In our third (and final) Google Analytics article digital marketing agony aunt Jodie Beardmore talks you through how you can use goal tracking to see what your users are really doing on your sites and web-apps.
Note: This article covers Universal Analytics. We’ll be covering the newly-released Google Analytics 4 in the New Year.
If you’ve followed us this far on our Google Analytics odyssey then you’ll already know how to see what your users are up to on your site. But the real value of Google Analytics is something we’ve only just started to delve into. This week we’ll be covering one of the most important parts of the platform – goal and conversion tracking.
If you haven’t read through our previous articles about Google Analytics or you need a refresh, you can read about setting up Google Analytics here and about how to make sense of the platform here.
Goals and conversions
Goals are a set of rules that define an action that you want to track on your platform. It could be as simple as a user adding something to their basket or when someone signs up for a newsletter. On the other hand, conversions are when a user completes one of these goals on your platform.
Goals and conversions together are a way of tracking what users do on your platform. However, the real power behind this isn’t about whether or not a user buys a product (which you already know) or if a user does anything else that you want them to.
The real value is being able to see how they arrived at the conversion – what platform did they come from, what marketing campaign led them here, who they are, and where they are from – all valuable information when it comes to determining who your customers are and how to most effectively promote your online offering.
Before we get started you’ll need to set up your own Google Analytics account. If you don’t know how to do this then you should check out our first article of the series which will explain how exactly to set this up.
Setting up your goals
Once you’ve got access to the test account you will need to go to the panel to the left-hand side of the dashboard and select Admin – View – Goals.
Creating a goal
To create a goal click on the “new goal” button.
You will now see a screen that gives you a choice of templates. You can choose a template that best suits what it is you’re wanting to track or set up a custom goal if there isn’t an appropriate option.
In the first instance choose “custom” and we will review the process of setting up your goal. If you do choose from a template then some parts of the latest steps will be pre-filled, but you will still need to review this information before proceeding.
Once you’ve selected the goal template (or selected custom) you will need to give your goal a name. I’ve named the goal ‘Contact us’ as (for the purposes of this demo) I’m wanting to track how many of my users make enquiries through the Contact us form.
You will also see a list of the types of goals you can track. These are organized by
- destination – where a user ends up on your application.
- duration – how long a user spends on your application.
- pages/screens per session – the number of pages or screens a user accesses on your application.
- events – triggered with custom code.
Depending on which of these you choose you will be asked to enter some more information in the next section.
Whatever type of goal you are tracking you will have the option of defining a value. This assigns a monetary value to the goal. It’s a great way of tracking the real value of conversions.
The value you enter here is up to you. Not all conversions can easily be assigned a value, so unless you have a clever business analyst at your disposal to tell you exactly how much that article share goal might be worth to you in pounds and pence, you might prefer to leave this field blank.
Types of goals
Destination goals allow you to track when a user arrives on a specific page of the site or application. This could (for instance) be used to track when someone completes an enquiry form and lands on a thank you page. It could also be used to track a purchase or a newsletter sign up in a similar way.
For a destination goal to work your form must redirect to a separate thank you page after completion as destination goals will not work if a ‘thank you’ message pops up and the form page and the user stays on the same page.
In the goal details section, you can now include the URL for the destination page. This should not include the base website domain but everything that appears afterward (e.g. /form/thank-you).
Select “Equals to” if this is the exact URL where users will land. In this instance we’ll select “Begins with” which means that the URL will match with anything that begins with /form/thank-you (so /form/thank-you?success=1 or /form/thank-you/test would also be a match).
Destination goals also allow you to define an optional “funnel” – the pages a user must visit before they arrive at the destination. For instance, if you want to track a registration goal you might also want the user to have been on the registration page first and then arrive on the thank you page. This means that if someone opens the thank you page directly this would not be tracked as a conversion.
You can use duration goals to track engagement with your website based on the amount of time spent on the site.
Tracking the duration goal is a great way to segment users who are spending time on and engaging with your platform and is ideal for content websites or websites focussed on user engagement.
Once you know which users are engaging with your platform you can find out more about them and look into what kind of demographic this audience group is, what pages are they interacting with, and which they are spending the most time on.
The duration goal also allows you to see which users are not spending enough time on your site and from here you can determine why. Consider the experience you’re giving your users, is your site easy to navigate, are there any errors on your website? Is the content you’re creating engaging enough?
To create this goal just enter the amount of time you want users to spend on the site before they have converted.
Pages/Screens per session
Similar to duration goals you can also track engagement through the number of pages your users’ visits. This allows you to set the minimum amount of pages the user must access during their session.
Once again this is a great way to determine the types of users that are interacting with your website as well as which of your pages are gaining the most traction.
Events are triggered on your website or platform by custom code or by plugins you may have included. They are useful for tracking when a user conducts a specific action on your website (e.g they download a PDF or watched a video).
If you want to track more complicated events you should check with your development team. You could also get in touch with us and we’ll get one of our digital team on hand to help you set these up.
Verifying your goals
One useful tool that Google Analytics provides you with is the ability to verify your goal. Click on the “verify event” link to see if any user activity in the last seven days has met the goal you defined. This can help you determine if the goal you have defined is actually working.
Save your goal
Lastly, click on “Save” to save and create your goal.
Updating your goals
Once you’ve created your goals you will see them in the goal list. If you ever want to update any of the settings you can do so by clicking on the name of the goal and then opening the section you want to edit by clicking it.
Once you’ve updated the goal settings click on ‘done” to save the changes.
You can view all of your successfully completed goals in the Conversions – Goals tab found in the dashboard to the left-hand side. Here you can see which of your marketing campaigns have brought in the most customers, compare the performance of your goals over a set period of time and even discover which of your goals were abandoned at the last minute. It could be that an order was added to the cart but not completed at checkout. Here you can find out why that might have happened, was there an error on your site or did they leave at a certain step in the checkout process?
All of these goals are incredibly useful to your business. Once you find out what is and isn’t working you can adjust accordingly, saving any unnecessary costs within your marketing budget where you might have otherwise spent money on a campaign that wasn’t quite hitting the mark.
You can compare the performance of your goals over a set period of time which you can adjust in the date range column to the right-hand side. In this example, I’ve compared the month of August 2020 with December 2020.
In the overview tab to the left of the panel you can navigate through your various completed goals, and you can also view how many of those goals were not completed.
If you scroll further down the dashboard you can find out where your goals were completed on your site as well as the sources that they came from whether they be organic, direct, referral, social, display, or paid. Here you can discover the most effective ways to market your site, if you’re running a digital marketing campaign on social media for example but not seeing results you may need to adjust the campaign and/or compare your results to any other paid advertising you’re using. Perhaps display ads on another website are more of an effective way to pull in traffic for you. You can find out more information about sources in the Acquisition panel which you can read about in my previous article https://www.fablr.co.uk/journal/google-analytics-101-delving-into-your-data/
This breakdown introduces some of the most important goals you can track within Google Analytics. Utilizing these tools you can find out more about your customers’ demographics, their behavior on your website, and which pages they’re interacting with the most in a manageable way which is really useful to your business strategy.
If there are any other goals you’d like to learn more about feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can always arrange a time for a cup of tea to see how we can help you to use Google Analytics to meet your business goals.