Perfecting Your Goals in Google Analytics

How to Perfect Your Google Analytics Goals

There are quite a few tracking features in Google Analytics for which you have to do a bit more than just implement the UA-code on your pages. One of those features is the ‘goal’. The goal is a feature in which you can track one of the following things:

  • how many people reach a designated page,
  • how many people stay on your site for a minimum amount of time,
  • how many people have viewed a minimum of pages on your website,
  • how many people have triggered an event (such as watching a video).

We’ve noticed that people are often having trouble setting up these goals in Google Analytics. Not only are they getting stuck on how to set them up, but also on which goals to set up. Especially the latter really requires some thought. I’ll try and take you through that thought process in this post, which is also what we do with our new service of setting up your Google Analytics goals.

Why Should I Make Goals?

Goals give you an enormous amount of extra and valuable information. With goals you can track if people are doing on your website what you want them to do. There are always multiple things that people could do that would benefit you, so tracking how many people are doing that is invaluable.
However, that’s not all. When you set up goals, you have the option to set up multiple steps, if you turn the option ‘Funnel’ on:

Perfecting Your Goals in Google Analytics

Use the Funnel Option

A funnel is basically the process people go through to buy one of your products, or to sign up for your newsletter. You can set up as many steps as you want, but I think the only reason to add a step is when it’s required. If a step is not required, it’s not part of your funnel, because people can also come from other pages. People will have to have viewed your page on a specific product, before they can actually add that to the cart and buy it.

But the best thing is yet to come! When you’ve set up a goal with a funnel, you can actually see how that goal is doing in the ‘Funnel Visualization’. This is a very graphic and easy to understand view of what’s happening with your goal:

Perfecting Your Goals in Google Analytics

As you can see, it shows how many people entered every step, how many people went through to the next step, and how many people dropped off on every step. This makes it very clear where in your funnel things could be improved. And it shows you the percentages and the overall funnel conversion rate. How’s that for useful?

Imagine This

If you have a webshop, you usually have a lot of products. When this amount keeps growing, it’ll be hard to keep track of how each product is doing regarding sales. Setting up your goals with funnels as I’ve shown above, will give you insight in how your products are doing, as well as showing you how the related pages are doing.

You’ll be able to see if your product page is actually getting people to add that product to their cart. And when people have added the product to their cart, you’ll be able to see how many of them actually bought the product in the end. And you can see all that in the Funnel Visualization.

How do I Make Goals?

You can create goals in the ‘Admin’ section of your Google Analytics. The Admin tab is found in the top right when you’re logged in to Google Analytics. Make sure you have the right account and view selected. When you’ve clicked admin, there will be three “columns”, of which the most right will look like this:

Perfecting Your Goals in Google Analytics

You can click goals where I’ve highlighted it. When you haven’t created any goals yet, you’ll see this:

Perfecting Your Goals in Google Analytics

As you can see, you have a default of 20 goals. To get any more, you need to pay, unfortunately. Click create a goal will give you this screen:

Perfecting Your Goals in Google Analytics

Making a goal using ‘Destination’ allows you to make a goal for people always ending up on a certain page. For instance, if you have a contact form, and your contact form has a confirmation page, you can track everyone who’s entered your confirmation page.

‘Duration’ allows you to track everyone who’s spent more than the minimum amount of time you set on your website.

‘Pages/Screens per visit’ does the same thing as ‘Duration’, just with pageviews. When people hit a threshold of a minimum amount of pageviews you’ve set, they’ll count as a goal completion.

The ‘Event’ goal is the hardest. This requires actual coding, as events need to have been set up first. However, they’re pretty powerful if you’ve set them up. This way you can track how many times a video on your website was played, for instance.

Regular Expression Goals

When you’re creating ‘Destination’ goals, you’ll find you have these options:

Perfecting Your Goals in Google Analytics

The ‘Equals to’ is simply that. The URL people visit has to exactly match the URL you put in there. So if you have any campaign variables, or a subpage, it won’t be counted towards the goal.

The ‘Begins with’ is exactly the opposite: everything beginning with the URL you entered will be counted toward your created goal.

The hardest on there, however, is the ‘Regular expression’ goal. At the same time, this is the most powerful and precise option of the three. Regular expression, or regex, is a sequence of patterns that, if you know how to use them, can be very specific in its targeting.

Lets say you have a webshop with over 20 products, so you can’t fit them all in your free Google Analytics account. What you could do is create a goal for every brand you’re selling, using regex goals. Your destination goal will simply be the confirmation page after your checkout. And, if the brand you were wanting to track was Yoast, you could add a regex line like this:

Thijs de Valk

Thijs de Valk

Thijs de Valk is a behavioural scientist, with a Master's degree in Pedagogical Sciences. He's turned geek to work at Yoast. He fills his days with customer support, website and conversion reviews.
Thijs de Valk

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One thought on “How to Perfect Your Google Analytics Goals

  1. This is a great post, Thijs!

    Many people are confuse on how they can set up their goals, identify what metrics to measure, and how they can observe traffic to their website. In fact, it’s very easy to set up a goal, as well as observing traffic sources and identifying what we can do about it to increase inbound traffic. Good thing, it was defined clearly in this post making the process easier to understand.