Google Analytics tip: go for the gold with goal setting

A few weeks ago, the world was entranced by the competitions and results of the 2012 Olympics. While most of us will never run a 4-minute mile or do a backflip off of a 30 ft diving board, there is something we can learn from these athletes. Whether it was beating a world record, making it to the medal stand, or even just getting to the Olympics in the first place, all of these athletes began with goals.

Unlike the Olympics, the competitive ‘sport’ of business allows you to be measured against yourself, not others. Rather than aiming for an objective medal, YOU can decide what defines success and what defines failure. The first way to do that is to figure out what’s important to you.

Why you need goals

Purchases and visits are some basic, obvious goals that are pretty much built into the standard Google Analytics package (with the additional e-commerce code on your receipt page). However, setting up goals for those purchases can allow you to see where customers are dropping off in the purchase cycle. Goals can also be used to track something that is unique to your individual company. Perhaps you want to see how many people hit the registration confirmation page or spent at least 5 minutes on your blog, or maybe how many times your whitepaper has been downloaded. Google gives you the flexibility to do just that.

How to set goals (warning: you must be an admin to set up goals)

For this example, we will set up a purchase goal.

  1. Log in to Google Analytics
  2. Click Admin (at the top right of the screen, on the orange bar)
  3. Click the Goals tab beneath the Profile menu (between “Assets” and “Users”)
  4. Select “+Goal” to set up your new goal


  1. On the next screen, enter an easily-recognizable Goal Name (you’ll see this in reports, so make sure you understand what it is when you come across it)
  2. Choose to create an Active goal or an Inactive goal
    • Active – will apply immediately
    • Inactive – will not apply immediately but will be set up and can be activated at a later date

GA-goal2Next, you will be prompted to select a Goal Type. There are four options, including Visit Duration, Page/Visit, Event, and URL Destination tracking. For our purposes today, we’ll be focusing on how to set up a URL Destination goal.

A URL Destination goal records whether or not visitors have landed on a specific page on your site. Your Goal URL is your way of defining which page. This is a good way to measure things like purchases or submissions of forms – if your questionnaire is followed up with a Thank You form, for example, it is reasonable to assume that anyone reaching the /thankyou.html page has successfully completed the form.

Setting up a URL Destination goal

  1. Choose Goal Type “URL Destination”
  2. Under Goal Details, type in your Goal URL. This is everything that comes after the domain name on your desired goal page. So, for example, instead of, you would enter /thankyou.aspx, as shown above.
  3. Select your desired Match Type

There are three possible Match Types for URL Destination goals:

  • Exact Match – the destination URL will be the same for every user
    • Example: /thankyou.aspx
  • Head Match – the user may arrive at the page via filters or other dynamic paths, meaning that the URLs may contain additional parameters
    • Example: /shoes.aspx?Collection=Pink vs. /shoes.aspx?Collection=Purple. A Head Match would count anyone who reaches /shoes.aspx (regardless of extraneous parameters)
  • Regular Expression Match – the user may be coming from any number of subdomains
    • Example: vs. would be written as shoes.aspx?Collection=Blue (the backslash denotes that the matching page must at least include /shoes.aspx, regardless of subdomain)

What’s it worth?

Google Analytics also gives you the choice of entering an optional goal value for your URL destination goal. This is not an objective number, but rather a value judgment of what this goal means to your company. Has past experience proven that visitors who sign up for your newsletter (i.e., reach the /newsletterconfirmation.aspx URL) make an average purchase of $20? If so, you might assign your Newsletter Confirmation goal a Goal Value of $20. This helps you to stay focused on your revenue goals as well as your website traffic goals.

But don’t discount traffic! Singular goals like these are great for tracking actions, but it’s important to follow the movement of customers across your site, as well. This is where the Goal Funnel comes in. Not sure what that is? Next month, we’ll cover this and more in part II of this blog series on Google Analytics Goals + Sales Funnels…stay tuned!

Keep it simple

Yes, this is certainly a lot of information to get in just a few minutes. But by using these steps as your guide, you should have no issue setting up your first URL destination goal. Let’s walk through it one more time. In this example, we’re setting up a goal to track form submissions, with the knowledge that all users are directed to the /thankyou.html page after pressing submit. This is your goal URL. We’d follow these simple steps to complete the task:

  1. Under the goals tab on the GA admin panel, select “+Goal”
  2. Enter the Goal Name “Thank You Page”
  3. Select “Active” goal
  4. Choose Goal Type “URL Destination”
  5. Type in goal URL: /thankyou.aspx
  6. For our purposes, we would select “Exact Match,” since every single user should land on that exact page, with no additional parameters
  7. Assign it a goal value of $20 (based on past precedent)
  8. Sit back and watch the results roll in!

Tada! You’ve taken your first steps towards better analysis. Set your goals up, and let us know what kind of results you see.