Google Analytics tip: boost your ROI with goal reports

By now you’ve set goals in Google Analytics, and learned how to track your sales funnel, for maximum impact. These are very important steps, but the process is not complete; without a way to interpret these goals and funnels, you’re not actually learning anything from what you’ve done.  This is where goal reports come in.

GA-findgoalreportsAccessing goal reports

You’ve set up goals + funnels; now it’s time to pull these reports to take a look at them. Where can you find them? It depends on the type of information you want to examine. Here are some of Google Analytics’ top sources for analyzing your e-commerce goals:

  • Goal Flow

Looking at Goal Flow helps you to visualize the path your visitors traveled on your site before getting to the specified Goal. It can be organized by a number of different variables: source, campaign, traffic type, even language of visitors…the options are endless. Here’s how to take a look at your Goal Flow:

  1. On the lower left-hand column, click Conversions
  2. Select Goals
  3. From the drop-down menu, choose Goal Flow

From this screen, you can then use the dropdown menus from the gray bar located below the words “Goal Flow” to sort your Goal data by any number of variables.

For example, you could select which goal you’d like to analyze, which visitor segment you’d like to sort by, or the amount of detail you’d like to see, and you can even export the data in a .pdf format.


  • Funnel Visualization

Funnel Visualization is exactly what it sounds like: a very easy way to take a look at your funnel to see how visitors are reacting. This method of interpretation is very similar to looking at the Goal Flow report; what it comes down to in the end is which version is easier for you to understand and, by extension, easier for you to cull information from in order to determine ‘where to go from here.’

How to look at your Funnel Visualization:

  1. On the lower left-hand column, click Conversions
  2. Select Goals
  3. From the drop-down menu, choose Funnel Visualization

Interpreting goal reports

So you’ve found the goal reports, and now you find yourself staring at large, complicated images and graphs. What do they mean? How do you read them? No worries, we’re here to help.

  • Goal Flow

In this example, we’re looking how each step of the funnel fed into the next. Say you want to see where your potential customers are jumping ship. We’ve chosen to break down the following graph by traffic type (email, paid search, organic search, direct, referral, etc…):


If you hover over one of the ‘steps,’ Google Analytics will report on the actions customers took at that point. Let’s say that step two in this case was a customer entering the shopping cart (/shoppingcart.aspx). Keep in mind that a funnel is defined by its ‘required steps,’ that is, users entering the funnel have to see each page along the way or they will not be counted as having gone through your custom funnel.

Knowing this, you can see from Google Analytics that there were 511 pageviews for the shopping cart, at which point 484 people (94.7%) went on to the next step and 27 (5.28%) people dropped out of the funnel.


A ~6% exit rate isn’t astonishing, especially for a step so close to the final conversion, but if the number of exits was higher, you’d certainly want to take a look at that step of your funnel to see what is going wrong, or what might be improved. Is your purchase form too long? Is the call to action in an undesirable location? See what changes you can make to the page layout, creative, or copy, in order to bring those exit numbers down.

  • Funnel Visualization

In this example, we’re looking at a funnel that led up to the goal of “Completed Orders”:


The Funnel Visualization report is a bit more specific than the Goal Flow report, since it bases itself on only one variable: site location + movement, showing you where exactly it was that your visitors came from, and where they went afterwards. Unlike the Goal Flow report, you can also read the funnel horizontally, in order to see where visitor come from when they entered each step, and where they went after they exited the funnel at that step (if they did).

So, in the above example, 928 people entered the funnel at step one from the various webpages listed on the left of step one (blurred out in the above image), but 460 exited, on their way to the webpages listed on the right of step one. This left 468 visitors to move on to the next step in the funnel, an action you can see by reading the Funnel Visualization graph vertically down the center, following the green arrows.

When you get to the next step, the process repeats. Our 468 people arrived at this step from the previous step (step one), and 8 more joined them (entering the funnel at this step, NOT the previous one). These 8 came to step two via the various webpages listed on the left. While all of these customers were in this step, however, 29 visitors left. This left 447 customers (93.91% of those who first entered step two) to move on to the final step (which was our goal: a Completed Order).

The bottom line

Sound difficult? This process may take a bit of thinking to wrap your mind around, but remember, the hard work of collecting your data has already been done for you. Even if you’re not ready to do some serious number crunching, goal reports provide such a wealth of information that they’re worth playing around in now so that you’ll be better prepared and comfortable with them when you need them in the future.

Now that you know how to analyze your goal reports, you’re well on your way to identifying what works and what could use improvement. Do you see your customers running into issues, or your revenue taking a hit? It’s never too soon to start tweaking your strategies, so pull those goal reports, search for potential issues, and get ready to get your campaigns moving!