Working in a Google Analytics Authorised Consultants (GAAC) accredited company and also having a Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ), it is essential that I master the art of setting up goals and funnels in Google Analytics for our clients.
A goal can be a very important metric for a client to track such as sales, newsletter sign-ups, and registrations. Of course goals are not just limited to those but can be extended to whatever you would define as an important action on the website to track. Not only is tracking important, but it is also vital that you gain insight into what’s going on in the goal process from funnels.
A funnel is a visual representation of what’s happening during each step of your goal. It gives you great insights into the drop off rates of each step so that you can make informed decisions on improving your goal process and landing pages to increase conversion rates. You can accurately pinpoint which step of the goal process are you getting high drop off rates.
This can help you identify problems such as the checkout button not working, too many call to actions that lead to other goals, not best practice usability and so on.
Before Going Ahead…
First of all, you need to identify what goal you’re wanting to track. Make sure you identify each individual step of the goal conversion process. You will also need to identify the ‘conversion page’ – the page where the goal can be counted as a conversion. This is usually the thank you or confirmation page.
Write out the goal steps in a logical way that will help you understand the entire process.
Google Analytics has a maximum of 10 steps – but seriously, if you have a goal that has more than 10 steps, you might want to rethink the goal process.
Once you’ve identified the goal steps, you will need to scope out the URLs of each step. Are they static or dynamic URLs?
If they are dynamic URLs, you may need to use virtual page views to simplify the tracking process without having to use complicated regular expressions (regex).
An example of using a virtual page view in Google Analytics would be,
If you use the default pageTracker._trackPageview(), Google Analytics will use whatever request URI it sees in the address bar.
You will also need to find out whether this goal process requires cross/sub-domain tracking.
Unlike tracking e-commerce transactions that have dynamic values, goal values are static. You will need to figure out whether the goal has a dollar value or not to it.
For example, if I upsell/cross-sell products to my internal newsletter database and I get an average sale of $5, then I would define my newsletter subscription goal value to be $5.
Another example would be if a converted lead is worth $1000 and you have an average 5% offline conversion rate, then your goal value would be $50.
You will need to determine what kind of match types should Google Analytics use when matching against the content report. Google Analytics has 3 kinds of match types: head, exact and regular expression.
- Head Match – does not use regex and matches the ‘head’ section of the request URI.
E.g. If you want to match www.dannytalk.com/step1.html?id=123 and www.dannytalk.com/step1.html?id=321, then you would use /step1.html. Identify the common factor.
- Exact Match – uses regex and is not suitable for dynamic URLs.
E.g. If you want to match www.dannytalk.com/step1.html, then you would use ^/step1\.html$ as the regex.
- Regular Expression Match – as the name says it, uses regex. Handy if you have more complicated matching requirements.
E.g. If you want to match www.dannytalk.com/step1.html?source=google or www.dannytalk.com/step1.html?source=yahoo, then you would use ^/step1.html\?source=(google|yahoo).
Therefore, it is important to plan and define the entire goal step process prior to implementing the goal so that you can determine which match type will work for you.
Putting It All Together
Wait wait! Before you do this, make sure you create an additional test profile to your main profile to test your goal to ensure it is working correctly. The reason for this is that once data is recorded in a profile, there’s no way to delete it. Yes you can filter the dates but that can be a hassle as you’d have to remember dates. I will write a profile step guide later on.
So once you’ve set up your test profile, go ahead in creating your goal.
The checkbox ‘required step’ informs Google Analytics to only record the goal if the visitor has been through step 1 which means they have to go through step 1 in order to be counted as a goal.
Assuming you’ve setup your goal correctly, this is an example of how a goal funnel can look like. Obviously I did not check the ‘required step’ checkbox and that’s why you’re seeing entrance paths at different goal steps – not just step 1.
You can see the entrance points, exit points and the drop off rate at each step of the goal. This will help you gain insight as to where the drop offs are occuring and to where they’re dropping off to.
Exit pages are the pages where the visitor exited to (internal pages) from the goal path and did not convert within that session. The exit page called (exit) is where the visitor left the site or closed the browser.
Note that a visitor does not necessarily have to go through the goal path in sequence to be considered a goal conversion. Essentially, if the visitor somehow skips certain steps and ends up in the thank you page, then Google Analytics will back fill the skipped goal steps.
Another thing to remember is that if within the same session a visitor converts the same goal more than once, it will only be counted once (unique per session).
Once you’re satisfied that the goal is working correctly, you can implement it in the main profile.
Things to look out for:
- Check the content reports to ensure that Google Analytics is tracking the URLs properly. If your goal step URLs aren’t there, it means Google Analytics can’t see it and therefore, can’t match it.
- Once again, sub-domain/cross-domain tracking. We want to maintain the same session and not create new ones.
- Test your regular expressions to make sure they match correctly. I like using an online regex tool to help me check if my regex is working or not.
If you find this guide helpful, consider linking to it and sharing it around :)
Feedback and comments would be appreciated.