Setting Goals in Google Analytics

Goals can be set up on Google Analytics to track when your visitors complete a specific action, this action can be anything from completing a purchase to signing up to your mailing list. The completed action is called a conversation and these contribute to the success of your business.

Why are goals so important?

Simply put, if we don’t set up goals all you can really measure is how many users are coming to your site, of course, Google goes a lot more in-depth than just telling you the number of visits but if these visitors aren’t completing the specific activities you want them to whilst on your site you will struggle to grow your business. Setting up goals allows you to get an insight into how well your website is performing and you can then adjust your website accordingly.

Say we own a clothing company and we set up a goal that reports back to us how many people end up on the checkout page and purchase something. We can then compare this number to the number of visitors we are getting and we get a rough idea of how many people are coming to our website but nothing actually buying anything. Using this information we can start an investigation into why people aren’t buying our merchandise, maybe our prices are too high? Maybe the site isn’t easy to navigate? We can then adjust our website accordingly and monitor our reports again to see if the changes we made have made a difference. I’ve been signed in on websites before where I’ve been looking around but haven’t bought anything then I get an email with a title such as ‘Found anything you like?’ This email usually states that they’ve noticed I’ve been on their site but haven’t bought anything and sometimes may offer me a discount code to give me a little nudge into making a purchase.

Goals vary depending on the type of website you have which is why they are not setup by default. A website trying to tell a product will want to track sales, a marketing company may which to track how many people sign up to their newsletter and news websites may wish to track how many people leave comments. It really will depend on what you want your website to achieve but goals are a must if you want to be successful!

What kind of goals can be set up?

There are 4 different types of Goals that you can set using Google analytics, each have their own specific use in mind. When we set up a new goal it will ask us what type of goal we wish to create.

Types of goals

They’re pretty self explanatory but below is a quick write up of each in a bit more detail:

Destination Goals

Probably the most common goal to set up, a destination goal tracks a certain web page and when that page is visited it triggers the goal. An example of this would be, it doesn’t matter how a user gets to this page but once visited Google will treat that as a goal that’s been achieved.

If you’re tracking a page that you don’t want a visitor to be able to directly access for example an order confirmation page you must hide the specific URL so it can only be accessed once a customer is redirected to it when a purchase has been made. If the web page isn’t hidden you may receive inaccurate results as visitors may end up on that page without having purchased anything. Once hidden the only people who will arrive at that page will be the people who have made a purchase given you an accurate report on how many purchases have been made through your website.

Duration Goals

Duration goals are used to track how long your visitors stay on your website. This goal is great to identify how engaging your website is and come up with ways of making your visitors stay for longer. A lot of things can contribute to how long visitors stay on your website, one example would be the amount of content you have on your site. If your website hardly has any content then visitors aren’t going to stay around for long, the same goes for the quality of our content.

There are two ways to we can measure duration, more than and less than the specified time you’ve entered. We can choose a certain amount of time to track and once that time has been reached that’ll count towards our goal report. If that time wasn’t reached Google will not include this in its results but we can work out how many didn’t reach the specified time by comparing the number that did to the total number of visitors. If we find that visitors aren’t staying on our website very long then we can look into why this might be and adjust our website accordingly to improve engagement.

Pages/Screens Per Session Goals

Pages/Screen per session tracks how many pages a visitor has visited on your site in one session. Much like the duration goal, we can set a duration and each time it is reached Google will count this towards our results. This goal helps us monitor how engaging our website is, if we find visitors aren’t visiting many internal links on our site we may want to look into the site structure and work on where are links are placed.

Event Goals

Event goals are slightly more complex and require a small piece of coding to be set up before we can create an event goal. The great thing about event goals is that they don’t require a new page to load to count towards Google’s results, they actually track activities on the page, for example, a play of a video or a download of a file.

To learn more about event goals Google has a great guide here

Smart Goals

Smart goals have been created to help less tech-savvy advertisers out there that use Google Adwords. For those who don’t know what Adwords is, it’s basically Google’s advertising platform that allows you to bid on certain keywords so that your site appears in Google’s search results when that keyword is searched for.

Smart goals select approximately the top 5% of the most engaged visitors from your website traffic and turn those visits into goals. Users of smart goals can then learn about their top traffic and tailor their Adwords keywords to increase conversions from these top visitors. A conversation is when a visitor completes a desired goal such as fill in a form or make a purchase through your website.

This option is greyed out for me at the moment as I don’t have a Google Adwords account and to activate smart goals we need to connect our Adwords account to our Google Analytics account. I’ll be signing up to Adwords at some point and will cover it in another post so we can understand in it more depth, then we can revisit smart goals.

What goals will I be setting up?

Before I set up a goal I need to think about what the purpose of my website is. I’ve set this website up to practice what I learn and blog about my journey, I’m not trying to sell anything or gather up a mailing list to use to promote products or anything like that. My main desired goal that I have in my for my visitors is to click on through my website and read more so out of the four available goal types I think that being able to track how many pages my visitors visit would be the best choice, this can be achieve with the Pages/Screens per session goal type.

My Goal

Above is my goal that I have set for this website, it’s not a very goal but we all have to start somewhere. I have decided to set a goal to track all visitors that stay and visit 3 pages or more, every time a visitor does I’ll receive a successful conversation. At the time of writing this, my success rate is 0% which is because I’ve not started to advertise this site or work on my search engine optimization (SEO) but hopefully when we start getting my site out there we’ll start racking up the results!


Hopefully, after reading this post you’ll have realized how important setting goals are. Without setting goals, we aren’t making the most of Google Analytics tracking features! To really utilise our visitors we need to learn about them and set targets to track how our website is performing. It’s all very well getting thousands of visitors but if none of these visitors are performing your desired goals your business is going nowhere. Goals are also very important when it comes to reports and comparing monthly conversations to measure how well your website is doing, we can also use these reports to generate yearly trends.

Every website’s goals are going to vary depending on what the website does. If it’s an online shop we’d want to track sales, if it was a news website we might want to track page views, it really does depend on what we want to achieve with our website. Google allows us to set 20 goals per Google analytics view so we have plenty of tracking opportunities to make the most of our website.

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