Determining objectives for a website is essential in justifying the need for a website in the first place.
Creating goals for these objectives in your analytics platform are likewise important for understanding the success of your marketing and advertising efforts toward meeting the overall site objectives.
Setting up goals in your analytics platform are rather easy. Essentially, the hardest part of this process is having all decision-makers agree on the objectives of the site.
Through collaboration, your team should determine how the website needs to help the company achieve its overall goals.
More importantly, does the website achieve its goals?
If not, goal tracking in analytics (most of us are on Google Analytics) will help us understand if your site is helping you to move forward or causing a lot of confusion for your users.
In your mutual consideration on site goals, it is important that all parties understand the difference between key performance indicators (KPIs) and site goals. The latter is the overall end result that you desire from a site user’s journey through your sale. This may be a sale, a lead generation submission, a web chat session, etc.
Key performance indicators are metrics which help us to reach a goal (i.e., items added to a cart, video starts, clicks to chat or contact an organization). It is fine to monitor KPIs via event tracking in analytics but these should not be tracked as goals.
Before departing the meeting room, identify what these goals are worth to your organization. This will come in handy later.
For example, determine how many leads reach a sale. What is that sale worth? What are your profit margins?
Now that you know what a goal conversion is worth, you can gain a better understanding of the return you are seeing from your digital marketing and advertising efforts.
Setting Up Goals in Google Analytics
Know that we have agreed upon goals for our site we can move into Google Analytics, within the Admin > Goals section to set up our goals.
You will be given the opportunity to choose between a template-based goal or a custom goal format. These are basically the same and from my experience, it is easier to choose the custom format.
You are then given the chance to choose between Destination, Duration, Pages/Screen per Session or Event as a Goal Type.
Predominately, you will want to choose Destination.
I urge you to not set goals based on pages per session or visit duration. These are not goals, they are KPI metrics.
Someone visiting five pages on your site does not create sales or generate leads. It likely helps you but it is not the end goal.
Moving into the Destination goal we have to identify the structure of our goal destination. There are a lot of important entries here that you must accurately complete.
You will be given the chance to format what constitutes a destination URL rule that will fire a goal. There are three choices which will help meet your goal destination needs. Examples include:
1. Equals to: /lead-submission-thank-you
Your goal page is one exact destination.
2. Begins With: /receipt
You have several different goal URLs associated to one goal family or URLs that are unique due to an e-commerce cart receipt.
3. Regular Expression: contact|directions
You have goal URL formats that may be in one goal family but have very different URL formats. With a moderate understanding of how regular expressions work you can typically accommodate any goal URL variation need that you could think of.
However, a poor understanding of regular expression formatting will leave you with a lot of head scratching and testing to get all goals to fire correctly.
While this is how you craft goal conversions based on URL destinations of site visitors, Google Analytics provides the ability to turn an event tracking element as a site goal.
Event tracking is set up via Google Tag Manager or hard-coded into links and other site elements and this integration is an instructional topic unto itself.
Let us pretend for a moment that we already have events set up in Google Analytics but we do not have them set up as desired goals. In this, we first will review the Events section of Google Analytics to review the Category, Label, and Action of tracked site events.
Back in the new goal configuration, we can now append the event category, label or action of our desired goal through the restriction of equals to, begins with, or regular expression.
You can add the exact category, label, or action for your specific goal but often adding the exact category will do.
For my example, I want to track when users are clicking on the phone icon from the website to call the company. In this, the category has several labels as there are labels for each page a user was on when clicking the phone icon to call. This is why I am only placing the event category as the event identifier for the goal.
Regardless of goal type, once you have identified your goal location or event rule, you have the ability to place a value for your goal.
Have you determined what goals are worth to your organization? This can place monetary values alongside your channel and page level site analytics to add flavor in showing how well certain site sections or delivery channels are driving goal acquisition on your site.
Adding funnels can be beneficial for those who want to be able to see visitor drop-off from previous steps in the goal funnel. Additionally, this can be a foolproof way to ensure your goal tracking is clean.
For instance, if your goal thank you pages are accidentally indexed in search engines then you may see these thank you pages as landing pages, instantly showing that something is wrong as they did not fill a form out first.
Having a funnel in place ensures, in this example, that a goal converter has to have traveled through the form page before reaching the form submission thank you page.
Hang on, you are close to creating a goal but we need to verify that these destination page or event rules have fired recently in the last week.
If you are seeing “0%” for goal activity in the last week per your set up goal rules than you likely have not correctly configured the goal. This is often due to faulty regular expressions.
If you see an outrageous rate of 20 percent or more, your goal configuration is likely too loose and you are collecting non-goal pages or events with the goal. That, or you have the most successful goal-generating site ever (and please teach us how to do this!).
Congratulations, you have now set up a Google Analytics goal properly!
Now, follow these seven tips to help you get the most of your goal tracking ability.
7 Google Analytics Goal Tracking Tips to Get Ahead
1. Use Real Time Analytics to Test Your Goals
Do you have a lack of confidence in your goal tracking set up, even though you verified your goal in initial setup?
Completing a goal action on the site and then immediately reviewing real-time reporting will show you if your goals are firing appropriately.
Your goal conversion will not show up in real-time reporting if you filter your company site traffic. Make sure you are working within an unfiltered analytics property.
2. Monitor Your Goal URLs
This is the surefire way to understand if you are tracking only the true goal URLs or if you are accidentally recording non-goal URL pageviews as goals.
3. Filter Landing Page Views to Goal URLs to Assess Tracking Inaccuracy
Not including a robots meta tag or excluding goal URLs can leave these pages indexed in search engines and appear as goal conversions when they are really confused site visitor entrances.
4. Utilize Reverse Goal Path for Funnel Testing
This section of Google Analytics is helpful for understanding if users are following the exact funnel flow you have designated for a specific goal.
Also, assigning a funnel to an existing goal will help you understand the common pathways to a goal that should ideally be funnel steps.
5. Use, Peruse & Obsess Over Multi-Channel Funnel Data
For most sites, a conversion is rarely won on the first visit. Often users do not re-enter the site via the same channel.
Where you saw a visitor entering the site from Facebook the other day may also see them returning through Google today before they become a conversion.
Custom modeling attribution allows you to assign values to multiple channel touchpoints in a multi-visit conversion funnel vs. simply crediting the last touchpoint by default.
6. Set up Goal Alerts
Google Analytics provides the ability to set up goal alerts (e.g., specific goal percentage increase/decrease in comparison to another time point).
These can either make your day or ruin it. Either way, you will be glad you were tipped off to a conversion success or emergency.
7. Play with Your Data
Having goals configured allow you to slice and dice data in ways that help you understand what your users are doing on the site. It will also help you to strategize conversion rate optimization needs and usability issues that may exist on the site.
For example, Advanced Segments provide the ability to segment analytical data for those who convert into specific goals, all goals or those who do not convert. This can help to understand user flow differences between converters and non-converters.
Beyond this, review how goal data differs, between device types, channels, landing pages, demographics, and much more.
Having properly configured Google Analytics goals will give you the opportunity to truly understand your website audience – who they are, what they are doing, and whether they are converting toward your identified site objectives.
Robust analytical data is what establishes campaign benchmarks and, most importantly, will help formulate your marketing strategy.
More Google Analytics Resources:
Feature Image: Getty images edited by author through Canva
All screenshots taken by author, May 2018