In order to track conversions on your site, you will need to have goals set up within Google Analytics. Without these goals set up, you will not be able to make use of this section or be able to see conversion data in the reports in the other sections.

Your goals in Google Analytics should be based on the steps that are key to your user journey. Before you start setting anything up, it is helpful to walk through the different steps that you want someone to take on your website. These may include:

  • Watching an intro video
  • Visiting your pricing page
  • Signing up for your newsletter
  • Downloading a white paper
  • Registering for a webinar
  • Requesting a demo
  • Reaching out through your contact form
  • Purchasing a product through your site

To set up a goal, first, click on the “Admin” section at the bottom of the left sidebar.

Then click on “Goals” under your website view in the far right column.

Goal Setup

Click on the red “+New Goal” button to start setting up your goal. Here you have the option to set up a goal using one of Google Analytics’ templates. 

These include things like making a payment, setting up an account, contacting the company, or playing media. They are just starting points and are not as complete as they sound. I honestly find it easier to just use the “Custom” goal option, because it’s easier for me to know exactly what I’m entering and what’s going to be tracked.

Goal Description

Next, Google asks you for the goal description. This is where you name your goal, assign it a goal set and ID #, and define the action it is tracking. 

Naming

You will want to give your goal a clear name. You may want to develop a naming convention for similar goals, such as form submissions or page visits. 

Goal ID and Goal Set

You can assign the goal ID and goal set numbers however you want to. For most sites, I just let the goal default to the next number in line. If you’re setting up groups of related goals — for example, several goals around three different products, then you may want to use a different goal set number for each product. You can also group your goals by stages of the marketing funnel. These are ways to help you organize the data, but when you’re just starting out, letting it pick a default number works just fine.

Goal Type

Defining the Type of goal is the most important step here. This is where you tell Google Analytics how you want to track your goal, and the details of the next step are determined by the type you select here.

Destination

Destination goals are the simplest and clearest to track. Use these goals whenever possible. If someone submits a form on your site and is then taken to a unique confirmation page that is only used with that form, that is the ideal scenario for using a destination goal. When you select this goal, Google Analytics will ask you to specify the URL in the next step.

Visit Duration

Duration and pages/screens per session are exactly like they sound. If your site includes outside advertising, these may be relevant goals to track, but for most sites these types of goals aren’t tied to any sort of key performance indicator.

Events

Event goals can be used for other actions that occur on your site that you want to define yourself. They are incredibly useful, but also can be a little complicated to set up. You will need to use Google Tag Manager or enlist a website developer to implement additional code. (I strongly recommend going with the first option.)

Setting up events is an article (or series of articles) in itself. If you would like to dive into using Google Tag Manager to set up events, here are some useful articles to get you started:

Goal Details

This final step will vary depending on the goal type you selected previously. For this example, we are going to focus on the destination goal. 

You will need to define the URL for the destination you want to trigger your conversion. Since your Google Analytics account already has your website domain, you don’t need to specify the entire URL. You can just specify the page details.

You can set your destination URL with three different parameters:

  • Equals to: The destination must match exactly, without any additional characters (this does not include Google UTM tags)
  • Begins with: The goal should include hits to all destinations that begin with the characters you specify (this can be multiple pages that are all in the same category, or the same page with different tags carried through from your site)
  • Regular expression: Specific sequences of characters that broadly or narrowly match patterns in your Analytics data (this is more complex than the other two options, see this article for more detail)

You have the option to assign a dollar amount to conversions from this goal. These amounts will be tallied up in the Value fields in various Google Analytics reports. You can use this field to reflect actual revenue amounts, or to help you weigh the performance of different goals on your site.

Save and Test

Once you have saved your goal, it’s a good idea to test it by completing the action that you just defined in your goal. The quickest way to see if your goal completion shows up or not is to go into the Conversions report under the Realtime section of Google Analytics. 

Open this report up before you test the goal and check it afterwards. You can also check for the goal completion in the Conversions section, but the data does not show up there right away. Your goal completion should show up in the Realtime view right away, but for other reports give it up to 24 hours (and make sure your date range includes the day of your test, we’ve all made that mistake!) If your Google Analytics view is set to filter out internal company traffic, you will need to complete the goal action in an Incognito window or on a different device. 

If your goal does not work on the first try, walk back through each of your steps. Check the URL carefully and make sure that it matches the page that you were actually taken to when you tested the process. Watch out for redirects. You may need to change the expression settings in the Goal Details, particularly if you see that your website automatically appends variables to the end of the link. 

Once you have successfully tested your goal, you will want to make a note of it so that you can distinguish it from your actual results. (Unfortunately, there is not a way to delete this from Google Analytics, but you can add an annotation in the platform to help you remember.)

Conclusion

Setting up goals specific to your business allows you to more effectively use Google Analytics to evaluate the success of your marketing activities. You can now determine which traffic sources, pages, and marketing activities are producing the actions that are key to your business (like lead submission or purchases). For more on how to analyze conversions in Google Analytics, see our blog Understanding Google Analytics: Conversions.

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