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Google Analytics in Very Plain Language. Part II: Goals Setup

| Posted in category Analytics Google

Ninja LogoHey there! Hopefully, all the readers of Google Analytics in Very Plain Language (Part I) did their homework and successfully implemented Google Analytics (GA) tracking code to their websites.

If things are rolling well your GA account has already accumulated some historic data. You may now doodle with the reports and charts, and feel as important as Gordon Gecko.

Are craving for more? - Read on Part II. In this post you are going to learn how to measure your success with Goals.

Setting up your Goals

When it comes to soccer, any person born on Earth is aware that if a crowd of eleven sweaty enraged men in striped shorts gets the ball between the goal posts – they scored a goal. Scoring in soccer is plain and transparent. But it’s not always that easy to define goals for your online business.goal

For a website the definition of the goal is strongly tied with objectives of the business that is behind the website. An e-commerce website generates sales, an industry blog generates paid subscriptions, other websites monetize on paid ads, and etc. Ask yourself: “Why my website/business is around?” – the answer to this question describes your goals.

First, draft a simple model of your business or model of your interaction with existing or potential customers. Then choose performance indicators (goals) for each area. Second, align your business’s objectives with the goals that users may complete on your website. The output is your goal tracking framework (see the example below).

Remember: goals may be positive (sales), as well as negative (users contact support with claims and issues).
Although the number of business goals and performance indicators is probably infinite, Google Analytics enables you to track only three types of goals:

  • URL Destination
  • Time on Site
  • Pages/Visit

URL Destination

This goal is triggered when a user visits a certain page on your web-site. You may use this type of goal to track sales, downloads, inquiries via contact form, subscriptions, etc. Most websites will direct users to sort of a Thank You page after purchase, subscription, sending a request, etc. Viewing Thank You page is a reliable indicator of goal completion.

How to Set Up URL Destination Goal

Step 1

Get the URL of your Thank You page. If you don’t know the URL, visit your website. Make a test transaction or complete a goal as your visitor would do. In the end, your website is likely to direct you to a page with a URL like

Step 2

Set up goal tracking in GA. Open your GA account. In Overview screen select the respective account and click on Edit link.

Google Analytics 01

Step 3

On the next screen locate Goals section and click on Add Goal link. Remember that for each GA profile you may set up only 20 goals. There are four goals sets, each set may contain up to five goals. For your convenience put different types of goals in different sets, e.g. track purchases in Goals (set 1), completion of contact forms in Goals (set 2). Although in future you will be able to change the position of the goal within the sets, it’s better to arrange your data buckets nicely from the very beginning.

Google Analytics 02

Step 4

Now you are to enter the information about the goal. Provide its name – make it descriptive, e.g. T-Shirt_Purchase; Paid_Subscription, Contact_Us, Contact_Support. Set goal active/inactive. Choose the position of the goal (you may change the position of the goal later without losing historic data). Finally, select the type of the goal. In this case – URL Destination.

Google Analytics 03

Step 5

Provide additional information about the goal:

  • Match type

Head or Exact Match would suit most users. For more information about match types you may read this Google Help article.

  • Goal URL

Enter the URL that you selected on Step 1. Remember to strip the domain name off, i.e. if the full path is, you should enter just /thankyou.html

  • Case Sensitive

Check this box if you are using URLs with capitalization for different pages, e.g. /product.html and /Product.html.

  • Goal Value

Set the revenue you get per each goal completion. This setting is not very helpful unless you are running an online dollar store.

You are done. Save changes. You may now run several test transactions to make sure the goal was set properly.

Time on Site and Pages/Visit

These types of goals may be applied to online magazines, news sites, industry blogs, social networks, etc., as an indicator of users’ engagement with the website. If a user spends certain time on your website and/or views a certain amount of web pages, you count it as a goal completion – simple, ha?

The efficiency and feasibility of such goals is questionable and here is why. Can you tell for sure that ten page views (not nine or eight) per visit should be counted as a goal? Why? Does it really mean that after ten page views the user really found what he/she was looking for on your website? Or may be a user had to get through a clutter of useless pages and fiendishly complicated navigation in order to find useful information? In the latter case, Pages/Visit may be considered as a negative conversion. The same applies to Time on Site.

If you have the answers to the questions above – you are ready to set up these goals. Get through Step 2 and Step 3 again. On Step 4 select either Time on Site or Pages/Visit. Then fill in goal details: time on site or the number of visited pages. And save changes.

Google Analytics 06Google Analytics 06

With goals properly set up, you may track how well your website supports your business’s objectives. Make use of goal completion rates to select better traffic sources or cut off fat.

Next Thursday you are going to learn how to track clicks on external links and file downloads, don’t miss it! Meanwhile, set up your GA goals. And as always, your questions and comments are welcome!

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