which will track these actions at every step, so you can see if and when users stop progressing through your site. i.e. at the checkout.

Google Analytics Goals - Funnels

What are Funnels?

A funnel is the process a user goes through on your website, for example to buy a product or service, to fill in an online form or to sign up to your newsletter. You can add as many steps to your funnel as you like, but I would suggest only adding steps that are required in the process. 

One of the cool things about using goals with a funnel, is that you can actually see how the goal is doing by using the ‘Funnel Visualisation’ feature of Google Analytics. It will show you how many users went into each step, how many went through to the next step and how many people left each step. This will make it very clear where you can improve your site to improve the conversion rate.

A good example is an online shop. Let's say you have lots of products and this number just keeps on growing, it gets increasingly harder to keep track of the sales of each product. Using a goal with a funnel you will be able to see if users are actually adding a product to the basket and of those who have added it, how many went on to purchase it.

What type of goals can I create?

There are four ways in which you can track using goals. They are

  • Destination / URLs
    • This is the loading of a specific destination / URL. i.e. A thank you for signing up page - thanks.html.
  • Duration / Time
    • This is the session time a user spends. i.e. five minutes or longer spent on a support page or blog post.
  • Pages / Screens visits
    • This is the amount of pages a user views. i.e. A user reads five pages/posts or more of your blog
  • Events
    • This is an action that is triggered. i.e. Someone clicking on a social media recommendation or someone watches a video or clicks on an advert.

How do I create goals?

To create a goal in Google Analytics, first you will need to login to your analytics account. Once you are logged in, click on the ‘Admin’ section which you will find as a tab at the bottom of your left hand sidebar of your Analytics Dashboard. After you click on admin, three columns will appear and the one we are interested in here is the one on the right, called ‘View’. In that view column, click the Goals tab.

Next, click on the orange button at the top called ‘+ NEW GOAL’.

Google Analytics Goals - Step-01

Option 1: Goal Setup

The options in the templates are self explanatory and they come with examples of the sort of goals you might want to use. You can also choose to setup a custom goal, which is useful if any of the template examples are not suitable.

Don’t see any templates? Goal templates are tailored to meet the needs of businesses within specific industries (i.e. automotive, entertainment, online shopping etc.). The templates option is greyed out if you haven’t selected an industry within your account. To get templates that are relevant to your business, edit your property ( click Admin > Property Settings (2nd column) and choose your industry category (or closest to it) from the dropdown menu and click Save.

Once you have chosen an example from the template options, click continue to get to the goal description.

Google Analytics Goals - Step-02

Option 2: Goal description

Give your goal a descriptive name that you will easily recognise and understand. Or leave the default example description.

As mentioned above, you now have four goal types to choose from:

Destination: This allows you to make a goal for users ending up on a certain page. For example, if you have a contact form, and your contact form has a confirmation page, you can track everyone who has been on your confirmation page and therefore submitted a form.

Duration: This allows you to track everyone who’s spent more than the minimum amount of time you set on your website.

Pages/Screens per visit: This does the same thing as ‘Duration’, just with page views instead of time. When people hit a threshold of a minimum amount of page views you’ve set, that‘ll count as a goal completion.

Event: The Event type is the most complex. This requires actual coding, as events need to have been set up first. Luckily, there’s a tool called Google Tag Manager that allows you to easily create events. Events are pretty powerful, as you can track how many times a video on your website was played, for instance.

Once you have chosen your type from the options, click continue to get to the goal details.

Google Analytics Goals - Step-03

Option 3: Goal details

After you have chosen your type, in this case destination, you have three options for your destination. 

Equals to: This simply means that the URL you put here exactly matches the URL on your website.

Begins with: This means that everything beginning with the URL you put here will be counted as your goal.

Regular expression: A ‘Regular expression’ or ‘Regex’ is the most complex, but most powerful of the three options. This is a sequence of patterns that can be used in very specific targeting. For example, if you have lots of specific product categories, you could add a goal for every category. Your destination goal will be your confirmation page after the checkout and if the category you wanted to track was for example ‘Christmas Gifts’, you would add a regex line like this:

/(.*)/christmas-gift/(.*)

This regex or Regular expression will track everything with /christmas-gift/ in the URL. This example will tell you out of all of your products sold, how many came from your Christmas Gift category. 

What are good Google Analytics goals to set for my business?

You’ve installed Google Analytics on your site, you know what a goal is and how to set one up, now you want to know what type of goal would be most beneficial for you to set up for your site. The simple answer is it depends on your business and what information you want to find out. Only set up goals that you will find useful and then you can act upon the information you gain from them. 

In no particular order, here are a few goals you might consider implementing yourself.

  • Products in a category sold:
    • It might be a good idea to have a Regular expression goal setup for your product categories that you are most interested in. You could have one for each of your products but if you have over 20 products you would need a paid for Google Analytics account.
  • Newsletter signup:
    • A goal for your newsletter signup would be a useful goal to have so you can see at a glance how many users have signed up recently and how it has changed over time. 
  • Page views:
    • Is there a specific page that you want your visitors to see or spend time on? By setting up a Duration goal for a specific page or blog post, you can see how long people are actually spending on the content. If it is not long enough, you could consider re-jigging the design of the page or adjusting the content.
  • Order confirmation:
    • It's a good idea to show visitors a confirmation ‘thank you’ page when they complete an order on your site. Creating a destination goal to keep track of these transactions to learn your bottom line is good idea.
  • Checkout abandonment:
    • What percentage of your customers are abandoning your site at the checkout and why are they abandoning it? By setting up a goal funnel for your customers shopping experience i.e. product category > product > basket > checkout > thank you, you can see how many people are leaving the process, where they are leaving the process and then you can do something about it to improve it.

Should I assign a value to my goals?

Assigning a monetary value to your goals is important so that you can distinguish between them. If you don’t assign a value, you won’t be able to see which of the goals is your most profitable. 

If you have a goal for a specific product or service, you would choose an ‘Actual value’ and type in the value of that product or service. If you have a goal that is a category then you would assign an ‘Average value’ that would be an average price of your products in that category. If you have a goal that doesn’t directly make you money, like a newsletter signup or sales enquiry, you would choose to assign a ‘Relative value’ and that would be what the goal is worth to you. Is a person signing up to your newsletter worth more to your than a simple sales enquiry?

How do I view my goal conversions?

Sign into your Google Analytics account and click Conversions > Goals > Overview. Then from the dropdown list (above the table) select your Goal type.

From here you can view the number of goal completions, goal conversion rate and abandonment rate, etc for your specified goals. It’s also worth mentioning that goal conversions also appear in other reports throughout Google Analytics.

Final thoughts:

If you’re using the free Google Analytics option, you are limited to 20 goals, so think carefully about what your most important goals are. Wherever you can, use the funnel option as you will be able to see where in the process there are problems that you can fix. i.e. abandoned checkout.

By adding value to your goals means that when you come to view them in how ever many weeks' time you will be able to see straight away which ones are more important to you and of those which are not doing very well, you can focus on them before any others.

Until next time…

Colin
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