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Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2011 at 8:39 am

How To Set Up Goals & Funnels – Part 1

By Natalie Hart
March 2nd, 2011

On some of our recent posts, we mentioned how valuable and useful goals and goal funnels can be to your optimization and testing. Some readers commented that they’d like to learn more about how to set them up. You asked, and we will provide!

Setting up goals in Google Analytics can sometimes be a daunting task. Even our analyst group, as we create more and more complex funnels, have found ourselves frustrated by the process (especially when dealing with Regular Expression Match Type). But Goals and Funnels are so essential to our OnTarget continuous improvement process, we can’t let frustration or difficulty deter us. And neither should you. So, fear not. We’ve collectively (thank you to my fellow analysts) created this step by step guide to help you.

Setting Up Goals:

1. Sign into your Google Analytics Account. If you don’t have one yet, get one. It’s free and can provide you with a wealth of knowledge. AND, with helpful tools like Google Help and our blog, we show you how to find the data you seek (and even how to use data you didn’t even know was important to optimize your site).

2. Select “Analytics Settings” in the upper left-hand corner and then “Edit” next to the site profile you’d like to create the goal funnel for.

3. Scroll down to the second section titled “Goals” and select “+Add Goal.”  You can create up to 20 goals, grouped into 4 different sets. I’ve found it helpful to group similar goals together. For example, goals in my shopping cart or checkout would be under one set, while metrics for newsletters and marketing efforts are grouped under another. If you outsource some of your work, it may be wise to have all the goals created by the company you hired to be grouped under one-set so you are not changing each other’s goals (this comes from my experiences).

4. When naming your goal, name it something clear and representative of what you’re tracking (the same goes for Test titles). “Goal 1″ isn’t going to help you remember that this is a goal where you track visitor’s time on site for your landing pages from a specific newsletter.

Recently, Google added two new goal types! Originally there was only “URL destination”, but now there is “Time on Site” and “Pages/Visits”. It’s great to experiment with the different type of goals. Of course, each goal should have a purpose, so don’t just go setting up random goals for the fun of it. Always know the data you’re trying to collect and setup the appropriate goals to better understand visitor behavior.

5. Now it begins to get tricky. “Goal Details” section begins with “Match Type” with the options of “Head Match,” “Exact Match,” and “Regular Expression Match.” How do you know which to choose? Well, Analytics Help provide great guidance for determining which best fits your goal. However, here’s some additional guidance from FutureNow to help you decide:

  • Choose “Head Match” when: you have dynamically generated pages. This may be the goal you choose if you are a car-rental site or airline ticket price search site.
  • Choose “Exact Match” when: you only want to track the goal of 1 individual URL. As mentioned in Analytics Help, this should be used when your URLs are simple and do not vary. This is very important to remember, especially when testing, that if an Exact Match has been set up for a goal, and you’re testing on that page, the test results will not appear in the goal data.
  • Choose “Regular Expression Match” when: you want, as Analytics Help phrases it, “flexible matching.” Use this goal if you don’t care so much about the beginning (perhaps visitors are coming from different sub-domains) or end of the URL (there are many many different listings, but as long as visitors hit one, you want it to count in the goal).

6. Finally, you need to enter the Goal URL. As it says to the right of the field For the goal page “”enter “/thankyou.html”. Goal Value can be important (especially when calculating the value of a particular change to the site, and the ROI on that change), so if you know what the goal value is enter it, however it isn’t necessary. From here you can select “Save Goal” and you’re on your way! To find out if you’re tracking correctly, visit this Analytics Help page, or contact us about becoming an OnTarget client…. Analytics guidance is included with all of our subscriptions.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on How to Set up Goal Funnels!

Add Your Comments

Comments (21)

  1. Useful,Useful and useful. Keep up that working, i like this blog very much. And the picture helps me to do it right.
    I´m not so good at english, i hope you understand what i mean.

  2. That’s a good info on how to set up website goals in Google Analytics. Many website owners just guess the conversion rate of their website as they are unaware of setting goals in Analytics.

  3. but i am still confused, what’s the difference between google webmaster tool and google analytic

  4. Thanks Natalie, you got me enthused to try setting up goals in Google Analytics again, and it was easier than I remember from last time with your guide.

    I just had our new website launched using your Australian buddies Alkemi, so I’m keen to see how the goal conversions go :)

    Really appreciate the Grokdotcom blog, very motivational.

  5. @andre – from what I can tell, Google Webmaster Tool provides information about your site from an SEO perspective – how well Google finds your site in various searches. Google Analytics not only tells you about how people are getting to your site, but also tells you about what actions your visitors are taking on your site. You can even set up specific goals to track, as we describe in this post. It will tell you the percentage of people who take those actions, so you can target areas with low percentages, and try to improve upon those areas of your site.

  6. @Scott – glad to hear this post brought some clarity to your efforts! And not only does Alkemi do design work, but they also offer some of our conversion optimization help…. just in case you need to get some outside expertise on optimization now that your site is live. Say hello to the two Nathans from all of us here at FutureNow! ;-)

  7. Hi Natalie,

    I was really in doubt about using funnels in analytics. I am few months with my e-commerce and in fact your post helped me a lot. I’ve had learned how to set goals with you:)



  8. So finally Natalie came up with the thing which we wanted. I always remained confused on it..but now..thanks and cheers…I am on my way now..when is part 2 available..?

  9. This is great; I’ve been using analytics, but just began working with webmaster tools in a very elementary way. Excited to see what else I can get out of it – thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Hey Natalie…

    I kinda get Goal setting its the funnels I cant get my head around. Will have to come back and read some more!

    When it comes to analytics of my site, I often wonder if it would be easier if it weren’t running on a wordpress theme. Its my understanding, that using the Goals section is the best way to monitor individual pages on a wordpress based CMS… whereas I think, if I were to be running a “normal” site, I could code each page individually. I presume its different when it comes to the funnels data too… Thanks for the info, looking forward to reading more. It all helps! Ross

  11. Google Analytics is a great tool, one can learn almost everything about the visitors and site performance. I also like creating segments that help you better visualize your visitor behavior.

  12. Great information on using google analytics to help funnel your website goals!It isn’t always easy to set aside the time for such matters,However when we do I think we get a clearer picture on how our site should flow from one function to another.Keep these posts coming!

  13. Thanks, Natalie. Seems almost magical that head match works, even though your users will be visiting the URL with the dynamic id portion.

  14. Ever since i discovered the goals section in Analytics it seemed like such an abstract concept. I tried making sense of it but it was like chinese to me. Your post gives me some hope – one of these days I’ll actually give it a shot :)

  15. Thank you Natalie – I have been looking for a plain English guide to Google goals and it’s nice to see some actual examples for the different matches. The official explanantions on Google tend to be confusing to a non-coder.

  16. The idea of setting up goals is to maintain your discipline when the enthusiasm is low, and it is difficult, if your doing all by yourself, it takes a warrior heart to ivercome slackness

  17. Many website owners just guess the conversion rate of their website as they are unaware of setting goals in Analytics… that’s a fact…

  18. Wow things are a lot clearer now. Google analytics is pretty awesome, compared to the site stats my hosting company offers there is no comparison.

  19. Thanks Natalie for this post. I’ve been using Google Analytics for about six months but never really knew what Goals were or why I should spend the time to figure it out. Your post explains it all. Great, quality information. I will be looking for more posts like this one in the future.

  20. Oh wow, this is great. You know, I always saw that “Goal Set 1″ stuff in my analytics, and probably saw “funnel” once or twice too. The thought never crossed my mind that I could actually do anything useful with them.


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Natalie is a Persuasion Analyst with FutureNow.

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