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The Secret to Make the Most Out of Google Analytics Goals

White Shark Media

9 years ago



There is a huge list of resources where you can find tricky explanations of what Goals in Google Analytics are and how you can set them up. However, none of them really guided me step by step through the process or explained it in simple words.

When goals are set in the right way, they provide you with insights regarding your website content performance and traffic.

It is essential that PPC advertisers learn how to create Goals before making any marketing decision so I will show you the easiest process and the most beneficial Goal types.

What is Life Without Goals?

If you have already identified what is more important to your business all you need to do is think of these “actions” as interactions on your website. These interactions can be tracked and measured, thus you should set some goals based on them.

Google Analytics offers many options when it comes to setting goals. So here are the four types of goals that you can set directly from Google Analytics in order of importance.

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1) Track Using the Destination Goal Type

It is the simplest goal to set but it is also the most important one. Start by naming the goal and enter the URL that you consider is the last step in completing your desired action.

Example: If is the page that loads after a visitor has completed a purchase on your website, you can set it as your goal and every time someone lands on this page it will count it as a conversion.

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When setting the Destination goal type you have up to 3 match type criteria to select from. These match types control what is exactly counted as a goal if it matches your criteria.

  1. Exact match: Requires that the URL entered matches on every character, without extra strings or question marks. Example: /thankyou.html will match
  2. Begins with: This will match the URL up to the last character but will include URLs with additional parameters at the end. Example: /thankyou.html will match
  3. Regular expression: Use special characters to build a regular expression that allows you to create a flexible match. Example: */thankyou.html will match

You can learn more about these expressions by reading this post:

2) Event Tracking: Track Virtually Anything

The reason why I love this goal type is that it is a versatile type of tracking since you can track virtually anything.

Set values for each component required in Google Analytics and a goal completion will be counted when all of the conditions you set are true in the Website. With Event Goals, you can track any interaction that doesn’t result in a new pageview such as clicks, mouse hovering, page loads, and even right clicks.

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The components that need to be described are Category, Action, Label, and Value:

Category: Name the object that you will be tracking, this could be a button or an image.

Action: Type of interaction, which can be a click.

Label: Is used to categorize and name the event

Value: Will add a monetary value to the event

After you have set the Event Goal details in Google Analytics you or your webmaster will have to install one last piece of code on the website to help Analytics track the data needed.

Are you not a coder? If you feel confident completing the setup all you need to do is fill out the form in the following link to get the code that you will be installing on the website with instructions of where and how to do it.

3) Track How Long People Stay on Your Website

This goal will track how many people stayed on your website for a specific amount of time. You only need to set the specific length of time that you want to track and the Analytics will count whenever a visitor reaches this threshold.

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You can set this goal in hours, minutes, and seconds. For example, the great use of this goal is to track how many visitors stayed long enough to watch the entire video playing on your homepage.

4) Track Pages or Screens Per Session

By using this goal you can set a number of pages or sessions that you want to track and whenever a visitor arrives more than this number of pages or views (or screens in a mobile app) they will count as conversions.

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Who Says you Can’t Have More Than One Goal?

Besides the 4 basic goal-setting options there are so many other different ways to track conversions by combining these goals:

Virtual Pageviews with Event Tracking

If you want to track a click to an object that will lead you to an external link, as a pageview or as an event, you can track it by setting a virtual pageview or an event goal.

A virtual pageview is a pageview that Google Analytics can track when no new web page has been loaded to the browser. How do you Generate One? Follow the syntax to track page views in Analytics which is ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, ‘name of your virtual page’);

So when someone clicks on Visit our YouTube Channel, Analytics will generate a virtual pageview for “/virtual/youtube-channel-visit”.

Virtual Pageviews with Destination Goals

Create a destination goal type to track visits to this virtual landing page and import this as a conversion to Google Analytics.

Track External Links with Event Goal Types

As I mentioned above, Event goals can track almost anything, including clicks to links to external pages. You can track these clicks as events by creating the Event goal in Google Analytics and install the tag on the link to track each click.

There are also different settings in Google Analytics that can help you understand your data and those are exclusions. Just like in Google AdWords you can set exclusion on your account:

Exclude Search Terms

By excluding search terms, you will prevent any traffic generated from these terms to be included in your search traffic report. Follow the steps below and take a look at the video for directions.

1) Click Admin

2) Click Tracking Info

3) Click on the Search Term Exclusion List tab

4) Click +Add Search Term

5) Enter a word, phrase, or string as a Search Term

6) Click Create to save

Add or Remove Referral Traffic Sources

By excluding Referral Traffic Sources, you limit your reports to show traffic only from wanted sources. The instructions and video below provide a guide on how to remove Referral Traffic Sources.

1) Click Admin

2) Click on Tracking Info

3) Select Referral Exclusion List

4) Enter the Domain

5) Click Apply to save

Make Sure You Follow the Basics

Before you start working with the data provided by the goals set in Google Analytics please make sure to follow the basics.

  • Check if the Google Analytics script has been installed properly on the desired website. You can do this by using the Tag Assistant Chrome Extension, which you can download for free.
  • Make sure that you have linked Adwords to Google Analytics. Here are some instructions on how to complete this step, and import the goals as conversions in your Google Adwords account.
  • If you are managing an E-commerce site please turn this feature on in Google Analytics. Just click Admin, Ecommerce Settings, and Enable E-commerce.
  • Last but not least, always verify your goals by using the Real-Time report. Visit the destination URL that is being tracked or click on the button where you have set your event tracking and see how these goals are tracked as conversions in the Real-Time report to confirm they have been set the right way.

Set your Google Analytics Account for Success

Now that you know how important it is to create Goals of any type in Google Analytics, the decision to start creating them will be a lot easier.

Select the goal type that will help you accomplish your campaign objectives or use a combination of different Goals available. And remember that Goals will track virtually any action on the site so there is no limit to your plans.