How to add goals in Google Analytics


Gary Moore


Analytics and Data Science

Setting up goals in Google Analytics makes it easier for businesses to track their website performance; this could be by measuring a user’s session duration, brochure downloads a unique event or tracking a destination URL. Monitoring how users engage with your website is critical to gaining actionable insight into your customer’s online behaviour.

Most importantly, the set up of goals will inform marketing how well a site is performing against certain business KPIs. Actively monitoring these goals allows for opportunity to refine their approach to improve overall conversion rates throughout the conversion funnel.

What are goals in Google Analytics?

A goal in Google Analytics records an interaction predetermined by the business as either a micro conversion (e.g. business KPIs such as session duration or pages per session) or macro conversion (e.g. form submissions or ecommerce transactions); by defining a goal, Google Analytics will record any user that satisfies the goal criteria once per session. It’s important to note that if the same criteria is fulfilled in one user’s session more than once, only the first match will be recorded as a goal. In scenarios where you want to track all user engagement or interactions in a session, you would need to consider event tracking to gain full visibility, although that’s outside the scope of this article.

For example with the help of a developer or marketer, you could create a number of individual events that track interactions with product images e.g.

  • Create an event to track individual image clicks – for individual product image click visibility
  • Create a second event to track all images clicked for a single product – user actively engaging with product
  • Create a third event to track 3 or more products where all images have been clicked – user highly engaged with products.

Events two and three could be used to create session based product engagement goals that would provide insight into those users that are actively taking interest in the product offering, potentially allowing for the creation of new audiences to target via a paid campaign.

Which goals are available in Google Analytics?

There are a number of template goal types available in GA, allowing businesses to set different goals depending on what they would like to track on their site. This section will discuss the different goals that are available, and when you should use them.

Destination goals

A destination goal is triggered when a user reaches a page that is only accessible by performing a certain action – for example, a thank you page on form submission or an ecommerce site. Any page can be set as a destination goal, so businesses can use it to record a specific page view as a goal dependant on use case.

Event goals

Unlike destination goals which simply track a page visit, event goals can track when a user has taken a particular on site action, such as a newsletter sign up or adding a product to the cart.

Although a newsletter signup could be tracked by setting up a destination goal for a dynamic thank you page users are sent to after subscribing, GA would not be aware of a newsletter subscription unless an event was specifically set up to track that exact interaction.

Once you have determined what event needs to be set up, you can ask for your developer to either hard code the event into the HTML, or use a tag management solution (TMS) such as Google Tag Manager to set up the event, allowing for marketing to set up custom events as required without waiting for development resource.

Duration goals

Users who spend an above average amount of time on your website or visit multiple pages are typically seen as engaged users; tracking a session duration goal can therefore be used to indicate how much of your traffic is highly engaged.

All that’s required to set up this type of KPI goal would be to review GA data to determine how much time would constitute an engaged session for goal tracking. Once set up, where a user spends more than your selected amount of time on site, then a goal will be recorded in GA. This data could be used for comparisons between engaged and non engaged users.

Pages per visit goals

Similar to a goal based on user session duration, this goal would be recorded when a number of pages on your website have been viewed in a given session, allowing for analysis between users with a high number of pages viewed vs. those that haven’t.

How to set up goals in Google Analytics

We have discussed the different goals available in Google Analytics; this section will talk you through how to set up goals to measure success, and how to set achievable targets for your website.

To configure each type of goal in Google Analytics you will always need to follow these first initial steps:

  • In Google Analytics, head to the left navigation and select ‘Admin’
  • Select ‘Goals’ in the ‘View’ column
  • Click ‘new goal’ button
  • Follow individual steps as below for each type of goal you want to set up.

How to set up a destination goal in Google Analytics

If you’re looking to record the number of times website users visit a certain page, follow these steps in Google Analytics:

  • Select ‘Custom’ at the bottom of the page then click ‘Continue’
  • You will want to give a descriptive name so you can clearly identify each goal
  • Select ‘Destination’, then ‘Continue’
  • In the ‘Destination’ field, add the URi path of the page you wish to track
    This doesn’t include the domain hostname, just the URi e.g. (/enquiry/thank-you)
  • In the ‘Destination’ drop-down, select the relevant rule to match your URi e.g. ‘Equals to, Reg ex or begins with’ matching where users will land once they’ve taken a specific action
  • If there isn’t a funnel that requires set up, you can click save
  • If a goal ‘funnel’ requires setting up to provide visibility in potential drop off points on the way to a goal completion, click to enable the funnel toggle. There is a specific report in GA (Conversions >> Goals >> Funnel Visualisation) that provides a representation of the funnel including drop off and completions
  • For each step in the funnel, you need to add a descriptive name and the URi for each step of the goal funnel. You will also need to make a decision as to whether the 1st step within the funnel is required. Understanding if users can complete the goal from another entry point or start from a later step is critical to accurately tracking the goal completions.

How to set up an event based goal in Google Analytics

Using an event as a basis for setting up a goal can be more complicated as you need to know the event field values output by that particular event to allow for setting up a goal in GA.

Once you know what event field values are output by that particular event, you can go ahead and create a goal from that event. As noted earlier in this article, events that can be tracked more than once in a particular session would only record one goal, so it’s best that if you need to understand all interactions you need to review the events individually, see (Behaviour >> Events >> Top Events).

  • Select ‘Custom’ at the bottom of the page then click ‘Continue’
  • You will want to give a descriptive name so you can clearly identify each goal
  • Input the values for Category, Action, Label and Value, where appropriate – not all events will have an output value.
  • If the event outputs an event value, ensure to select YES for ‘use the event value as the goal value for the conversion’
  • Click save.

How to set up a pages per session goal in Google Analytics

Setting up a pages per session goal can provide visibility into users which viewed a greater than average number of pages per session. Here’s how to set one up:

  • Select ‘Custom’ at the bottom of the page then click ‘Continue’
  • You will want to give a descriptive name so you can clearly identify each goal
  • Select Pages/Screens per session
  • Set the minimum number of pages a user must visit to trigger a goal completion in Google Analytics
  • Then click save.

How to track your goal performance and conversions

It’s important you understand how to monitor your GA goals and conversions correctly so you are able to analyse goal performance for reporting purposes. There are a number of reports within GA, tailored to specific reporting requirements.

To get an overview of performance, go back into Google Analytics and follow these steps to track your results:

  • In GA, click ‘Conversions’ > ‘Goals’ > ‘Overview’. You will be presented with a top level summary of metrics for all configured goals.
  • To refine each GA report to show specific data about an individual goal, click on the dropdown under ‘Goal Option’ and choose the goal you want to persist across all goal focussed GA reports.
  • Choose any one of the reports to see data related to goal URLs, all paths users took to complete a goal and goal flow which specifically looks at sources of traffic

How to successfully use goals in Google Analytics

In order to make the most of the data that using Google Analytics goals provides, you need to set a measurement plan with targets of what you want to see from both your website and the goals you’re setting up. Having clear business KPIs and overall objectives means you should be able to see how well your website is performing against these targets; without this, the data provided will offer little insight or how to further improve these metrics going forward.

Focus on making your goals clear, organised and relevant, rather than tracking inconsequential interactions unimportant to overall business objectives.

For the majority of websites, tracking goal performance is just the first step into a much broader scope of analysis, reporting and refining performance through a refined digital marketing strategy.

Need help understanding how website goals contribute towards wider business goals? Get in touch.

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