Verify Goals During Setup

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Before you save goals, you can verify that they are configured correctly.

As a fairly recent feature in goals, you can verify a goal setup before saving.

This is particularly useful for the Destination URL and Event goal types, since a typo or a small regex error could prevent any goals from being registered.

It’s important to recognize that your goal setup could still be faulty even if verification shows a percentage match, since an incorrect goal setup could be matching some pageview or event data, but if the verification process yields a 0% match, you can be fairly certain that your goal is set up incorrectly (or that you can expect at least week-long gaps in goal completions going forward).

Goal verification goes back seven days. To see how your Destination URL goal would have performed over a longer period, you can apply the URL as a table filter in the Pages report.

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Create a Simple Custom Report to Display Page Value for Landing Pages

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In a custom report, you can display Page Value for landing pages.

Although the Page Value metric is very relevant to landing pages, it does not appear in the Landing Pages report.

Fortunately, you can quickly define a custom report as follows to display Page Value for landing pages.

Dimension: Landing Page

Metrics: Entrances (as a related data point), Page Value

If the standard reports don’t provide the combination of dimensions and metrics that you need, you can in most instances create a custom report that fits the bill.

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Know Your Margins for Ecommerce and Goal Values

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Based on total goal value and Ecommerce revenue, not margin, the AdWords ROI and Margin metrics could be misleading.

To calculate the return on your marketing efforts, it’s important to know your actual margin for Ecommerce transactions and goal values.

Let’s say that your website sells tennis raquets for an average of $100USD, with a profit margin of $10USD not counting marketing expenses. If you spend $50 dollars in AdWords for each sale/conversion, the AdWords will show a very positive ROI and Margin, because it’s basing its calculations on total revenue.

In reality, however, you’d be losing $40 on each raquet (not counting the positive offset of phone sales).

Know your margins, and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns based on margins and not on total revenue.

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Verify New Goals Based on Last Seven Days of Data

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Goal verification was recently added to goal setup.

Among the recent changes to the goal setup process, arguably the most helpful is goal verification.

After you define a goal, you can now validate it against the last seven days of data in your profile. If the conversion rate is 0%, you may have configured your goal incorrectly, or the conversion would perhaps occur too infrequently to be useful as a performance indicator.

Goal verification may be particularly useful for previewing Regular Expression goals, since the margin of error is greater than for Exact Match or Head Match.

These previews are perhaps a glimpse into eventual goal retroactivity, which would be a very welcome change in Google Analytics. For now, however, as critical as goals are, they are not retroactive, so don’t wait to set them up.

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Understand and Use the Page Value Metric

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Page Value helps you gauge a page’s effectiveness.

If the primary purpose of your website is goal completion or ecommerce transactions, Page Value is arguably the most important metric displayed in the Google Analytics Content reports.

Based on goal and ecommerce value, Page Value measures a page’s contributions to goals and ecommerce quite cleanly and directly.

Let’s look at one goal and two pages on your real estate website.

Your Goal URL is the thank-you page for a lead submission. Based on close rates for submitted leads, you have indicated a goal value of $800 USD when setting up your goal.

The two pages are Our Agents and Home Listings. Last month, Our Agents was viewed during 1000 visits, and a lead was submitted 500 times after Our Agents was viewed one or more times during the same visit. Home Listings was viewed during 2000 visits, with 700 leads submitted.

For Our Agents, we can calculate Page Value as follows:

(500 goal completions after a unique Our Agents pageview x $800)/1000 visits =
$400 Page Value

For Home Listings:

(700 goal completions after a unique Home Listings pageview x $800)/2000 visits =
$280 Page Value

Two notes:

• the pageview must occur at least once before the goal completion or ecommerce transaction to count towards Page Value

• multiple pageviews during the same visit do not affect the Page Value calculation

Also, you should consider assigning goal values even to goals, as in this example, that are not directly monetized so you can take advantage of Page Value.

As for actionable conclusions, you can, in this case, make Our Agents more prominent and measure the effect on overall conversion rate.

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Use JavaScript setTimeout() to Create Time-on-Page Goal

Creating a Google Analytics goal for time on a specific page poses two challenges:

• Although you can create a goal for time on site, there is no built-in goal option for time on a specific page (or for any other page-level metric apart from pageview).

• Google Analytics calculates time on page A only when page B is viewed, since it compares the page B timestamp to the page A timestamp to make this calculation. This prevents any last-page-in-visit from generating a time on page. Of course, as mentioned above, this is moot for goal tracking, since you cannot directly define a goal based on a page metric such as time on page.

The solution is the very useful and straightforward setTimeout() JavaScript function that you can use with an event or virtual pageview call.

For instance, to generate a goal after one minute of visitor time on a detailed product page, you can use the following code:

setTimeout("_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'time-on-page', '1-minute'])",60000);

After a delay of 60000 milliseconds, or one minute, this code would generate an event that counted towards any corresponding Event goal. Instead of _trackEvent, you could call _trackPageview as a virtual pageview, which would count towards any corresponding URL Destination goal.

For another use of setTimeout() in Google Analytics, see "Adjusted" Blog Bounce Rate with Customized Tracking Code.

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Run Your Regular Expressions Through a Regex Tester

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You can test your regular expressions with a tool such as Regexpal.

Regular expressions, or “regex”, can be very useful within Google Analyitcs, but regex syntax is quite challenging, even for the initiated. Before your deploy your regular expressions, you should take advantage of tools that are designed specifically for regex testing.


