How to Set Up Goals in Google Analytics

The most powerful thing you can do to evaluate your website, outside of setting up the Google Analytics tracking code, is configuring goals in Google Analytics. The out-the-box statistics that come with Google Analytics don’t do a great job of tying in site performance with business performance. There are simply too many variables mixed in there.

Setting up goals separates the wheat from the chaff, the great traffic from the garbage, and unleashes your Google Analytics to really show you which marketing endeavors are working and which should probably be scrapped.

Think like the customer

Before you even log in to Google Analytics, you need to look at your website through the eyes of a potential customer. I’ve found the best way to do this is to create a scenario and ask a few people to run through the site. I try to be specific with background details, but not with how-to instructions, or the next steps to take to accomplish the assigned task. This forces my tester to think about their next steps and might show me where I’m not providing what they need.

An example scenario might be: “You’re a purchasing officer with Exxon, and you need to find WHMIS training for 30 new employees, as well as ongoing training for your existing workforce as WHMIS certificates come up for renewal. Take a look at this website.” You should be looking for clues as to when that prospect is ready to enter the next stage of a relationship with your business. This can include looking for a phone number or address, filling out a form so they can be contacted back, or downloading a datasheet about a complex product that you sell.

Keep in mind that you’re not able to measure all the leads coming out of your website. You don’t want to force everyone to use a website form if most people in your industry use a phone. The idea here is not to measure every single lead, but to measure the ones that make sense and not make your website difficult to use.

You should come out of this step with webpages that are good indicators of success if a customer views them, or parts of code (like website forms) that visitors have to fill out.

Work out the value

Most people don’t realize this, but you can get a ballpark figure on lead value fairly easily. First, work out your average customer lifetime value. I know, I know, your products and services span a wide range of prices. If you can’t ballpark it, crack open your CRM and calculate the average customer lifetime value. Barring that, at least get an average first sale value. Now, go ask a few of your salespeople how many leads they need to close a sale, or use your CRM to calculate it. Take your lifetime value or average first sale and divide it by the number of leads it takes to get there. Boom! You’ve got a lead value. If you want to get really fancy, use profit instead of revenue so that you can directly compare cost vs profit in your marketing funnel.

Plug it into Google Analytics

This part is actually pretty easy. After logging in to Google Analytics, hit the Admin button in the top right, then choose the Goals heading. Give your goal a name (nothing too long, otherwise it might be cut off in later reports) and choose the Goal Type. For beginners, I recommend using the URL Destination. For advanced users or for people who can code, Events can be a bit more precise and won’t inflate your total pageview count, though it will still influence bouncerate. The goal I have below is what you might setup if your Contact Us form sent visitors to a Thank You page after they filled it out.

Tracking other stuff

Rapid fire style, here’s how you configure other goals:

  • PDF downloads: Either use a built-in plugin like Google Analyticator, or attach event tracking or virtual pageview code so that when visitors click on the pdf, it also tracks it in Analytics.
  • Clicks to a separate website: Same as above.
  • Form fills, or form steps: You’re going to want to go to custom event tracking here. Google has some pretty straightforward documentation on the subject.
  • eCommerce: eCommerce tracking is its own ball of wax. Make sure your eCommerce engine supports Google Analytics by default before going with it, because hacking eCommerce engines to add in Analytics tracking can be more trouble than it’s worth.

Google Analytics can give you powerful insight into the performance to your website, but it takes a little know-how to get the most out of this online tool.  Remember, if you can track and measure results, you can find ways to improve them!

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4 thoughts on “How to Set Up Goals in Google Analytics

  1. Hi Adriel, thanks for the info but I have 1 question for you. How can I track my pdf file which I have shared on my site page under 1 specific button. PDF file has an URL but how to track that file while setting goal.

    1. Are you triggering events or virtual pageviews off the download yet? The URL the pdf is on (if it’s just the pdf) won’t have the analytics tracking code and won’t show up in Analytics by default. Analyticator if you’re on WordPress, otherwise you’ll have to insert event tracking code manually. The link off that pdf section has info on tracking PDF downloads manually.

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