How to Setup Goals in Google Analytics

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 | 1:01 PM

Labels: , ,

In this post, we'll explain what Goals are in Google Analytics, why they're useful, and how to set them up. Let us make two assumptions before we start. First, you know the rules of basketball, and second, you are a Lakers fan (or at least you know who the Lakers are).

Note that if you run an ecommerce site, Google Analytics has additional features to help you track purchases. For more information on this, check out how to configure ecommerce tracking.

Understanding Goals in Google Analytics

Goals (with a capital G) are a way to measure business objectives for your website in Google Analytics. Goals must correspond to a measurable action performed by your website's visitors, for example, a visit to a "thank you" page. This combination of a business objective and a measurable action make up a Goal. Here are some common examples.

Business Objective
Visitor Action
Success Measure
Generate Leads
Complete Contact Formform_submitted.html
Drive Loyalty
Sign up for Newsletter
Drive Revenue
Complete a Purchasethankyou.html
Raise Awareness Whitepaper Download

To use a real world example, the Lakers objective is to win games, and the measurable action is scoring baskets. Keeping this goal in mind helps the team focus on winning and not worry about things that don't matter -- like the number of times the team is photographed or their average height. Goals serve this same purpose in Google Analytics.

Understanding the Goal Funnel

Usually the visitor action that's associated with a goal involves multiple steps. Together these steps make up the Goal Funnel, or the sequence of steps that lead up to the successful completion of a Goal. Like the Goal itself, each of these steps must correspond to a measurable action, such as a pageview of a specific page.

Here's a real world example. Let's assume that Phil Jackson, the Lakers head coach, wants to score more baskets using a specific play. The path for that play is as follows: Kobe Bryant passes the ball to Derek Fisher, Derek Fisher passed the ball to Pau Gasol, and then Pau Gasol scores.

In this example, the Goal is scoring a basket and the Goal Funnel is Kobe > Derek > Pau. The ball moves from player to player until either Pau scores (Goal completed) or they lose the ball (Goal abandoned).

Now pretend the Lakers players are pages on a website and the ball is the website visitor. From now on we will look at the players as the following:
  • Kobe Bryant: kobe-bryant.html
  • Derek Fisher: derek-fisher.html
  • Pau Gasol: pau-gasol.html
  • Point: point.html

How to set up a Goal and Funnel:

Step 1) Define your Goal Funnel

Navigate to your website, and move through through the steps required to complete your Goal. As you navigate, note down the URLs for each page in the sequence (or take screenshots).

If the sequence includes only one step (the Goal) than you don't need to define a funnel at all. If the sequence includes events other than pageviews (such as clicks), you will need to use virtual pageviews or another method beyond the scope of this tutorial.

In our Lakers example, the funnel is defined as:

Another example might be:

  1. start_registration.html
  2. enter_shipping_info.html
  3. enter_subscriber_preferences.html
  4. finalize_registration.html
  5. thank_you.html

Step 2) Configure Goal Settings for Each Profile

Log in to your Google Analytics account and then click "Edit" beside your profile. You will need to configure goals for each profile you want them to show up in.

Go to Conversion Goals and Funnel and click "Edit"

Set "Active Goal" to "On"

Set "Match Type" to to either "Exact Match," "Head Match," or "Regular Expression Match." In our example, we chose "Exact Match," because there is only one exact URL for our Goal page "point.html."

If you have multiple Goal pages, or multiple pages for one of the steps leading up to the goal, you might need to use a different match type. For more information about the difference between Head, Exact, and Regular Expression match, visit this Help Center article.

If your Goal has a specific dollar value, be sure to enter it under "Goal Value". You may need to look at your financial data to determine how much a Goal completion is worth to you.

Step 3) Define Your Goal Funnel

Enter the URL and a meaningful name for each step in your funnel. In our example the Goal URL is "/point.html" and the name we gave it is "Point." If you only have one step (the Goal) than you don't need to complete this section.

Step 4) Wait a Few Days and Analyze your Goal Performance

Your Goals will not work backwards, so you will need to wait for Goal data to appear in your reports. Once you have data to analyze, navigate to the Goals section and open the Funnel Visualization Report.

Now we can analyze the entire goal funnel or just an individual page.

This report shows

  • 356 visits entering the funnel (at kobe-bryant.html)
  • 88 visits in which the person moved from "kobe-bryant.html" to the next step in the funnel "derek-fisher.html"
  • 55 visits that completed the entire funnel and reached the Goal
Looking across the entire Funnel, it looks like Kobe Bryant is not doing a great job getting the ball to Derek Fisher, so the team should consider working on that part of the play. Derek's doing a great job getting the ball to Pau, so he'll get some more playing time. Overall, the play leads to a basket 15% of the time, which is below the average for the team, so Phil might consider scrapping this play for a new one (site redesign anyone?).


So there you have it. Goals and Funnels in Google Analytics let you see how well your website is living up to your business objectives. They also help you identify specific areas of your website to improve on. Overall, they're a crucial element in a successful web strategy.
  • Before implementing Google Analytics Goals, identify what your business objectives are for your website, and what visitor actions they correspond to.
  • Identify the steps visitors must go through to complete the desired action, and note down the specific pages that make up those steps.
  • Use this information to configure Goals and Funnels.
  • Take action on the data. Make simple design changes or try using Website Optimizer to make improvements.
Other Resources

Still have questions? Get help at the Google Analytics help forum. Or, leave a comment and let us know how you use goals.

Posted by Sebastian Tonkin, Google Analytics Team, and Allaedin Ezzedin of E-Nor, a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant