The work that you do for SEO can at times be difficult to put a value on, so that’s when you need to use analytics to track the metrics that mean the most to you. For the majority of our clients we use Google Analytics since it is a powerful tool that is conveniently free. When evaluating your website it is important to understand what each metric means for your business, and set goals so that you can track your progress over time.
- Choose the profile. An account can have multiple profiles, so when you are setting up a goal, you need to make sure you are using the correct one. If you only have one profile, you will want to duplicate it before setting up a goal. This will help make sure that you can maintain full data integrity on one profile. Let the new profile run for a day or two until you are able to verify that the data is correct, and then you can set up your goal.
- Create your goal. Click the edit link for the profile you will be using, and click Add Goal. There are four goal sets in each profile, and you can create up to five goals for each set, giving you the chance to create 20 total goals per profile. When organizing your sets try to keep similar goals within the same set, so site interaction goals would be in one set while conversion goals would ideally be in another.
Setting up Google Analytics Goals
No matter what type of goal you are creating, you will need to give it a name, and verify that you want it to be active, and the goal set that it will be in. When naming your goal remember to make the name descriptive of what you are tracking. This will help you decipher the goal you want to look at later on when you are in the interface running reports.
There are three types of goals that you can set up in Google Analytics:
URL Destination: This goal is used when you want to know if a visitor has reached a certain page. The most typical use of this goal is when you want to track a conversion. A conversion can be anything that you need it to be, ranging from a purchase on an eCommerce site to an email list sign up, or a completed contact form for your sales team. No matter what you consider a conversion to be, it would be accomplished once a visitor reaches your confirmation/thank you page.
URL Destination Goal Details -
There are three choices for the match type of your URL goal:
- Head Match matches identical characters of the URL you’ve entered for the conversion page, but it will also match additional characters at the end. This is ideal for sites that have URLs that contain dynamically generated URL parameters like an order or customer number for an eCommerce site.
- Exact Match matches URLs that are exactly the same as what you’ve entered with no additional parameters.
- Regular Expression Match allows for flexible matching with the use of special characters that have secondary meanings when used in regular expressions. While this option allows for more wildcard matching, you need to be careful when setting up the expression so you don’t gather irrelevant data.
- Goal URL – This is where you enter the URL of the page that signifies the completion of a conversion, so it will be from your confirmation/thank you page. You do not need to enter the domain of your site, so instead ofhttp://www.mysite.com/thankyou.aspx you would enter /thankyou.aspx.
- Optional Values – You can also choose to make the URLs case sensitive or set a goal value, but both of these are optional.
- Goal Funnels – Goal funnels help you track the path to conversion that your visitors take. Say, for example, that you have an eCommerce site, and there are four steps when completing a purchase: (1) the cart, (2) billing page, (3) payment page, (4) thank you page. You can create a funnel that will track each of these pages, and show you how many people leave the funnel during the process, as well as where they come from on the site to each step. You don’t have to create a funnel for your URL Destination goal, but if you have a path of at least two pages, it is certainly worth the few extra minutes it takes to set it up.
- Note: If you set up a funnel, you can see the results in the interface under Goals/Funnel Visualization.
Time on Site Goal Details
When using this goal you need to determine the threshold you want to track against. If you want to segment the visitors that stay on your site longer than two minutes so you can analyze their value, you can just set the details to be Greater Than, and enter 2 in the minutes box. You can also track visitors if they are on the site less than the threshold you’ve determined. Like the URL destination goal, you can set a goal value, but it is optional.
Pages/Visit Goal Details
This goal is very similar to the Time on Site goal. Before starting you need to determine your benchmark number of pages, and you can set the goal to track visitors that view more, less, or the same amount as the number you enter. An optional goal value can be entered to help you gain more insight into your overall ROI.
Goals can be used to track any metric that is important to your business, so don’t be afraid to use them. You can turn them on and off, but they can’t be deleted, so take some time before creating them to make sure that you are organizing your goal sets appropriately. Once you start gathering data, you will be able to track your progress, and find areas of your site that need improvement, which will help keep your SEO efforts moving forward. The best part is that when you’ve gotten the hang of setting up and using goals, you can start to use Analytics for more advanced tracking like Virtual Pageviews and Event Tracking, so don’t be afraid to start experimenting!