February 25, 2010

Setting Goals for Google Analytics


Hostway Team

By Melissa J. Luther

In the competitive world of the Internet, it’s not enough to just have a Web site, your site should be working for you. How can you know if your site is working for you? Set up goals for Google Analytics (GA) to track.

What Is a Goal?

A goal is any action you want a visitor to take on your Web site.

Don’t limit yourself to one goal. Most Web sites should have multiple goals for different types of visitors. One goal might be signing up for a newsletter. Another might be downloading product or service information. For ecommerce sites, completing a purchase is definitely a goal.

Defining Goals

In most cases, from an analytics viewpoint, a goal is simply a pageview. When a visitor views the page you have specified, GA counts it as a completed goal. Thus, goals tend to be the thank you pages that appear after a visitor completes your desired action.

Google Analytics also allows you to define time on site or pages/visit as goals, but this discussion will cover pageviews only.

Setting Goals within GA

Google Analytics allows you to define up to four goal sets with five goals per set.

  • From your analytics Setting page, select “Edit” next to the appropriate Web site profile.
  • Next to the first empty goal set, select “Add goal.”
  • Define your goal:
    • Name it to help you identify it in conversion reports.
    • Turn it on or off. “On” is selected by default, but you may turn it off if you are not yet ready to begin tracking it.
    • “Goal Position” tells GA how to group this goal. You cannot select a position that is already filled.
    • Select URL Destination as your goal type.
  • Complete the URL details:
    • Match type and Goal URL: Unless your site uses dynamically generated content, choose “Exact Match,” and omit the domain name in the Goal URL. For example, for www.domain.com/newsletter/thankyou.html, enter “/newsletter/thankyou.html.” If you do use dynamically generated content, select Head Match, and enter the URL, including domain name, up to the start of the variable portion.
    • Case Sensitive: If you check this, then pages with the same name but different capitalization of the words will not be tracked as part of this goal.
    • Goal Value: This is optional, but if you want GA to calculate $index, it needs a value here.
  • Create a funnel for your goal.
    This step is also optional, but can be useful if you want to count a goal only if a visitor arrived there after visiting some other specific page. You can enter that page as the first step in the funnel and select “Required step.” Then any visits to the goal page that do not include the required page will not count as a completed goal.
  • Save your goal, and you’ve just given yourself a simple way to gain valuable insight into whether or not your visitors are taking action on your Web site.

About the Author

Melissa J. Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong online presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an online presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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