Hello everyone, My name is Tim Gillman, I’m an analytics strategist here at Portent, and I want to welcome you to this webinar on Goal tracking in Google Analytics. Whether you own a site or work on a personal/company site, these tips will help you begin new goal tracking or enhance your current setup.
For more analytics resources and general commentary you can follow me on Twitter at Tim Gillman Drums. Yes, you guessed right, I’m also a drummer. Just a heads up - most of the time I tweet about drumming and advanced baseball statistics.
I’ve poste a bitly link bundle that contains resources cited in this presentation. This includes a custom report template and a dashboard focusing solely on goals and revenue. You can use these materials in your own Google Analytics account. And hey, they say the best things in life are free.
Today we’ll be looking at what goals are, why they’re important, goals you should have, and how to set them up. As you can see, I like to keep things simple A lot of the focus today will be on goal setup, and if you have any questions about goal setup or other goal aspects feel free to submit a question during this presentation.
Before we dive in – this webinar only covers goal tracking in Google Analytics Omniture and other analytics platforms will not be discussed.
One other heads up before we start – any goals that I walkthrough that require tracking link clicks or form submissions are based on auto-event tracking with Google Tag Manager. Your site may not use this setup to track events, but setting up goals around button clicks is still possible. For the sake of time I will only show these button clicks based on this auto-event tracking, but have placed a link in the bundle if you’re interested in more information on this option. Okay, now let’s get started! If I were to ask you why you’re here listening to me, I bet your answer will be something like this
You have a website, or you work on a website, or maybe you are just looking to learn more about analytics. Now ask yourself this question.
What does my website do? Obviously your site serves some sort of purpose. But what exactly are you looking for from your site?
If you’re selling a product, your site is all about getting revenue. This is called an ecommerce site.
If you want people to contact you about your services, your site generates leads. In marketing we call this a Lead Generation, or lead gen site.
Maybe you acquire revenue but also need leads for the sales process. An example here would be selling general car parts but also receiving leads for custom built gear. According to my super complicated math formula shown here, that means your site strives for both revenue and leads. Our website here at Portent is a lead gen site that also has a handful of products and tools for sale, so we technically fall under this last category. Now, not every site has to strive for one of these options. For example, blogs can simply be a resource with no contact required. But the majority of businesses who are looking to advance their analytics knowledge generally fall into one of these categories. Now back to this question -
What does my website do? If you can’t answer this question, that’s a problem. You’re sailing on a boat with no compass, which can be fun, but perhaps not the wisest business practice. If you did answer the question: Your answer is your #1 goal, the big kahuna, the one goal to rule them all! You want users on your site to complete that goal.
Yay, look how happy your visitor is when they accomplish a goal! When folks cross that hypothetical finish line, this is called a conversion. There are two different types of conversions, micro and macro conversions.
Macro conversions are the one big goal for your site, while micro conversions are the small but important steps that lead to the macro conversion. Let’s use Portent as an example. Our Macro conversion is when we receive a lead. But we also track the smaller steps, such as social media shares, newsletter signups, or when someone downloads one of our tools or resources. When your site gets a macro conversion, your team will do a lot of this.
Yes! That is exactly how every business meeting looks! When I check in our analytics and see that we’ve received leads, that’s how I celebrate, with a giant trophy! Now if you work with a site that has no goal tracking, instead of epic parties you get more of this
No trophies, no high-fives, just a bunch of “Umm…I dunno.” For those of you who are not tracking any current goals - I beg you, when you leave this webinar begin tracking something, ANYTHING on your site. Track when users spend more than a minute on your site, or when they read a blog post, ANYTHING! When you investigate your site’s performance, the last thing you want to see is this
The flatline of doom. What sort of analysis is anyone supposed to do with this information?
My thoughts exactly. Nobody wants to see this.
Yes, goals are important, but simply tracking them is half the battle.
