analytics goal

Written by 2:25 pm Google Analytics

Setting Up Goals in Google Analytics

Not setting up any Google Analytics goals is a little bit like driving a car without a steering wheel, you know you’re going somewhere, it’s just you don’t know where.

March 20th 2020

Having tracking in place for pageviews and sessions is all well and good, and can provide valuable information on your visitors, but understanding what they do when they get to the website is where you’ll uncover a new layer of info designed to meet the needs of your organisation.

Google Analytics goals are basically another way to say conversions, but they are called goals because the user does not necessarily have to take a specific action on the website. The two classifications of goals are generally described as ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ goals. Macro goals are those primary objectives that you have in place that will essentially be the vehicle to grow your business, including things such as purchases, sign ups, enquiries. Micro goals are those that are more likely to be linked to engagement, but are still essential to make marketing decisions, those might consist of video plays, time on site, number of sessions, pages per visit etc. There is a great article on macro and micro goals here.

Whatever your goals are, it’s important to define them before you start tracking visitors, they can obviously be tweaked, changed and added to as the business starts to evolve, but the crux of the analytics goals shouldn’t really change on a regular basis.

Once these goals are defined, setting them up is straight forward, firstly, head across to the admin section of the analytics view that you want to use for your goals. This is important, because goals won’t duplicate across all of your GA views, it might be a good idea if you have a testing view, to set up the goals then transfer across to your live view environment, once you’re happy with the expected outcome. Additionally, you are only allowed to create 20 goals per view, so getting it right in a test area is probably a good idea. Having said that, you can overwrite a goal but you cannot delete one.

Once in the admin section of your account, you will see goals under the ‘view’ section:

analytics admin


Once you’re in, you can then start to create your goals by selecting ‘New Goal’. The first step is to select whether you would like to build a goal from a template, use a smart goal (more on this later) or create a custom goal. At this point, by creating a simple goal it doesn’t matter whether you choose a template or a custom goal, the key is how the goal will be triggered. A smart goal is a goal that Google creates by using machine learning to understand which visitors are the best quality based on time on site, pageviews, and other data points. There’s more information on smart goals here.

For the moment, let’s focus on creating a goal from a template, once you select this option and select continue, you’ll see the following:

analytics new goal

Now, once you’re here, you’ll be asked what type of goal you want to set up, Destination, Duration, Pages/Screens per session, or Event. We’ll look at all of them individually here:

Destination – This is going to track everyone who hits a certain URL, this can either be used for a micro engagement metric, or for a macro conversion goal, like when someone completes a sign up form, or the destination URL when a purchase is completed. Once you’re into the detail of this type of goal, you’ll be asked to enter the exact URL of the page you want to track, a URL that begins with certain letters or characters (particularly useful if you want to track visits to all pages that start with /blog), or a regular expression which is a series of characters that can be used to identify a particular group of pages. More information on those characters can be found here.

Duration – For those that want to track engagement on the website, this will track all users who have visited the site for a period of time. Once you select this option and click continue, you’ll see this screen allowing you to choose a custom time frame:

analytics duration goal

Pages/Screens per session – A good goal to have if you want to tie back your engaged audience with your marketing activity. Once you’ve selected this goal, all you’ll need to do is select a number of pages that you want this to trigger on, very simple:

analytics goal pages per session

Event – This is where you can link events that happen on your website to a goal, as events are not tracked as a ‘conversion’, you’ll need to set this up to view the activity as an actionable goal and tie back to users. Once selected, you’ll see the following screen:

analytics goal event

If you already have events set up on the website, you’ll need to know at least one of the names of the ‘Category’, ‘Action’, or ‘Label’ and it must match what you have added as an event. If there are no events set up already, then creating them can be complex and may or may not need dev work, we’ll save this for another post.

You’ll also notice that for each of these goal types, it asks you for a goal value which can be manually entered, this can be particularly useful to track an return on investment, especially when it comes to entering in the value of a lead through the website.

Once you’ve set up the detail of the goal, you can then ask Google Analytics to verify it by coming back with a goal success rate across the past 7 days, which is a great way to see if your criteria are set up correctly. However, this won’t work if your website has no visitors, or the tracking code has not been implemented, so in this case, you’ll have to go with your instinct and trust you’ve set it up accordingly, if not, you can always come back later to edit the goal.

So there you go, setting up goals to drive your business forward could not be easier, happy tracking! For more posts on this topic, you can find them in the Google Analytics blog post section here.