One of the fundamental configurations in Google Analytics is to setup Goals. Goals are what allows you to analyze your website’s ability to drive users to what you want them to do (i.e. their Goals). Basically, goals are the actions on your website that provide value for you and for your customers. In turn, you’ll use Goals and Goal Conversion Rate to analyze the performance of e.g. your paid traffic channels. Which ones work and which don’t? But as with many things in Google Analytics, there are some things you need to know about Google Analytics goals, before you can use them intelligently.
One goal per session
Google Analytics only records any given goal once per session. So when a user completes a goal multiple times within one session, Google Analytics only records one Goal Completion for that goal.
Why is this important? Imagine a job listings site where an obvious goal is for users to apply for a job. Now, some users will definitely apply for more than one job within their session. So the goal for the “Thank you for your application” page only reflects the number of sessions where at least one job was applied for. But in reality, you’re looking for the actual number of applications.
In this case, the number of Goal Completions does not provide the entire picture. Instead, you should simply use pageviews or event tracking to establish the actual number. Or setup a custom metric that measures the number of applications (or goal completions).
Goals = Unique Pageviews
When you configure a goal based on a Destination Page, Google Analytics is basically just counting the number of unique pageviews. You can check this yourself by comparing the number of Goal Completions vs. Unique Pageviews for the Destination Page. They should match.
This is good to know because of two reasons. Firstly, you can only configure 20 goals in Google Analytics. So if you’re running out of (destination) goals, you can still calculate your Goal Completions and Goal Conversion Rate manually. Simply by dividing your total number of sessions with the number of unique pageviews for your target page. Or if you want to “automate” it more, setup custom metrics.
Secondly, your boss might ask you for the conversion rate on a goal that you forgot to configure two months ago. If that’s the case, the same maneuver (total sessions / unique pageviews) will get you the conversion rate.
Goals are Session Level Metrics
Goals are session level metrics. Meaning you can apply goal metrics to session level dimensions. That includes Landing Pages, Channels, Source/Medium and so on. But not hit level dimensions, such as Page Path or Event Categories. That’s why there are no Goal Conversion metrics displayed in the All Pages and Top Events reports.
Now, people often ask me; “How do I see the conversion rate for this page?”. Apart from my usual answer (“Why do you ask?”), I tell them that it only makes sense if the page is a landing page. But sometimes you have pages that are not landing pages, but you still want to know if those pages contributed to goal conversions in some page.
In those cases, you can use the Page Value metric or you can use a segment. The segment configuration should include sessions that viewed your page of interest. And then you can use the Goal reports to see the number of goal completions and conversion rate for that segment - and compare it to sessions that didn’t visit the page.
Goals can be imported to adwords
If you are running Adwords ads to drive traffic to your site, you have already linked your Analytics account to your Adwords account. Right? If in doubt at all, you should do your Analytics audit and data quality check first.
Now, in the ‘old days’, you had to implement a specific Adwords tag for each of your conversion. You can still do that. But if you’ve already setup goals (or ecommerce tracking for that matter) in Google Analytics, you can actually import those goals to Adwords.
This saves you time for setup and tagging, and it also ensures that you’re tracking conversion the same way in Adwords as in Google Analytics. In turn, you’re now able to optimize your campaigns against your website goals. Nice, right?
Use those Google Analytics Goals
As I started out by saying, Google Analytics goals are fundamental to your Analytics setup. Goals are measuring value for you and for your customers. So if you want success from your website, it’s absolutely necessary to have the means of analyzing your website performance. And goals allow you to do that.
That said, Google Analytics goals are often misunderstood. Specially the one goal per session ‘feature’ is little known. But the fact that (destination) goals are based on Unique Pageviews is also a handy thing to know. Mostly so when you have to calculate goal completions and goal conversion rate for date ranges where the goal wasn’t configured.