Are You Flying Blind with Google Analytics Goals?

You would be surprised how many companies can not explain the purpose of their website.

Most companies, even companies with billions in revenue, can draw blanks to a question that was so simply phrased it almost sounded patronizing.

What is the purpose of your website?

Yet answering this question is the most important thing your organization can do to make your marketing efforts successful. And you should do it before setting up Google Analytics goals.

You should answer this question before you send any marketing activity to your site. You should answer it before you install Google Analytics, Piwik, Snowplow or any other website analytics tool on your site.

Before you worry about JavaScript tracking codes, tag management and data collection, you must first answer this simple question to get started.

What is the purpose of your website?

If you can't define your purpose, everyone involved with your website will be flying blind. You won't know where you're heading. You will be aimless. You won't be able to recognize success, even if it hits you in the face.

And you won't know which control or dial or button to correctly activate to save your life.

Instead of lifting off (installing Google Analytics without defining your purpose), it is better to keep the plane on the ground.

I recorded a quick video to discuss the importance of setting goals in Google Analytics. The video was filmed on location at a train station in Italy as I waited to board a train.

Many of you who read this blog are advanced with your knowledge of Web Analytics. You probably have goals configured in your account, and can probably name your goals, targets and KPIs off the top of your head.

But have you thought about why we have these goals in the first place? Do you set them up to check a box off during our configuration process? Do you set up goals based on the strategy of our organization, or do you fit the goals to whatever is easiest in Google Analytics?

Before you even bother to set up goals in Google Analytics, I recommend doing some groundwork beforehand.

Mapping out your Digital Measurement Strategy

If you have seen me speak over the past few years, you may have seen me present a framework for digital measurement strategy. I will share the basics in this post as well (but realize it will take a dedicated post to explain everything fully).

We have already covered the first part: having a frank discussion with your organization about why your website exists.

Once you agree on the purpose of your website (which will take much longer than you think), start to define some tangible goals your team can achieve.

Set up your Goals

With each goal, establish key performance indicators. I'm not going to define KPI's here, but I'll give you a hint: Write down the action you want people to take on your site to achieve your goal.

Assign KPIs to Goals

Once we have KPIs in place, then you can start to set a target you want to achieve.

Give Each KPI Meaning

After you agree on your target (i.e. 500 sales per month), then you can discuss the tactics needed to achieve the results, the teams involved, and the tools you will use to measure results.

I call this the four T's of web analytics.

And yes, I have had a post called the four T's of web analytics drafted for two years. If you want to see this post, please vote with your comments or tweet me!

What does this have to do with Google Analytics Goals?

Google Analytics sucks without goals in place. Without goals, Google Analytics is a one-size-fits-all tool that provides metrics that are at best weak indicators for success in your online marketing activities. At worst, they actually harm your organization by making you think that they are important.

For example, Bounce Rate, which is an outright harmful metric.

I know what you are thinking. That's blasphemy, Jeffalytics!

But it's true. Bounce Rate as a KPI harms your organization. I shared my thoughts on bounce rate at the ThinkSEM blog.

“Bounce Rate is a way of measuring the number of people who left your website after viewing only one page. While the goal behind this metric is to give you an indicator of which pages on your site fail to draw in visitors, I find that bounce rate is a terrible indicator for success of a company. This is because of two reasons: if someone leaves your site after visiting a page, they may have found what they were looking for and left. Maybe that is a good thing. The other reason is that there might have just been a problem with your data collection. For this reason, I say don’t fret bounce rate and focus on generating revenue for your company instead. Focus too heavily on bounce rate and you might soon find yourself out of business.”

In other words, there are billionaire's with 95% bounce rates. And there are dead-ass-broke people with 5% bounce rates.

If Bounce rate didn't feature so prominently in the Google Analytics interface, we wouldn't even know it exists.

Setting up goals in Google Analytics makes everything better

If you don't set up Google Analytics goals, you are stuck floating aimlessly over a pile of metrics that are not important. Sort of like a slacker in high school when it comes time to fill out college applications. Sure, that slacker might end up being the next Mark Cuban, but chances are that they are more likely to be living in their parents basement for the next 20 years.

So let's get those goals set up!

Here is what it looks like when you set up goals in Google Analytics:

Goal Setup

While you might be expecting a step-by-step explanation here, I am only going to give you one piece of advice:

You should only use destination goals in Google Analytics. Unless your website has a bunch of dynamic actions that indicate success. Then you will use an event goal. And if you can't get events set up on your site? Then you will have to challenge your web developer to a fight in the cage match. You should never, never, never use duration or pages/session as goals in Google Analytics. Unless you are a publisher and get paid per page view. Or if you are Simo Ahava, apparently.

For more on goals in Google Analytics, check out the definitive guide to Google Analytics goals by my friend Paul Koks.

To conclude: measure twice, cut once

Are you flying blind with Google Analytics?

Do you know the purpose of your website?

We started this post as a way to share a two-minute video I recorded on Google Analytics goals. But before you can set up goals in Google Analytics, you must first ask a basic strategic question. Otherwise, you are providing a disservice to your website.

As soon as you figure out the purpose of your website, a whole new set of questions will arise.

“How will we accomplish this purpose? How will we know when we get there?”

Answering the first question is what makes marketing so exciting. The second question is what makes Google Analytics goals so powerful. You can train Google Analytics on your website strategy, and they will constantly remind you of how you are doing.

That is the power of goals in Google Analytics.

For more videos, visit the Periodic Table of Google Analytics or subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

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