Setting up goals in Google Analytics is a vital step in monitoring the success of your website. While it is not necessary, setting up goals helps you harness the complete power of the application. Most people usually set up goals and scrutinize the conversion rate. I’m not going to comment on conversion rate, Avinash has already caused a stir about that. But I do want to point out some other Goal functionality and Goal related reports. I think an example would be the best way to structure this post.
One of the Google Analytics goals for my site is to get RSS subscriptions. You’ll notice that I have a number of feed reader subscription links in the right hand navigation of my site. When someone clicks on one of the subscription links I record a page hit in Google Analytics. Each subscription link generates a different page hit. Here’s what the page hits look like:
/blog/outbound/rss/rss /blog/outbound/rss/google /blog/outbound/rss/yahoo /blog/outbound/rss/bloglines /blog/outbound/rss/newsgator
So my goal is to get someone to reach one of those ‘pages’. Most people would create a goal for each of the above so they can track exactly which subscription type was requested. But that would be messy. There are 5 subscription types, I would need to use two profiles to track all of the goals.
Rather than create a goal for each of the above, I can use a regular expression to match then all. Then I only need to create a single goal. The regular expression that I use for the goal looks like this:
Here is the neat part. Google Analytics has a special report that will explain which of the links were hit. Remember, I’m using a regular expression that can match all of the subscription links (5 different links). While it is valuable to see the overall number of times the goal is reached, it is even more useful to understand which of the 5 links actually contributed to the goal.
The report is called the ‘Goal Verification‘ report and it is located in the Content Optimization > Goals & Funnel Process reports. Here’s the report for my site (don’t laugh at my data :) ):
You can see from the image that there were three different matches for my goal regular expression. There were three matches for the Google Reader, three matches for the pure RSS feed and 2 matches for the Yahoo! feed reader. This is a great way to ‘drill down’ into your goal, especially if it can be achieved a number of different ways.
Just for some comparison, if I look at the Goal Tracking Report I see the total Number of goals achieved:
This is fun, let’s keep digging into this data! In our example, a visitor can reach my goal from any page on the site. It would be interesting to see which page they were on prior to hitting the goal. Google Analytics has a ‘Revers Goal Path‘ report. This report, found in the Content Optimization > Goals & Funnel Process section, shows the path that the user took to reach a goal.
Looking at the report we can see that two people landed on my homepage and subscribed to the Google RSS feed. This report is great because it can show the ‘high value’ pages that people need to see on the way to your goal page.
I hope this post was useful. Many people fixate on goal conversion rate and don’t dig into the more useful functionality.
I’m off for a vacation, I’ll be back in two weeks :)