Here are a few aspects of goals that will be helpful in your analysis
First is that goals help you set clear and quantifiable bar for “success” As a mathematics nerd, that quantifiable part is music to my ears. For example, let’s say you work at a lead gen site. The director says “I want more leads next month than last month.” You’re response could be saying, “Okay, that’s nice. How many more leads counts as success? One more? 1,000 more?”
With goals you can easily compare how many leads you received month-over-month, quarter over quarter, whatever time interval fits your need. If they wanted 20% more leads, we can see that organic traffic didn’t quite have enough conversions for success, but direct traffic more than doubled the target. This is a great way to measure whether or not you are hitting the thresholds you want to reach as a company. Here’s a Quick pro tip.
Never, ever compare goal completions by single days! For example, don’t compare yesterday to the day before.
You’ll drive yourself crazy, and the sample is too small to derive any meaningful value. Personally I don’t even look at week-over-week unless I am absolutely forced to go that route. You see, date comparisons are a lot like a fine wine
The more time you give your data, the more volume and texture will show up in your analysis. You’ll get a diverse and rich taste for exactly how your audience is acting on your website. See, this team of analysts know exactly when I’m talking about. Please Note: I do not condone drinking while analyzing.
Another way goals are used in analysis is that they help determine the quality of your traffic. It’s nice to watch your number of visitors and pageviews rise month over month, but if people aren’t taking the actions that make your business successful, how beneficial is that really?
As you can see from Portent’s data in October, while Organic traffic still carried the load on goal conversions, Social users are twice as likely to convert. This can be a useful guide when making decisions on what channels are the most efficient and effective. If you invest wisely in these high conversion channels, you get to do more of this
Yes, you’ve got to love that real human emotion! The group high 5, fantastic. This is the exhilaration of measuring goal completions.
One more way that goals are helpful in analysis has to do with seasonality. Some businesses may think they are immune to seasonality. But this is quite rare, as weather, holidays, and even things like technology releases can affect all kinds of different markets.
For example, here is data from a tech company that has very little seasonal promotion. Look at how in both 2012 and 2013 they’re transactions climb very high for the holiday season. Now in 2014 they can better promote themselves for this traffic that is ready to buy their products. Without the proper ecommerce tracking, this insight would not be possible in GA.
Now that we’ve seen what goals are and why they’re important, I’m going to walk you through the basics of implementing the 4 necessary goals for your site. There are the 4 steps you take in setting up every goal – Set the goal up, verify that it will track, save the goal, then annotate new goals in your report. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the number 4 today. Note that occasionally the verification step will not apply. I’ll explain that during these walkthroughs.
The first goal I’ll show you is newsletter signups. I’m going to go through this with a lot of detail, that way we can go pretty quickly through the rest of the goals. This is a micro conversion that focuses on retaining visitors. If a user signs up for your emails, they’re clearly interested in your services and resources. This goal can be tracked in a couple of different ways, depending on your site’s setup. The first way is by the destination page
When a user fills out the form to sign up, if they are taken to a new page for confirmation, you can base the goal off of that confirmation page. You don’t want the conversion to take place on the page where they fill out the form. It needs to happen on the following page, as shown in this example. This is usually the easiest way to track sign up goals. I’m going to show you how to build a goal based off of a similar confirmation page.
First, go into your Google Analytics account, go to the top of the page and click on Admin.
Then on the 3rd column under View, click on Goals.
This will lead you to the goal settings page. We will be coming back to this more times throughout these walkthroughs, so if you are following along I’d recommend pinning this tab or making this page easy to come back to. This page shows the list of all your goals. GA allows you to track up to 20 goals, and today I’m going to show you 4. Now - If you reach this page and see that there are no goals tracking, you might feel like this:
Okay, I may be exaggerating. If that is your situation, take a deep breath, because I’m here to help you!
Okay, now back to your goal screen. Click on the red New Goal button on the top left of the menu
For the first step, in newer GA accounts they’ll list a bunch of templates you can model your goal after. I’m not a fan of the templates, as they typically just complicate what should be a quick process. If you see this screen, just select the Custom bubble at the bottom, then click Next Step.
