Goals in Google Analytics allow you to define important events and track conversions. You can tie those events back to websites or marketing initiatives that brought visitors to your site. You can also use them to measure the relative influence of each page on your site.
In short, goals are an important piece of the puzzle if you want to know how visitors use your site and how effective your marketing efforts are.
What is a Goal?
In Google Analytics a goal is a page. It is a page that visitors will only visit after completing a desired action. For example, the thank you page after submitting a form, or the receipt page after placing an order.
A goal conversion is a unique pageview for that page. Or, to put it another way, it is the number of visits that included the conversion page at some point.
You may also define a series of required steps before a conversion, like the checkout pages in a cart before the receipt page is reached. By defining these steps, Google Analytics can construct a funnel visualization report that you can use to see abandonment rates as well as entrance sources.
You can specify that the first step in a funnel is required, which will force the funnel visualization report to ignore visits that enter the funnel at a later step.
Google Analytics calculates three conversion rates around goals.
- Goal conversion rate
- Funnel conversion rate
- Overall goal conversion rate
The goal conversion rate is the number of unique pageviews for the conversion page divided by the number of visits to the site. This calculation is independent of any other goals or how the visitor got there.
This is an important distinction. If a visitor hits the conversion page without going through the funnel, a conversion will be reported. If two goals share the same conversion page, they will always have identical conversion rates, regardless of their funnels. If a visitor hits the conversion page more than once in a visit, only one conversion will be reported.
The funnel conversion rate is the number of visits that complete the funnel divided by the total number of visits that entered the funnel at any point. (Making the first step required would ignore visitors that start on step 2 or beyond in this calculation.)
The overall goal conversion rate is the sum of the goal conversion rate for goals 1 through 4. It’s a sum total, so it’s possible for this number to be greater than 100%. This is also misleading, so hopefully Google changes this in the future.
When to Use Goals
There are a number of ways to track important activities on a site. Goals are only one way to do it. They should be used when an event is important enough that you want to tie it back to specific traffic sources. If there are several similar goals (eg. several contact forms with different thank you pages), they can be consolidated into a single goal.
Goal funnels should only be used to track required steps in a process, not desired clickpaths through the site. Tracking each step in a checkout process is an ideal case, for example, because leaving the checkout process midstream represents some kind of failure. Reporting where visitors go from a landing page or how many visitors who visit the home page end up buying is not a good use of the goal funnels, because the starting points are so generic.
How to Create a Goal
Go to the profile edit screen to define a goal. Click edit next to any of the goal slots. You will be presented with the goal settings page.
Be sure to turn the goal on. It is off by default.
We recommend using the Regular Expression Match type every time. The Exact Match and Head Match are converted to regular expressions on the back-end, so using regular expressions in the UI give you complete visibility and control.
Enter the URL for the conversion page. If you are using regular expressions, verify that what you entered matches only what you intended by copying the regular expression into a content report search box.
Remember that if your regular expression matches conversion pages for other goals, a visit to that page will register as a conversion for both goals.
Enter a descriptive name for the goal. If you define a funnel, this name will also appear as the name of the conversion page in the funnel visualization report.
This is off by default. You only need to turn it on if two URLs by the same name but different cases exist on your site.
Assigning a dollar value to each conversion allows you to see more clearly what different traffic sources are worth. It will also populate the dollar index in your Content reports, giving you a feel for the relative influence of each page toward conversion.
A goal value is intended as an approximation. Say, for example, that for every ten contact form submissions, you know that on average one of them will make a $500 purchase. That would give each conversion a rough value of $50.
These are only necessary to define if you want to see a funnel visualization report showing abandonment rates. Each step should be defined as a regular expression as well. The conversion page is already defined. It should not be added as a goal step.
As mentioned above, the first step in a funnel can be specified as a required step. This only affects how the visualization report renders and the funnel conversion rate is calculated. It’s not usually necessary to select this option. No other steps in a funnel can be marked as required steps.
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