Google Analytics Goals – they need not cause you to “GAG”

Forgive the play on words in the title, but for some webmasters, anything beyond reading basic statistics from Google Analytics causes an adverse physical reaction, so the title may just be appropriate. Never fear, setting goals in Google Analytics need not cause any gagging; in fact, it is one of the most useful features of Analytics, and can be an invaluable part of your analysis. Setting goals allows you to view the frequency with which visitors perform various tasks/visit various pages, etc. on your site, and gives you a unique visual representation of that when you use funnels, for example.

Failing to set goals is setting a goal to fail

Without establishing goals on Google Analytics, you only see half the picture. You may be able to tell how many people visited the page at which they could download your latest whitepaper, but you do not know how many downloaded it. You may be able to tell how many people clicked the checkout button to go pay for whatever they put in their cart, but you have no idea where in the progression they stopped the checkout process, and whether that is indicative of a problem with the website you need to address. Goals with Google Analytics allow you to track all this and more … the question becomes not whether you should set goals, but what kinds of goals you should set.

What kinds of goals should you set?

Ultimately, the nature of the site you are managing will dictate the types of goals you want to have. M Street manages the goal conversions of over 30 of its clients, which represent a cross section of businesses and non-profits. Naturally, each has different goals (pun intended).

Depends on the Site

For one of our clients, a jewelry store, we track every time someone clicks the “enlarged view” of a piece of jewelry, as well as every time someone goes to the “checkout” from their online shopping cart using the “destination” tracking feature of the goal conversions menu.

For another client, one of the largest travel bureaus in the area, M Street tracks how often people add events from the calendar to their “travel planner”, as well as the number of visitors who spend a certain amount of time and view a certain number of pages on the site. You will have to determine where potential profitable conversions are for your site, but note that Google Analytics allows you to track pages/visit (greater than, equal to, or less than a defined value), duration (greater than a defined value), destination (how many times someone gets to a certain page) with optional funnels (the route someone uses to get there), and events (the number of times visitors view a video, click a link, download a document, etc.).

Some valuable advice

Beyond just the reporting of how many people did x, y, or z on your site, Analytics allows you to set a “conversion value”, meaning what it is worth every time someone does x, y, or z. If you were purchasing a product (known as “macroconversions”), for example, that is rather easy to calculate – if it was a $40.00 product, than it is worth $40.00 every time someone gets to the “thank you for buying this $40.00 product” page. What is harder to quantify is the value in someone downloading your brochure, or your whitepaper, or your flyer, or whatever else you may have on your site (collectively known as “microconversions”). Avinash Kaushik has some solid tips on how to calculate the value of microconversions; suffice it to say, they are a little more complicated. The raw data is far more important than the value you assign to each microconversion.

The bottom line

Goals and conversions in Google Analytics offer a unique glimpse into the hows and whys of you website traffic, not just the whats. When used intelligently, they can indicate problems that need fixing in terms of your site’s navigability, they can indicate exactly how useful/valuable some tools are (or are not), and much more. If you have not yet set up goals for your site, for what exactly are you waiting?

About M Street

M Street is a web development company in Lancaster, PA, that has built and presently manages dozens of websites for entities ranging from small businesses to nationally renowned advocacy groups. Let them build a strategy for you today.