Recently, after talking for an hour or two about all the great things about Google Analytics, I received a piercing question from one of the attendees.
"OK I know what Google Analytics does, but what is it for?"
Great question. It's easy to learn about all the things that you can do with Google Analytics without ever understanding why you would do them.
My answer was straightforward, if a bit blunt. "Google Analytics exists for you to know whether people are doing what you want them to do on your website."
That's it really. All the other stuff helps you understand the customer journey - acquisition channels, user behaviour, etc. - but if you aren't measuring whether people are doing what you want them to do, these measures are meaningless.
And so, we have arrived at perhaps the most important part of Google Analytics: Conversions.
What is a conversion? A conversion is an indicator that someone who visited your website has done what you wanted them to do. They have filled out a form. Booked an appointment. Bought something.
A conversion will also, ideally, be something they wouldn't have done otherwise. Then, you can attribute the value you get from the conversion to the advertising, website development and the hard analytics work you've been doing.
A conversion means that you got it right!
So, then, how can you use Google Analytics to track conversions? Well, it's a bit complicated, but below are 3 Quick Facts to get you started. For more detailed coverage of conversions, have a look at our 2-day all-online, live instruction course, Google Analytics Certification which covers this and many other topics in detail.
1) There are two types of conversions: Goals and transactions
So the first thing to know about conversions is that Google Analytics has two types.
The first are called 'Goals'. Goals are conversions which are configured by you and then subsequently tracked and reported by Google Analytics.
The second type of conversion is an Ecommerce conversion or a 'transaction'. Transactions are conversions which are included as part of the ecommerce module and are automatically enabled when you enable Ecommerce for a view.
Google Analytics Ecommerce is a topic for a future post, but what you need to know now is that if you are using Google Analytics-enabled Ecommerce, then you don't need to use Goals - Ecommerce handles your conversions.
How do you know if you are using Ecommerce? You can simply check in Admin / View / E-commerce Settings. Is Enable E-commerce 'on'? Then it is likely that you are. If it is off, then you are not using Ecommerce.
2) You create Goals in Admin / View / Goals
So let's say that you aren't using ecommerce. What do you need to do to get Goals working in Google Analytics?
First, off you need to visit Admin / View /Goal.
Then click on '+ New Goal'.
Here you have 3 sections to fill in:
1) Goal setup
This is an unnecessary list of Templates which, when selected, fill in a few fields in the rest of the goal configuration screens.
Choose 'Custom' and 'Continue'. I assure you it's the right thing to do.
2) Goal description
Here you select the Name of your goal - and you can pick anything. 'Bananas' if you like, though 'Filled out form' is good, too.
Next Google assigns a Goal slot ID. Just stick with the default.
Finally, you have to choose a goal type. Choose destination as this is the most common goal and will almost certainly apply to your site.
3) Goal details
OK, here is the hard part. In order for your destination goal to work, you need to find the 'thank you' page which people see after they have completed the goal.
The best way to discover this is to complete the goal yourself, say by filling in the form, and seeing where your website drops you.
Then, take the end bit of the web address in your browser and put it in the destination field.
Here, I found that when someone fills in a form, they are sent to a page called 'thanks'...
...and so I just put it in the Destination.
Ignore Value and Funnel for now.
You will now have a new Goal in all of your reports which you can track in reports such as the Channels report.
Just for fun, you should try converting, yourself - and then you should be able to see your conversion in Realtime / Conversions.
3) There are 4 types of goals, but the only one you need is a destination goal
Going back to the Goal Description, you will recall there were 4 types of Goals.
This is the goal we just set up. It tells Google Analytics if someone reaches the Destination page, in our example 'thanks', then count it as a goal.
The Destination page should, of course, be something that a person only sees if they complete a goal - by filling out a form, for example.
This goal is triggered if someone spends more than a set amount of time on your site - like 10 minutes, for example.
3) Pages/Screens per session
This goal is triggered if someone views a certain amount of pages on your site - say, 10 pages.
This goal is triggered when someone does something you want them to do which doesn't load a new page - like watching a video. These are difficult to set up and you probably will not need them.
My bias is clearly in favour of Destination goals. Why?
Well first off, destination goals are easy to understand. Someone does something you want them to do, gets to a thanks page and you count them as converted. Simple, right?
Second, destination goals are meaningful. What value does it bring to a business when someone stays on your site a long time? Or view a lot of pages? Perhaps each indicates visitor interest in your business, but I suspect it's a fairly weak relationship.
Finally, destination goals are hard. People actually have to do something which matters to the business to achieve them. And getting people to do anything more online than browse is difficult. So, setting the bar high for achieving a goal is a great way to ensure that your advertising and your website are meaningful to your visitors.
So, what next? Well, as I mentioned above, you should test out your goal and make sure it works. Then you need to align everything you do around pushing people to achieve the goal - which...I'll get to next time.
Until then, have a look at our 2-day all online Google Analytics Certification course - and happy analytic-ing!