We all know that it’s critical to measure conversions, or goals, for our website. But for a long time Google Analytics limited the number of conversions, and types of conversions, you could track with Google Analytics. All that changes today (October 20, 2009).
You can now create up to 20 goals per profile in Google Analytics. I can literally hear the applause at eMetrics :)
In addition to expanding the number of goals Google has expanded the types of goals to include ‘threshold’ goals for pageviews per visit and time on site.
I think we all know the importance of tracking goals, so I’m not going to get too deep into why you should use goals. If you’re not using goals you should start NOW!
Let’s talk about this new feature.
Goals are now organized into four sets. Each set of goals can contain up to five different goals.
Sets have been introduced as a way to accommodate all the new data in GA. In the report tabs, rather than one goal tab there can be up to four goal tabs in a GA reports.
When creating a goal you can place it in any set as long as there is room. Once you place a goal in a set it’s best to NOT MOVE IT. Google Analytics sees this as a NEW goal and does not move the previously captured conversions to the new goal.
TIP: I like to organize goals by business function i.e. put goals that are related together. For example, if you’re a content site, you might create goals for spending a certain amount of time on site (1 minute, 2 minutes, etc.). I would group these goals in a set all related to time.
In the old days a goal was a pageview that represented the completion of some high value process, like a thank you page. Now goals can be based on actions that have nothing to do with viewing a page. Conversions can be based on how much time a visitor spends on the site or how many pages the visitor views.
Time Based Goals
Time based conversions are triggered after a visitor has spent a certain amount of time on the site. To configure a time based goal enter the hours, minutes and seconds that a visitor must spend on the site before a conversion is counted. Once the visitor reaches that amount of time on the site then a conversion is triggered.
What’s interesting here is that you can create a time based goal if a visit does NOT reach a certain amount of time. If you choose ‘Less Than’ Google Analytics will trigger a goal if a visit does NOT reach a certain length.
Why on earth would you measure this? I like to think of ‘Less Than’ goals as ‘Failure’ metrics. We often define success metrics, like Conversion Rate, but rarely define metrics to measure our failures!
Using failure based metrics really packs a punch when you’re talking to co workers or clients. For example, when you configure a failure goal you can easily measure and say, “Did you know that 97% of our traffic does not spend at least 2 minutes on our site? We suck!”
Abandonment rate is another well know failure metrics.
Time based goals can also be very useful if you’re trying to MINIMIZE the amount of time people spend on your site. For example, if you have a support section on your site you may want to understand what percentage of traffic spends a certain amount of time on your site. Long term you can try to reduce the number of visits that are too long.
How about setting up a goal set for various time intervals and then try to move visitors from one “goal” bucket to the next. 10 minutes, to 7 minutes, to 5 mintues… You guys are bright, you get the idea :)
Pageview Based Goals
Another new goal type is pageviews per visit. Like time on site goals this this type of conversion is triggered when a visit exceeds a certain number of pages. I can literally hear all the advertisers clapping out there!
Pageviews goals are set up in the same manner as time based conversions. Just specify a condition (greater than or less than) and the number of pageviews in a visit.
Like time goals, pageview goals can also be affected by virtual pageviews. If you’re creating a lot of data using
_trackPageview() you need to understand that this can change your overall goal calculation.
URL Destination Goals
The old standby! ‘Traditional’ goals are now called URL Destination Goals. You can still use a regular expression, head match or exact match to identify a page that represents a goal. This functionality has not changed (you can learn more about goals in this old post.)
Now that we have 20 goals we can easily measure all of those micro conversions (RSS subscription, email signup, reaching product page, downloading white paper… etc, etc, etc).
And yes, you can still use a virtual pageview as a URL Destination goal.
Google did spend some time tweaking the interface. The old interface always showed 10 steps in the funnel. Now you can choose the number of fields the funnel form displays. You’re still limited to 10 steps in total. This isn’t such a big deal.
But think about the bigger picture. Do we really need funnels if we have so many goals? With 20 goals we can use a goal to represent each stage in a process, rather than a funnel step? So do we still need funnels?
Yes. Funnels provide a nice visualization of critical processes, so I think they are still relevant. Plus, you need to configure a funnel if you want to measure Abandonment rate, a very nice failure metric that can make people squirm :)
Odds and Ends
A few random thoughts re: new goals:
If you’ve been creating lots of profiles for goals you may want to consider consolidating all goals to a single profile. The benefit is you can have all your conversions in one interface. No more messing with multiple browser tabs and adjusting the date range.
If you need to control the access to certain goals, you may need to create a profile for certain goals and then give only the people who need access to those goals access to the profile.
A visitor can only convert at each goal once per visit. This is the way it’s always been.
And finally, creating new goals will not modify your historical data, only future data. So all those new goals you’re going to create this week will only track from the day your create them onward.