Give the goal a name. For this one keep it simple, like “Newsletter Sign Up” or “Mailing List.” Since we are basing this example off of a destination page, select destination for the goal type. Then click Next Step
Now you’ll need the URL for the confirmation page. For a destination goal, you’ll only place the characters that come after your hostname. For example, if the confirmation page for Portent is http://www.portent.com/newsletter-signup/,
leave out the portent.com part and only add newsletter hyphen signup surrounded by backslashes, basically what I’ve shown here in green. Make sure you keep the backslashes at the beginning and end of the string, otherwise the goal may not track properly.
Once you’ve placed that URL string into the goals page, notice the box to the left that says Equals to. This means the goal will activate when the user reaches a page matching exactly that URL string. In some cases this can be problematic.
Perhaps your site gives a unique string for each individual newsletter signup. If that’s the case,
A goal that needs to equal the entire string will not trigger, since only the first part of the URL obeys your command. This example URL would not count as a conversion, even though you surely deserve the credit for one!
Here’s another pro tip - change the settings so that the goal URL needs to only begin with that character string. Then any individual URL will also be counted as a conversion. That URL could contain anything after the first newsletter hyphen signup, and it will count.
Click that box on the goal screen and select Begins with, just to be on the safe side. Now your Setup step is complete. You can also add a monetary value to the goal or a funnel if you wish. For the sake of time I will not go into detail on these aspects of goals. They can be very unique to each individual site and would require their own webinar! So now we need to verify the goal.
Verification is a quick way to make sure your setup will track conversions. Click on Verify this Goal towards the bottom of the page. Wait for a few seconds, and then GA will tell you how many conversions this would have yielded based on the past 7 days of traffic. So if your goal existed a week ago, here is the conversion rate over the last week of traffic.
As long as it doesn’t say 0% At the very least you know the goal is tracking something. Bear in mind – if you are setting up a goal to work on a future promotion, it may not help to verify the goal, since historical data will not apply. But use common sense here before saving the goal. If this were to say the goal would have a 50% conversion rate, the setup is likely off. Nobody has signups with a conversion rate that high. 0.11% sounds about right here.
With your setup and verification done, now click Create Goal. This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen evidence of people missing this last step and clicking the back button on the browser, completely eliminating the goal they built. Please do not make this mistake! But there is one last step – annotation. Annotations are the equivalent of leaving a diary of your analytics actions. This is so anyone can see when there were changes made to the account setup, and adding a new goal certainly counts as a profound change.
Why is annotation important? Let’s say you’re a new employee hired at a company in early 2014. They ask you to look at goal performance in 2013 compared to 2012. If you simply go into the goals report in GA and do a Year over year comparison, you might see something like this. There is an epic improvement year over year. But look closely – there was a goal that obviously did not exist in 2012, but is now receiving credit. This is not proper analysis. You shouldn’t simply add new goals to make your numbers look better. You need to identify when that change occurred to make sure you point that out in your reports. You know what happens when my coworkers make changes in Portent’s account and don’t annotate it?
I get very frustrated and have to do aggressive things like write strongly phrased emails at everybody.
Luckily for us GA users, annotations are super easy to add. You can add them from any report page in GA. Simply click on this small arrow under a graph to open any annotations made in your current date range. From here you can also add a new annotation, which we will do right now!
Click the Create new annotation button, then type in who you are and what action you took. In this example I say I’m in the analytics department and I created a newsletter signup goal. The bad news with annotations is that they are very small on the interface and easy to forget. Do your best to stay on top of it whenever you do make changes. Click Save, and now you’ll see your annotation on the graph as a very small talking bubble:
I’ll admit this is something I find frustrating about Google Analytics. Those icons are so tiny, it get’s difficult to see when they take place. Again, do your best to keep them up to date. But the good news is that
Huzzah, you’ve got an email sign up goal! Give it a few days to start tracking the conversions, then you can identify how many times your visitors ran through the awesome red tape! But before everyone listening gets started on setting up this goal, there is another way to track newsletter signups.
