In one of my last blog posts, I talked a bit about useful metrics in Google Analytics. These were base level metrics that you could easily access by creating a dashboard or just clicking through the available data in the left hand navigation column. Today, we are going to take a deeper dive into a few other features that the Google Analytics suite has to offer. Let’s talk goals, funnels and filters.
Goals allow you to track actions on your site. You can set these up in a few different ways, all of which are found in the admin panel. Setting goals provides a greater look into how users are using your site, and if they are actually taking action on the items you are trying to get them to interact with. There are a few types of goals you can use.
This type of goal allows you to track when a user gets to a certain point of your site. These goals generally go at the end of a user flow and are used to show that the user completed the desired action. This is best used on things like signups. By putting a Destination Goal on a Thank You page AFTER the signup, you can accurately track who filled out your form. This is an easy way to keep track of conversions. Another example of this might be if you are trying to get a user to learn about a specific offer. Once they’re on that page, it counts as a goal.
One good thing about destination goals is that you can set them up to include everything with a certain URL string. Let’s say you want to count everyone that viewed a blog in a specific category as a goal. All you need to do is add the url path to that category, and you will be set. This is much easier than creating multiple goals. You can also use a funnel to describe the exact path the user should take to get to your end goal (more on this later).
This goal relates to keeping someone on your site for a certain amount of time. This can work to gauge interest in your content, and help work on user retention. A good example for this type of goal would be blog posts. Sure, people may get to your blog, but are they really reading it? You can set a goal for how long you think it would take to read an article, and use that to see if people are staying on the page long enough to meet that goal and make that association.
Be careful though! Google Analytics automatically times out at 30 minutes, though you can also set it for less. Keep this in mind when taking into consideration the length of your article, how long you think it will take to read, and how long you are setting your goal for.
Pages/Screens Per Session
Another good way to track engagement. This goal is about how many pages a user views on the site. This is a great way to see if people are working through services or related blog posts. If you combine the duration and pages per session, you can really get a nice idea on the quality of your content, and the extent in which your users are involved with the site.
Event goals are a little more complicated, but can be incredibly important when tracking engagement. Events can also be more specific than some of the other goals, and directly involve user interaction at a single element level. For example, you can track video playback, but you can also track hitting play, pausing, rewinding, or time engaged in the video. Other examples are clicking certain buttons, for example downloads, social media engagement, or tracking what elements in the navigation have the most clicks. You can track almost any clicks, though you don’t always want to. Data is good, but too much data has diminishing returns. Align your event goals with your business goals, and focus on the most important ones.
Setting up event goals is done in two parts. The first part is in Google Analytics, where you assign values to your goals. Once you assign values, you need to go into the code and add a tag so that you can actually track your events. From there, you can start collecting your data.
One interesting thought about event goals is that they can affect bounce rate. Since event tracking is considered an interaction request, bounce rate might change on the pages with event tracking implemented. This is because any event that loads on page load automatically rules out a bounce. So if a user goes to your site and only visits a page with a video that has event tracking enabled, watches the video, and leaves, it will not count as a bounce. How you interpret this depends on your goals. If engagement with the page specific element is important, this could be good. However, if you are more focused on page by page engagement, then maybe you should reconsider your specific event goals.
One cool thing you can add to goals is funnels. Funnels are the path that you expect the user to take to complete a goal. So basically, you can add each step of your process into this funnel, and see how the user actually flows through your site - tracking the different spots where a user might become engaged or drop off. This allows you to see if your assumptions on user process are correct, and if not, where things go wrong. This is another example of using analytics to make on-site improvements based on real user feedback (without doing extensive outside user tests).
You can also set up filters, which are particularly useful for filtering out certain user sets. The most common thing I use this for is filtering out internal IP addresses. This removes internal traffic from analytics data, which is important because internal uses can throw off the data collected on external uses.
Another interesting thing to note here is that you can make multiple views in an analytics property. It’s good to keep one unadjusted, but in the other views you can add these filters and really see how how they affect your data.
A Larger View
In the end, you can learn a lot about your site from analytics, but it often takes all of these different metrics and goals working together for you to infer what is happening. The great thing is you can easily make changes to your website, and check back with your analytics in a few weeks to see if your changes are actually working. In fact, I would say that if you really care about your site and your business that you should be doing this on a regular basis. No matter how much you plan and build, you can still be off with your assumptions (even if slightly). It’s best to keep tabs rather than assuming things are going to plan. It’s also good to make sure your site is up to date and user friendly. These positive changes that directly improve the overall user experience are what these metrics and goals are really all about.