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A Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Goals in Google Analytics

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A Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Goals in Google Analytics

Conversion Goals in Google Analytics

There’s a reason that when companies call me about SEO, Paid Search, or Social Advertising, we always end up speaking about Analytics as well.  The reason is simple.  If you don’t have a rounded analytics strategy, then you won’t have a solid understanding of how your campaigns perform.  In addition, if you don’t have the mechanisms in place to easily see how visitor segments perform, then important questions could go unanswered.  And that’s not good for enhancing your business.

Enter the Conversion Goal

Concepts in Web Analytics can get confusing.  You have event tracking, conversion goals, success events, multi-channel funnels, profiles, filters, dimensions, regular expressions, etc.  This is one of the reasons that too many companies slap a tracking code on their websites and call it a day.  The problem is that an “out of the box” Google Analytics implementation will only get you so far.  Sure, you’ll get the basics, but that won’t necessarily help you glean insights that can boost ROI.

But I’m not here today to throw advanced concepts at you.  My goal (no pun intended) is to explain more about conversion goals in Google Analytics, which you can implement today.  And after implementing a rounded set of goals, you can start to quickly analyze sources of traffic to identify both high and low performers.  A rounded set of conversion goals can go a long way.  You can view performance across a number of reports, and that data can provide enough insight to make important changes.  Changes that can help you succeed.

Lesson 1: Which Actions can be Conversion Goals?

When most people hear “conversion”, they think revenue.  I get it, revenue is absolutely important, and tracking macro-conversions like a sale is the most important thing you can do analytics-wise.  That said, macro-conversions are not the only goals you should be tracking.  That won’t enable you to see the full picture.  Using an ecommerce site as an example, you might have several other success events, including:

  • Email marketing subscriptions
  • Contact form completions
  • Clicks to social accounts (like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest)
  • Engagement goals like time on site or pages per visit
  • Events like watching product videos
  • Downloads like product specs or product guides
  • Clicks to trigger live chat with your customer service reps

So, beyond the macro-conversion of a sale, there are several other goals that should be tracked.  But guess what?  Most companies are not tracking those additional goals.  When they analyze their traffic sources and campaigns, they simply see revenue.  That’s unfortunate, because several of the other goals contribute to revenue.  For example, email marketing is the top driver of revenue for some of my ecommerce clients.  Any traffic source or campaign that drives more email subscriptions is darn valuable to my clients.  If I didn’t analyze that conversion goal, then I could very easily discount traffic sources that were actually driving revenue, but just not directly.  That’s the danger of having a limited analytics strategy in place.

Quick Tip: You can have up to 20 goals per profile in Google Analytics (4 goal sets, and 5 goals per set).

Lesson 2: Conversion Goal Types

When adding a conversion goal in Google Analytics, you can choose one of four goal types.  I’ll quickly cover those types below so you can start to think about your own website, and how you will start to track your own success events.

Conversion Goal Types in Google Analytics

1. URL Destination

If a user visits a certain page on your website after completing an action, then you can use that URL as a conversion goal.  The classic example is the purchase confirmation screen in an ecommerce sale.  It could also be the “thank you” screen after someone submits a form.

2. Visit Duration

This is an engagement goal type that lets you trigger a conversion when a user stays on the site for a certain period of time (or less than a certain period of time).

3. Pages Per Visit

Another engagement goal type that lets you trigger a conversion when a user visits a certain number of pages.  It can be set to greater than, equal to, or less than a number of pages, based on what you are trying to track.

4. Event

This is one of my favorite aspects of Google Analytics v5.  Event tracking is a powerful way to identify specific actions on your site.  These actions could include downloads, video views, clicks on specific links, button clicks, etc.  It’s an extremely versatile piece of functionality that I use on a regular basis when tracking actions on a site.  And, Google Analytics enables you to use events as conversion goals.  That’s awesome and opens up a world of opportunity for tracking conversion.

Try it now: Right now, visit your website and jot down all of the important actions visitors can perform.  Then review the conversion goal types listed above and slot those actions under each category that fits.  This will be the basis for your analytics plan.  You will implement these goals after reading my post.  🙂

Lesson 3: How Can Conversion Goals Improve Your Analysis?

In its most basic form, you can view conversion by traffic source by clicking the Goal Set Tabs at the top of your reporting (see screenshot below).  You can see a top-level view of all traffic sources by conversion goals, and then you can drill into each source to view more granular details.

Goal Set Tabs in Google Analytics

For example, drilling into the Organic Search reports, you can view conversion by keyword, by landing page from organic search, by search engine, etc.  If you drill into the referring sites report, you can view conversion by website and referring URL.  You can drill into campaign traffic to view conversion by ad content, keyword, or destination URL.  You get the picture.  This alone can provide huge amounts of value.  But that’s not all you can see…

Analyzing Conversion Data by Traffic Source

Although viewing conversion by traffic source is incredibly valuable, it only scratches the surface of what you can see once goals are set up.  I’ve included a list below of some other reports you can view conversion goals within.  For example, mobile traffic, location, new vs. returning visitors, etc.  Check out the list below.

Beyond traffic sources and campaigns, here are some additional reports you can view conversion within:

  • Location
  • Language
  • New vs. Returning Visitors
  • Browser and OS
  • Mobile Devices
  • Landing Pages
  • Site Search Usage

As you can see, once conversion goals are set up, you can start to view conversion data across many reports.  Understanding how various visitor segments are performing (across a rounded set of conversion goals) can be extremely powerful.  Compare this process to simply browsing site usage data and trying to determine what’s working for you…

Ready to Move?

I hope you’re ready to hit Google Analytics and set up some conversion goals.  But before you do, I wanted to provide a quick list of important points to consider.  Keep this list in mind while developing your analytics strategy:

  • Create a new profile when you are ready to add conversion goals. This will enable you to keep your original data as-is.  There’s no harm in adding more profiles for the website at-hand.
  • Filter internal traffic for your new profile, so employee traffic doesn’t impact conversion data.
  • Each conversion goal can only be triggered once per user session.  It makes sense, since you don’t want one person to skew your conversion data by reaching a single goal multiple times in a visit.  If you need to know the exact count, then use event tracking.
  • Add annotations to your reporting whenever you make changes.  I can’t tell you how many times those little notes helped me while analyzing traffic.  And that’s especially the case when you are comparing time periods.
  • Ensure you are tagging all campaigns accurately (paid search, social advertising, email marketing, etc.)  This will enable you to easily identify campaign traffic, versus having that traffic get mixed into other buckets.  You can use URL builder to help you tag campaign URL’s.

The Power of Goals

I hope this introduction to conversion goals explained the importance of developing a rounded analytics strategy.  By mapping out a number of conversion goals, based on your own website and business, you can easily view performance data across visitor segments.  And again, you can start today.  Don’t hesitate, gather your team, map out your conversion goals, implement them quickly, and start gleaning insights.  Stronger ROI awaits.

Featured Image: Image by photonphoto via Depositphotos


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Glenn Gabe

Featured SEO Writer for SEJ   Glenn Gabe is a digital marketing consultant at G-Squared Interactive and focuses heavily on ... [Read full bio]

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