Most businesses and almost all marketers know the importance of Google Analytics. This free analytics platform is linked to your site and will track everything from where online your visitors are coming from to the traffic patterns they follow once they’re there. It’s easy to set up the basics and the information is invaluable.
Google Analytics, however, is extensive. To truly get the most out of it, most businesses need to set up additional tracking parameters that will help them to better track certain data or events more effectively to take the guesswork out of things. And that’s where a lot of businesses accidentally fall short.
Google Analytics’ goals are one of those additional tracking parameters that a lot of small businesses either don’t know how to use or don’t even know exists. In this post, we’re going to show you exactly why these goals are so important for your business and how to use them.
What Are Google Analytics Goals?
Google Analytics naturally tracks anonymous user activity that occurs on your site, including what keywords people used to find out, the channels that are sending you traffic, and how many views on each page you’re getting (and how long they’re staying). This information is all so valuable, but it really just gives you vague, big-picture data.
Goals can clear things up a bit. They’re designed to track specific patterns of user behavior that result in certain events, or conversions. You can simply track conversions and conversion rates on things like purchases, or look at more elaborate tracking that will help you determine what’s actually getting customers to the conversion point.
If you have a funnel set up on your site to drive certain actions, you can create goal funnels to track whether those elaborate blog post funnels actually worked to get users to sign up to your email list or purchase a certain product. This also allows you to troubleshoot your funnels, as you can see which stage is causing users to drop off and you can search for the underlying problems costing you profit.
Types of Google Analytics Goals
There are five main types of goals in Google Analytics. These will help you monitor and track different actions or behaviors. The four biggest include:
Destination goals. Once a specific web page loads, the pixel is fired. When users checkout, for example, you’ll know because they see the order confirmation page.
Duration goals. The number of sessions that take a certain amount of time or longer. Think users who spend five minutes reading an important blog post.
Pages/screens per session goals. When a single user views a certain number of pages. If you want a user to read five blog posts or look at three product pages in one session, you can track that.
Event goals. Actions that are classified as events are taken. These include solid, trackable actions, like a social share, add to cart, video plays, or clicks on an ad.
In addition to these four goals, Google Analytics also offers something called “smart goals.” These goals are designed to provide an alternative conversion tracking method for advertisers on Google Ads who don’t have enough conversions to use optimization tools like automated bidding. Instead, these goals will assign a score to each website visit, and the best will be reflected into Smart Goals to give you more data on what’s happening.
You can learn more about Smart Goals and how to set them up if you qualify here.
How to Set up Goals in Google Analytics
Head to your Admin settings in Google Analytics, and then find “Goals” under the “All Website Data” category and click on it.
Here, you’ll see all the goals that you’ve created so far, along with the option to create a new goal. Click on the “New Goal” tab.
You’ll be asked if you want to use a template for your goals, or a custom one. For this example, we’ll choose the template.
Next, enter in your goal name and choose the type of goal you want to create. Remember to give your goal a name that will be easy to track later. We’ll choose a Destination goal for this example to track conversions.
Next, you’ll choose a goal destination. If you choose duration, pages viewed, or event, this will all look a little different but work the same way. Enter the URL or set the criteria for what you want to track. In this example, we’ll see I want to track users who contact me to hire me, and it’s fired when users see the “Thank you for getting in touch!” page.
You’ll also see that you can assign a monetary value here, stating how much value a single conversion has. Google will use this information to calculate ROAS. There’s also the option to set up a funnel. We’ll look at that in the next section.
At the bottom of the above screenshot, you’ll see the option to “Verify This Goal.” This gives you temporary data on how the goal had converted based on the data from the previous week, giving you an idea if it’s set up correctly. If it’s not, you might see something like this:
Once you do this, hit save, and your goal is ready to go.
What About Goal Funnels?
Sometimes tracking certain actions or behaviors alone is all you need, but in other cases it’s valuable to see if users are moving through the funnels you’ve set up and how they’re doing so. In this case, goal funnels are the way to go.
As you’re creating your goal as you saw above, there will be a prompt at the end that asks if you want to set up a funnel. Click on it, and you’ll see the option to different pages, in order, that you want users to move through in the funnel.
Name the different steps clearly, and add the exact URL addresses.
You can set certain pages as “required” in order to trigger the goal if you choose. This will allow you to see if certain pages are actually working as intended to help you get more conversions. This could be used if you’re split testing different landing pages, for example.
Google Analytics Goal Best Practices
Want to make goal tracking as simple and accurate as possible? Follow these best practices.
Name your goals in a way that makes sense. I’ve been auditing clients’ marketing campaigns and about had my head spin when I saw that their goals were named things like “Conversion 1A” and “Conversion B.” When I asked what these were tracking, the client wasn’t even sure. Opt instead for names like “Ebook lead magnet goal funnel” or “Checkouts.”
Add monetary value to your goals where applicable. For some businesses, like my own, it’s hard to add monetary value to someone emailing me to get in touch. I only end up working with around 1/10th of the people who contact me, and even then the monetary value of those contracts waiver from a one-time fee to big retainer work. Still, adding an estimated value for each conversion is a good call, because it shows what potential money is coming through, and you can weigh it against what’s really happening.
Set them up early. Goals tracking only applies to your data after the goals themselves are set up. You can’t set them up today and hope to see six months of goal tracking; you’ll only see what happens moving forward. Don’t waste any time, and get started ASAP.
Focus. Track everything that will be valuable to you, but don’t track things that won’t be. You can’t delete goals, so it’s best to clear up the chaos and track goals that will actually help you understand your business. You also only get 20 goals, and while you can change those goals at any time, that’s still a firm limit.
Google Analytics is a goldmine of information, but you’re only going to be able to cash in if you’re actually using it to its fullest potential. Goals are often overlooked by small businesses who aren’t sure how to use them or who don’t understand the importance, but in reality they’re one of the most important parts of the analytics platform. If you haven’t already, take up the time to set up goals and goal funnels, and start watching the data come pouring in.
What do you think? Do you use Google Analytics’ goals on your sites? Which goals do you use, and which do you find most valuable? Drop your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
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