How to Set Up Goals and Funnels in Google Analytics V5

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Goals matter – just ask any Brazilian soccer fan, overachieving New Year’s resolution-maker or data driven website marketer.  Without good goals, you have no good way to track your progress or ensure that you’re achieving the things you’ve set out to accomplish (instead of just spinning your wheels on inefficient projects).

And when it comes to measuring specific goals related to your website or internet business, Google Analytics is king.  This incredibly feature-rich program is free to use, and can provide you with a wealth of information on how people are interacting with your website.  It’s a “must have” for website owners who are interested in making decisions based on measurable data – not just ill-informed hunches.

The latest version of Google Analytics – V5 – was initially launched in March 2011, but was not made standard until much later.  And while much of the functionality found in the program is the same as in earlier versions, the graphic interface is quite a bit different.  To clear up any confusion and to help you incorporate this powerful analytics suite into your website, we’ve put together the following guide on how to set up goals and funnels in Google Analytics V5.

Here’s what you need to know…

One of the biggest changes rolled out in this latest edition of Google Analytics is an expanded “event” goal set, which enables you to collect even more types of data about your visitors’ interactions with your website.  This feature is incredibly powerful, as it allows you to go beyond the simple metrics that Google Analytics tracked before (including time on site, number of page views and URL destination visits) to really get a feel for how your visitors are engaging with your site.

According to Kayden of Blast Advanced Media:

“If you have been waiting for better ways to measure overall and individual types of site interactions that help you to better understand user engagement on your site…then your wait is over.  The inherent custom nature of event tracking coupled with the flexibility of using the event category, action and label with regular expressions as the match type, allows limitless potential to create unique, creative goal tracking solutions.”

With the addition of event goals, this brings the total number of goal types within Google Analytics to four:

  • URL Destinations – These conversions are triggered whenever a visitor reaches a designated destination URL; for example, the “Thank You” page following a purchase, download or opt-in list signup.
  • Time on Site – These simple goals measure the overall amount of time each visitor spends on your website, enabling you to make changes designed to keep visitors engaged for longer periods of time.
  • Pages per Visit – Similarly, these goals let you set a target number of pages per visit for each reader that lands on your site.  Improving this metric increases engagement and lowers your bounce rate, which may have a positive impact on your search engine rankings.
  • Events – As mentioned previously, these goals allow you to monitor more complex elements of visitor interaction on your site, including the time spent watching videos, the number of files downloaded and the number of times your content is shared on social networking sites.

We’ll look at how to set up each of these different types of goals in a little bit, but before you can get started with Google Analytics goals, you’ll need to first choose which type to add.  The goal type that’s right for you will depend on the needs of your particular business model.  A blogger, for example, is more likely to be interested in average time on site or pages per visit than an ecommerce seller, for whom a primary metric will be URL destination visitor goals that track completed sales when customers reach a designated “Thank You” page.

To set up a goal for your website within Google Analytics V5, login to your dashboard, then click on the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner.  This will launch the administration section of your website’s profile, allowing you to create goals from within the “Goals” tab:

From this screen, you’ll see that you’re able to create four separate set of goals, each of which can contain five specific goals.  Choose your goals carefully, as you will not be able to delete these later on (although you can set existing goals to “Inactive” if you need to turn them off for any reason).

To create any of the above-listed types of goals, click on the “+ Goal” link within the set where you’d like your new goal to be stored.  This will launch the goal type selection window where you’ll be able to pick the specific type of goal to be created:

Give your goal a name and choose the type of goal you’d like to create from the radio button list of options – doing so will cause a second screen to appear with further fields based on the type of goal you’ve selected.  Let’s take a closer look at each option…

1 – URL Destination

If you decide to set up a goal that tracks visits to a specific URL, you’ll see the following options appear:

Enter the URL of your designated goal conversion page, set the match type based on how your site’s URLs are structured and indicate whether or not your URLs are case sensitive.  If you know how much a goal conversion of this type is worth to you, enter it into the Goal Value section (for example, if you know a “thank you” page visit occurs only after a $17 report has been purchased, enter “17” as the value).

If your final destination URL is part of a larger sales funnel – as in the case of one-time offers, upgrades and other multi-step sales processes – select the “use funnel” check box and enter the URLs of each step in the sales path.

2 – Time on Site

If your goal is simply to increase the length of time visitors remain on your site, select the “Time on Site” radio button and the following options will appear:

Enter the specific amount of time on site you’ve set as your goal, then click “Save”.

3 – Pages/Visit

Using internal links and other calls to action to encourage visitors to move amongst the pages on your site is a good way to get people to engage with your brand and learn more about your company.  To set this as a defined goal, click the “Pages/Visit” radio button and complete the following fields:

For a good starting place, take a look at your existing stats and set a goal that’s 1-2 pages higher than your existing average pages/visit.  As you make changes designed to encourage longer site visits and start meeting your goals, come back and increase this goal amount as needed.

4 – Events

Setting up an event goal in Google Analytics is a little more complicated, as there are several different variables that can be used depending on the specific type of event you want to track.  Counting the number of times a PDF file is downloaded, for example, will require different tracking parameters than will be needed to count the number of times your pages are shared on Facebook.

When you click the “Events” radio button, you’ll see the following screen appear:

To understand what each of these fields means – as well as how to use them to set up event goals on your site – check out Google’s complete Event Tracking Guide.  Be aware that some of the information shared there gets a little technical, and that you’ll likely need to append links or other elements of your site with pieces of code for the tracking to work properly.

If this all sounds too complicated, consider hiring a web developer to set up events goals on your website for you.  You’ll incur a small cost to have this feature added, but overall, the incredible amount of valuable information these goals can generate for your will likely be well worth your expenses.

Image: Auntie P