Some websites have an email signup as just an event. Clicking Sign Me Up does not produce a confirmation URL. You cannot use the destination goal, since plenty of visitors will likely reach a page but not fully commit to a sign up. The trick is to base the goal off of an event, which I will now show you how to do.
This is where things get tricky. In one window you’ll need to signup for the newsletter and in another window you’ll watch yourself go through the process in Google Analytics. First, find your site’s email signup form, then in a separate window or tab in your browser go to the Realtime reports in GA, specifically the Events page. This can be found on the left menu under realtime, then events.
Now while you’re on your site, sign up for your newsletter. This example is for a contact form from our PPC Essentials page. The moment you hit that Sign Me Up button, go back to the GA events report and watch your event show up on the realtime screen: The event category is Form Submit. Keep track of your category, as you’ll need it in a minute. Now click on your category, (in this case Form Submit) to get the rest of the info you’ll need for this goal.
You’ll need the event action, which in the example is ppc-inquiry, all one word. And then you’ll need the event label, which in the example is a URL string. Keep track of the action and label name! Now we’re going to head back to the goals page in your Admin section to setup the goal
When you begin setting up this goal, now instead of using a destination, you want to select Event. Instead of using the URL, now you can base the goal off of clicking that Sign Me Up button! Click Next Step.
Wow, this looks quite a bit different than the previous goal setup. Remember how I asked you to keep track of the event’s category, action and label? Now you can see why! Input those values that I asked you to keep track of, and now you have your goal setup!
This example isn’t exactly a newsletter signup, but it shows the general process of tracking a form submission. I input Form Submit, ppc inquiry, and the URL to complete my goal conditions. Remember to verify this goal, then create it! And before you pop open the bubbly, remember to annotate! We want full transparency here. With either a destination page or a click event, you are now tracking newsletter signups. Let’s move on to another goal and take a look at how these micro conversions look in our reports.
The next goal is for tracking resource downloads. This is a lot like the newsletter signup goal, as it shows how many users are interested in your site’s content and tools Examples of this goal would be a pdf download or better yet, if one of your friends clicks a button to watch the replay of this webinar! For this demonstration I will show you how to track pdf downloads on your site.
Go back to the goals section of GA, give your goal a title such as PDF Downloads, and set it up as an event like we did on the previous goal. Remember how we went to the realtime reports to see how a newsletter sign up works? We’re going to do the same thing here. Download a resource, then check in the realtime events report for the event category. In this example, that should be all you need.
Portent uses auto-event tracking via Google Tag Manager, so we’ve whittled down our categories to be either Clicks, Link Clicks, or Form Submits. I know that a Link Click occurs whenever someone clicks on a link to reach a new page, and that is what occurs to download a PDF.
For the goal setup, set the Category equal to what you find from the realtime report. Then for the action, click on the box to change the requirement from Equals to into Regular expression. This way when you set pdf as the requirement, it will identify any action that contains the word pdf. Since we are capturing all pdf downloads, leave the label box blank. Verify the goal, then create it.
But remember to Annotate!
Tracking pdf downloads helps you see how useful your visitors find your extra resources. Here is a snapshot of how our tools fared over the last month. To view this report, Click on Conversion on the left menu, then Goal URLs.
To view just one goal at a time (which I recommend), click on the dropdown menu for goal option, then select your new goal that you created.
Now by the URLs you can see which PDFs attract the most attention. This is a fantastic way to see what resources you should be promoting. Clearly our pdf for the Unfun parent has great awareness over this month. Speaking of awareness, let’s move onto our 3rd Micro conversion.
Social media is the ultimate tool for building awareness, so this is another way to look at how your company is trending. Most websites that have social media now have a bar towards the top or bottom with links for each social media platform. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc. I’m going to show you how to track conversions for whenever users click on one of those links. In this case, we’re going with Facebook.