As a simple example, let’s say that you have individual signup forms for eight different product trials on your website, and that the request URI of each thank-you page is in the following format:




Let’s also say that you want to set up a single signup goal for products 2 and 7, which are closely related.


After consulting a regex cheat sheet, you test the following regular expression at




Regexpal indicates a match, but when you also notice that it has highlighted the . character in the regex field, you realize that you have forgotten to “escape” the . character with a \ character to make it a literal . and not the regex notation for any single character. You just add \ before . to escape it.




Now you have a clean regular expression that will do its job for you as the Goal URL. (Just make sure that you select Regular Expression as your goal Match Type.)

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12 Google Analytics Resolutions for 2013


1) Set up goals for all form submissions.

Goals aren’t retroactive, so make sure to set them up for all form submissions as early as possible in your Google Analytics implementation. Without conversions, there are no conversion rates.


2) Learn the ins and outs of funnels.

Once you have a goal, it’s very useful in many instances to build a funnel on top of it so Google Analytics can calculate metrics such as Abandonment Rate, but to use funnels most effectively, you should understand a few of their idiosyncrasies and limitations.


3) Don’t ignore Page Value.

The unassuming and underused Page Value metric (formerly $index) is indispensable in determining which pages are pulling their weight towards goal conversions and e-commerce transactions. (For this reason, make sure to assign values even to non-monetized goals, in a separate profile if you don’t want to skew actual e-commerce and goal monetization.)


4) Tag all inbound links with campaign parameters.

How effective is your monthly email newsletter at driving visits and conversions? How about your press releases? There’s no excuse to be in the dark on these basic questions – tag those links!


5) Track PDFs views and external links with Virtual Pageviews or Events.

It’s easy to forget that views of PDFs (and most other document formats) and clickthroughs to external sites are not captured with the default, pageview-based Google Analytics Tracking Code. Virtual Pageviews and Events provide an easy solution.


6) Avoid the built-in “Non-paid Search Traffic” Advanced Segment.

Lumping branded organic traffic and non-branded organic traffic is, for most purposes, a very bad thing. Define your own non-branded organic Advanced Segment. (And define other Advanced Segments of your own as well – better segmentation generates better insights.)


7) Track different social actions differently.

A Facebook Like that originates from your website can mean two very different things. Understand how social actions differ and track them appropriately.


8) Keep a chronology with Annotations.

When did the new home page go live? When was our company mentioned in the Wall Street Journal? You can’t make correlations between your Web data and relevant events if you don’t remember when those events happened. Maintain a comprehensive timeline with the convenient Google Analytics Annotations feature.


9) Incorporate qualitative evaluations into your conversion optimization plan.

An in-person or online user test can quickly reveal a conversion pitfall that could otherwise lurk in your Google Analytics reports indefinitely.


10) Run Content Experiments regularly.

Nothing like a head-to-head contest to tell you quite definitively what works better for conversions. If you haven’t yet run a Content Experiment or used a third-party A/B testing tool, start now.


11) Establish core KPIs (key performance indicators), and check them at least monthly.

As Brian Clifton says, Web analytics is like going to the gym: if you don’t do it regularly enough, you’re not going to be satisfied with the results. Consistent scrutiny of meaningful KPIs will lead to useful and actionable insights across the board.


12) Use Those Same KPIs for Daily or Weekly Custom Email Alerts

Don’t wait unnecessarily to find out that visits or conversions have dropped by 20%. Take advantage of Custom Intelligence Events to actively monitor your essential metrics and receive email alerts for substantial deviations.


Best wishes for a customer-focused, data-driven, conversion-optimizing new year!

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You Can Use Events for Goals but Not for Funnels

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You can create a goal based on an event, but only Destination URL goals allow a funnel.

The good news:

As a relatively recent addition, Google Analytics allows you to define a goal based on an event.

The bad news:

You can’t create a funnel for an event-based goal.

The good news:

You can replace your event with a virtual pageview so you can instead create a Destination URL goal, which does allow funnels.

For example, let’s say that you want to track a PDF catalog download as a goal and also create a funnel for the three pages leading up to the download.

If, as follows, you generated an event for the download, you could certainly create an event-based goal, but you would not be able to create a funnel, since the “Event” goal type does not have a funnel option:


To take advantage of the funnel option, you could generate a virtual pageview as follows and, instead of an event goal, create a “Destination URL” goal, which does allow you to define a funnel on top of the goal.


Note that events cannot be used for funnel steps themselves either; you can define a funnel based only on pageviews, whether actual or virtual.

Looking beyond goals, there are a couple of potential drawbacks to using a virtual pageview where you might have otherwise used an event. For one thing, each virtual pageview counts towards overall pageviews, which might somewhat skew some of your Google Analytics reports, and secondly, virtual pageviews would not in any way appear within the reporting for any other events you may be tracking, so it would compromise an integrated event view.

If, however, the benefit that you’ll enjoy from funnel reporting outweighs these relatively minor inconveniences, make sure to use virtual pageviews instead of events.

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Don’t Wait to Set Up Your Goals

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Immediately set up goals for all submission forms.

As essential as goals are to Google Analytics, it’s imperative to remember that they are not retroactive and that you should therefore set them up as early as possible in your implementation to begin calculating goal data immediately.

At a minimum, make sure to set up a goal for each submission or transaction confirmation page that you have included on your website (and that you’re not tracking with Google Analytics ecommerce).

If you have not designated your confirmation pages as goal URLs, you’ll miss important metrics such as conversion rate, abandonment rate (available if you associate a funnel with your goal URL) and $index (if you have specified a monetary value for your goal).

Don’t delay – set up your goals as a topmost priority.

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