Setting Goals in Google Analytics

Learn about setting goals in Google Analytics

Without Goals in place, Google Analytics is pointless. A bold statement, I know. But, seriously…why use it if you don’t have a goal in mind. When we meet a client for our first discovery session, one of the most important questions we ask is, “What do you want people to do when they visit your new website?” Some of the answers include, fill out a form, call us, sign up for our newsletter, buy something…you get the idea. Their answers help us shape our design and development strategy for their project. But, after the site has launched, there should be an easy way to measure whether we’ve met that goal.

If you hoped to increase newsletter sign ups with your new website, all you need to do is compare registrations before launch and after launch, and be done with it, right? Not really. That’s only part of the picture. It doesn’t tell you how they got there, or if your expectations are in line with reality. One way to understand your customer’s journey to goal completion/conversion is by setting goals in Google Analytics.

This nifty feature allows you to track user interactions on your website. The goals you define represent a completed activity or conversion. To put it simply, you define what that goal looks like and then configure that goal in your Google Analytics account. There are four goal types you can track.

  1. Destination – your visitors landed on a specific page such as a registration confirmation
  2. Duration – your visitors sessions lasted for a specific amount of time
  3. Page/Screens Per Session – your visitors browsed a certain number of pages or screens during a session
  4. Event – your visitors interacted with your content in some way

Destination Goal

When you define a destination goal, you’re tracking how many people reach certain page on your website. For example, if you want them to fill out a contact form, the destination goal you would define is the thank you or confirmation page they land on after successfully submitting the contact form.

One cool thing about a destination goal is that you have the option to add a funnel to this goal. A funnel is the path or sequence of activities you expect a visitor to take to reach your destination goal. Let’s say you want people to fill out that contact form on your website. You expect that they will read your services page (, click on the “inquire” link and land on your Contact Us page ( and then reach the destination goal ( Once you’ve set up that funnel, you can see if your expectations are correct!

Duration Goal

In Jacquelyn O’Briant’s April 2 post, she defined a session as the number of actual visits to your website. Google Analytics doesn’t just count the number of sessions, it also tracks how long sessions last – Session Duration. With a duration goal, you can track sessions that last a specific amount of time or longer. Those that do, would be considered a conversion.

For example, if you run a service website, it may be useful to track how long visitors are spending on certain pages designed to solve a problem. If you set your duration goal for a minimum of five minutes or longer and then you discover that people are bouncing off at five seconds, it may be because they’re not finding the answer they need. As a result, you have the opportunity to make improvements.

Pages/Screens Per Session Goal

Some business want visitors to look around on the website. If you have a portfolio website that showcases your photography, you may want to track how many photography style pages they browse. So, if you set the pages/screens per session at 10, whenever visitors browse through 10 or more pages, you’ve made a conversion!

Event Goal

When you set up an Event goal, you track the number of user interactions with your content such as playing a video, sharing a blog post on social media, or downloading an app. When you’re creating an Event goal, you first create a category for the object you’re tracking. “Videos” would be a good example of a category you might use. Then, you choose the Action – number of play button clicks, for example. With Event goals you also have the option to add a Label such as the title of the video. Every video played would be counted as a conversion.

Assigning Goal Value

With all goals, you can assign a value – as in a $$ value. This is optional and in most cases it’s just an estimate. At the same time, setting a goal value can help determine the return on your investment. Each time you reach one of these goals, you’ve made a conversion on your website and that means money for your business.

If you need help deciding which goals to set, ask yourself “What do I want people to do when they visit my website?”