Once again, this is based on the event of a button click, so you’ll need that realtime report open and ready. In another window, simply find the link to facebook from your homepage and click on it. In the realtime report, see what showed up for that event.
For our site the category is a Link Click, but remember, yours will likely be different. Click on the category to grab the Event action, just like before.
This is very straightforward. The action is simply facebook.com backslash portent dot marketing I’m guessing yours will also be that simple. Now head to your goal page in the Admin section, and fill out the goal conditions just like before.
Place the Event category and action in the conditions, verify to be safe, and then create the goal. Social shares are best used over longer time intervals, like quarter over quarter. It’s a handy way to view your social presence, but should not be checked on a micro-managing level. Before we head to the final goal, remember…
Annotate, Annotate, Annotate! If you set up a goal for each social media follow, you could get quite a few conversions, so it’s best to let your team know you added goals that can yield a high volume.
Now we head to the macro conversion, or as I like to call it, the Mac Daddy of all goals. See your visitors here? They are ready to sprint into that goal conversion. You just need to set up the finish line. We’re going to split this into two different macro conversions – the lead generation, and the ecommerce transaction.
I want to start with lead generations, since you will see how they are very similar to the event goals we’ve recently walked through. As with any goals listed in this webinar, I’m providing a general template for you to reference, but not all setups will be identical. Some sites have lead generations through form submissions, while smaller businesses may simply have a link to an email address. Remember, be flexible in your setup, and if you ever get stuck reach out to me for help.
I’m going to show you this goal setup based on the form submissions we use at Portent. As usual, have a window open to your realtime report to watch your form submission take place Just like the other events, make sure to keep track of your event category, action, and label.
Setup this macro goal as an event, then input the category, action, and label You know the rest of the steps – verify, save, and annotate.
This is the most valuable goal data to analyze for a lead gen site, and it should be done regularly, at least on a month-over-month basis I’ve built a custom report that gives you the basics, and here is a snapshot of how your macro goal would look in this report. This is an easy and straightforward way to gauge how successful your site has been. I’m a big believer in sorting by channel, but if you use this report by all means customize it however you like.
For the ecommerce sites out there, tracking transactions and revenue is the name of the game. I’ve been slightly misleading in my webinar title, as technically transactions are not goals in Google Analytics You can build a goal around transactions, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as you are essentially double counting transactions.
When you analyze this data, transactions are similar to goal completions, and then obviously revenue is measured in some form of currency. Once again, due to the time constraints and unique nature of everyone’s setup, I can only provide the basics to begin using ecommerce tracking. But if you are selling products on your site, you absolutely must do this if you haven’t already.
Setting up ecommerce is a two step process, where the first step can be complicated, and the second step is crazy easy. For the first step, you add a snippet of code to your order confirmation page. When a user submits their payment and completes the transaction, the data is captured by the code on the receipt page, and then uploaded into GA. Typically your developer should do this, as there are lots of things you can add or remove depending on what you want to see. I’ve added a link to the resource bundle where Google developers guide explains this code placement in more detail.
Now for the easy part – for the second step all you do is click a button. Let’s find where this button is located.
Go into the Admin section of your account, and then click on Ecommerce Settings under the View column.
Now you see where to turn on ecommerce tracking. Just click the button so it says on, then save your changes. While this is technically not a goal, you should absolutely place an annotation in your account mentioning that on this day you began revenue tracking. Otherwise, a new analyst may be confused when you had zero revenue prior to this implementation.
Congratulations! Now you can keep track of all the revenue coming from your site. You will look just as excited as these business professionals when you see revenue pouring in from your visitors.
In conclusion today I want to remind you of the process for implementing new goals. Setup the goal, verify it can work, save the goal, and annotate that goal!
Remember you can track other goals on your site to enhance your analysis. Some examples are visitors who have spent a long amount of time on your site, visitors who view a certain number of pages per session, or even visitors who comment on a blog or video post, an visitors who create an account with your site.
I know that was a lot to digest, but hopefully you can now see that using goals is an excellent way to set quantifiable bars of success for your site.
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