Sara Berke

As a digital marketing strategist, I often ask my clients the question, “What are the goals of your website?” In response, I usually hear answers such as, “I want to distribute information and become a thought leader,” “I want to be found easily online and be No. 1 in search,” and “I’d like to drive and increase traffic to my landing pages.”

These are all great high-level goals for your website, but at the end of the day, do these metrics alone really grow your business? To get information about whether your content marketing is helping your bottom line, you need to go one step further and set up Goals in Google Analytics. This gives you a unique way to measure and analyze how well core objectives are being met … or not being met.

It’s important to create Goals in Analytics

Goals allow you to track when people take action on your pages – click your calls to action (CTAs) to participate in free trials, add themselves to your email subscriber list, complete form fills, join webinars, download eBooks and white papers, watch videos or demos, etc.

And it’s not enough to simply know visitors are taking these actions on the site. With all of the data available in today’s world, we need to focus on what really matters.  According to BusinessWeek, “The avalanche of data … has transformed marketing”, where now, “future marketing mavens will have to be smart consumers of analytics.”

“The avalanche of data … has transformed marketing”, where now, “future marketing mavens will have to be smart consumers of analytics.”

To give a few examples, Analytics Goals allow you to track:

  • Exact pathways users take before completing a Goal (page 1 → page 2 → page 3 → conversion)
  • How the users who converted entered the site (Do most of your leads come from organic search? Or maybe it’s referral traffic? Do you know?)
  • How much time users spent on the site before converting (Are your leads spending 15 minutes on site before converting or does it only take 30 seconds?)
  • The number of completions within a specific period of time (You had an important webinar on the 16th – did the majority of conversions this quarter happen around then?)
  • Types of actions that are taking place (Your video got 189 views, but where did the majority of users stop watching the video? Was it at the 20-second mark? 2-minute mark?)

And with this information, we can identify successful (as well as problematic) areas of your site. Each company will have various goals for its website and brand content, but there is something for almost every business objective within the Goals section of Google Analytics.

Set up Goals for a smarter content marketing strategy

  1. Go to your Google Analytics standard reports
  2. Click on the “Admin” button in the top right
  3. Click on “Goals”
  4. From one of the Goal sets, click “+ Goal” to set up a new one

Remember that you will only start to see data related to your Goals when they are officially created in your profile, and it’s not retroactive – so you won’t see any historic information. That’s why it’s so important to get it set up at the start of a content marketing strategy.

Create the Goal that’s best for your content

There are four Goal types within Google Analytics, each of which is used to measure different actions users may take within your site. Every Goal type comes with the option to define a monetary value too, as a way to better track ROI.

There's an early announcement that Google released a new local SEO algorithm.1. Destination Goal: This tracks a specific page on your site, such as when a visitor conducts an action that takes them to  a  “Thank You” page. Generally, they reach this specified destination because they downloaded an asset, purchased something or opted into an interaction with your business.

Example: You may want to track users who request a free demo on your site. By setting up a Destination Goal, you will be able to see when users come to the site from Google, view your homepage, read two blog articles, click through to your company page and then ultimately request a demo. If you haven’t set up a Goal in your Analytics profile, you will only be able to see the demo request, but have no idea what led to that conversion.

2. Duration Goal: This option tracks site visits/sessions that last a specific amount of time, or run longer. For instance, you might be interested in understanding the behavior patterns of just the users who spend at least 10 minutes or more on your site, because these are your most qualified visitors.

By creating a Duration Goal in Analytics, you can also analyze problem areas of your site. If the average time visitors spend on your site is 3:18, you can set up a Goal for users spending less than one or two minutes on site to see which pages are the least “sticky.” These pages may need stronger content or design updates. Conversely, you can create a Goal to see when and where users are spending more than the average time on site, and then work to get more visitors to those “Sticky” pages.

3. Pages/Screens per session Goal: This allows you to track users who view a specific number of pages or screens in one visit to the site. Typically, the more pages users visit, the more engaged they are with your site.

Example: An ecommerce business may want to analyze users who are really digging through product pages. If you know your customers typically convert after comparing at least 10 products, you can create a Goal to track users who have viewed 10 pages or more on your site within a single session. The Goal filters out users who view fewer than 10 pages to give you a better picture of what high-converting audiences look for on your site, and how they interact with your content.

Marketers can track downloads to get better content ROI info.4. Event Goal: This Goal tracks specific actions users can take on your site, such as video plays, ad clicks or social shares.

This type of Goal is great if you want to better analyze a specific strategy, like a video campaign. Where YouTube gives you a total view tally, this Goal allows for you to track users who only watched 5, 10 or 20 seconds of your video. You’ll be able to see exactly where people stopped watching and determine if the video is too long, or needs to be edited at that point. (Side note: You need to add an additional snippet of code to your site to track this type of Goal for video actions.)

A good way to get started:

To use your Goal data in the simplest way, look at the “Reverse Goal Path.” This shows you the three exact steps prior to a user completing the Goal. You may start to see patterns, where the same page is involved a step or two before Goal completions – and if this is the case, you may want to promote the page on social media and in email newsletters.

Next, look at the Goal Flow to get detailed information about acquisition, advertising, behavior, custom variables, social data and user-specific information. It may seem a bit confusing at first, but it’s the same as any area within Analytics – you should spend some time playing around with the tool to learn more. And if you still can’t figure out how to do something or view specific information, you can always Google search it or ask your lovely strategist for help.

Use the data from the Goals section to become more successful

The real benefit of setting up Goals within your Google Analytics is having the ability to prove that digital marketing investments are paying off. These Goals provide you with insight on how to improve upon your efforts. Getting 30 new leads each month from your website is great, but unless you understand what assisted the conversion, how do you expect to increase that number? Goal conversions are the primary metric for measuring how well your site is fulfilling business objectives.

So the only question I have left for you is: Which Goal will you be setting up first?