What Are Smart Goals? Google Analytics and AdWords

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What Are Smart Goals? Google Analytics and AdWords

Google has recently launched smart goals which means you can now majorly growth hack AdWords campaigns. Smart Goals are set up in Google Analytics and they are the next generation of the regular goals we set up.

Here is a brief overview of Smart Goals, how to set them up, when they are most useful, how to easily integrate them with AdWords, and, of course, how to use them to your advantage.

What are Smart Goals?

Some people authorize Google Analytics to anonymously collect data. Google has used the data from thousands of customers to identify user patterns. Smart Goals are the successful completion of a milestone that Google automatically comes up with, determined by the data they collect. It works basically like an automatic creation of a buying persona.

Google automatically knows when a user is likely to be high quality traffic because it has detected patterns that are characteristic of high quality traffic. Parameters that Google considers include, but are not limited to, time on site, the behavior on the site, and the likelihood to convert.

How Smart Goals Work

Smart Goals are not set up, but merely activated, in Google Analytics. There is only one Smart Goal for the entire website. Google decides, based on parameters it does not share with clients, what to count as successful completion of a smart goal. You will see a number of successfully reached goals just like you would see for regular goals.

Google also differentiates smart goals from regular goals and gives you a direct comparison.

Here is an example of what Smart Goals look like in Google Analytics:

Smart Goals: Google Analytics and AdWords | SEJ

We just activated Smart Goals for this client two days ago, so there isn’t a whole lot of data yet, but it’s enough to get a first impression. The last row is smart goals, in the row above no smart goals were achieved, and the row above that shows data from before smart goals were in place. Smart goals have a conversion rate of over 35 percent—which is great.

Smart goals basically tell you how many high quality visits you recieved and how they perform sales-wise if you are tracking sales. It also shows those metrics for each traffic source. So if you got eight million visits from Facebook and 800,000 of those achieved smart goals, you’ll see that in Analytics.

Growth Hack AdWords With Smart Goals

The real Smart Goal hack is to use them not only for Google Analytics but also for AdWords.

Who Smart Goals are most useful for in AdWords:

  • Businesses with long sales funnels
  • People who do not track conversions
  • People who track just one type of conversion (e.g. sales)
  • People who do not track enough conversions (e.g. new accounts, new campaigns, low budget campaigns)

AdWords offers automatic CPA bidding that optimizes for conversions.

Usually, CPA bidding relies on historical data which is why it works so well for campaigns that have tracked a good amount of quality conversions for a while. In return, regular CPA bidding with optimization for conversions doesn’t work well for campaigns that don’t have historical conversion data.

If you link your AdWords and Analytics accounts and import the smart goal into AdWords, the conversion optimization relies on the data that Google has collected from thousands of websites. Plus, it provides you with smart goal stats.

In other words, you can start CPA bidding and have it optimize automatically for the conversion type “smart goals”. This way, Google relies on the data they have collected from thousands of accounts in your industry instead of non-existing, low quality, or not enough conversion data from your campaign. This is genius!

How to Set up Smart Goals

Step 1: Activating Smart Goals in Analytics

All you have to do is to log in to Analytics and go in the admin section. Click on “goals” and then select “smart goals”:

Smart Goals: Google Analytics and AdWords | SEJ

If you do not want to import Smart Goals in AdWords, you are good to go!

If you want to use Smart Goals for AdWords, follow Step 2 below.

Step 2: Linking AdWords and Analytics, Importing Goals

Once you create a smart goal, you need to link Google Analytics and Google AdWords if they aren’t linked yet. You can do this directly in the “property” tab of the admin section of Google Analytics:

Smart Goals: Google Analytics and AdWords | SEJ

This is going to enable an important function in Google AdWords: Tracking all or some of your goals as conversions directly in the Google AdWords interface. This means that you can set up a CPA bidding strategy with the achievement of a smart goal as an actual conversion.

Smart Goals: Google Analytics and AdWords | SEJ

Google will basically optimize your traffic automatically based on the data they have collected and show you metrics of how your campaigns perform in relation to smart goals.


This post originally appeared on International PPC, and is re-published with permission.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Ingvar Bjork/Shutterstock.com
All screenshots by Rocco Baldassarre. Taken January 2016.

Rocco Baldassarre
Rocco Baldassarre is a digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur. He is best known for being the founder of the award winning digital marketing agency Zebra... Read Full Bio
Rocco Baldassarre
Rocco Baldassarre
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  • Siri Innovations

    Thank you for sharing this post by this the website results will increase and traffic will high.

  • Gayle

    I spoke with Google about these the other day and at the moment, there is the risk that some data will be duplicated and therefore skewed slightly. I set them up for one of our business but based on the information given to me by Google, I disabled them. It may be worth checking if it is the best option on a case by case basis if unsure. Great article, thank you!