If you’re only using Google Analytics to track website user data, you’re doing it wrong.

Do you remember the first time you successfully set up a Google Analytics profile and installed the UA tracking code on a website? I do. It was exciting to see the visitor data start to trickle in; I felt like I joined a special group of digital marketers who have insight into where website users are coming from, what devices they are using and what content they are browsing. It was extremely useful data.

However, I soon found that basic Google Analytics data just wasn’t enough for long-term marketing plans that are tied to specific goals. It was great to know that 20 percent of last month’s traffic came from organic search, but was difficult to derive insights that were tied to specific goals when I couldn’t tell how much of that organic traffic went on to convert.

And then I dug into conversion tracking. What I found was a gold mine of analytics data.

By setting up event and goal tracking in my Google Analytics view, I could record and analyze how users were not only interacting with my website, but when—and how—those interactions lead to conversions. This opened up a new dimension of reporting and optimization opportunities that went way beyond my website to both online and offline efforts.

You can read more about how to set up goal tracking in Google Analytics here. To help you get started, here are three tips on determining where to set up goal tracking and analyzing conversion data to improve your business intelligence.

Tip 1: When and where to set up goals.

Just like every website is different, the businesses and causes behind them are, too. This means that no two websites will use the exact same goals and conversion points. When considering what goals to set up in Google Analytics, think about your business or cause: What do you consider a conversion? At what point do visitors become customers? Write down the key conversion points where a user moves from one stage to the next in your marketing funnel. You will want to take note of which of these actions occurs on your website and when a user specifically moves from a visitor, to a lead and then to a customer.

Google analytics conversion tracking funnel

These actions will represent goals on your website. Remember, goals can only be destinations and actions on the website. Think thank you pages, form fills and button clicks as some obvious conversion points to start with.

Some examples of common website conversion goals are:

  • Complete a survey
  • Sign up for a newsletter
  • Submit a contact us form
  • Sign up for blog notifications
  • Download a content offer
  • Click-to-call
  • Add to shopping cart
  • Complete purchase

Tip 2: Apply meaning and value to your goals.

Assigning value and baseline performance data to goals will help determine success. Use industry benchmarks and data from previous campaigns to establish your baseline conversion goals. You can adjust these baselines within the first quarter of goal implementation to reflect what is realistic for your website. Similarly, you can also apply value to your goal conversions. While value is typically associated with revenue, it doesn’t have to be.

Your services, products, website and marketing don’t live in individual vacuums. They are part of an integrated strategy and all play a part in how users interact with your brand. As you determine your goal strategy, consider what factors may impact a user’s ability to convert at any given time in the buyers funnel.

Some factors that might impact conversions are:

  1. Website usability: Are you providing a user-friendly website experience that makes it easy for the user to convert? (Like buttons in contrasting colors, easy-to-use forms, etc.)
  2. Marketing: Are your marketing efforts helpful and interesting to the user? Are you targeting the right users who will respond to your offer?
  3. Business practices: Are your prices competitive? Do users have to meet a certain criteria to become customers? How is your brand perception impacting conversion rates?

Here’s an example or how business practices can impact conversions:

Let’s say your company sells high-end office furniture in bulk quantities. Because your marketing is amazing, there is a large audience of business owners who visit your website and begin the conversion process. However, because you typically sell to a more developed business clientele, you disqualify a percentage of potential leads early in the funnel because they are smaller businesses and do not have the size of office you typically outfit. This leads to a lower number of “qualified” conversions on your site.

One day, due to changes in your warehouse, you are suddenly able to offer your same office furniture product in much smaller quantities. Now, you update your marketing rules to let smaller offices through the funnel and subsequently see a huge increase in qualified conversions.

This is a business practice factor that will impact the number of goal conversions you can get. It is important to note this about your business and adjust both your success metrics and goal values knowing that while you may have more conversions, each conversion has a lower potential value.

Tip 3: Develop a standard measurement report.

After you have determined your goal strategy and set them up in Google Analytics, you’re ready to start reporting. It is important to keep an eye on general website and goal performance on a daily or weekly basis and establish a recurring time, monthly or quarterly, for overall performance reporting and optimization. Your reporting may pull information from multiple sources outside of Google Analytics, such as your email platform, CRM or social media. The incorporated data should create a high-level picture of general marketing and sales performance. To do this, it helps to be clear on what questions you want your report to answer.

General reporting questions:

  • What is the top performing acquisition channel?
  • What ad content is performing best?
  • What keywords are used to find our content/website?
  • What are the top performing landing pages?
  • What are the top exit pages?
  • How do assisted conversion and multistep funnels support conversions?
  • How many interactions do users typically have with our content/website before converting?
  • What social media network performs best?
  • What modifications can be made based on this data to improve?

Your analytics goals add an additional layer of value to your report by detailing how common acquisition channels and marketing efforts not only impact website traffic, but also conversions on the website. For example, in your report you find paid search drives the highest number of website visits, but direct visits account for more goal conversions. Knowing this, you pull an assisted conversions report to find that users typically visit the site through paid search and then return later directly and convert on their second visit. Insights like this can help improve your messaging.

Google Analytics is a powerful marketing and business intelligence tool. The data collected through Google Analytics event and goal conversion reports can be leveraged for insights that will sharpen your targeting, improve your website experience and hone your messaging. These three tips are a great place to start, once you’ve implemented goals you can learn more about leveraging them in your reporting through the Google Analytics Academy or you can leverage more Ervin & Smith resources like our Marketing ROI e-book below. You can even give us a call and learn more about digital strategy and analytics services.

Leanne Prewitt

President & Chief Executive Officer

Shaped by her background in creative direction, Leanne leads the agency’s culture and creative vision and also oversees the operations that allow a team of marketing, design and media specialists to create powerful and effective work for their client partners.

Leanne began her professional career in New York City working for some of the nation’s leading agencies. In 2016, after a five-month sabbatical around the world, she returned to her hometown and joined Ervin & Smith. Her global perspective and expanded professional experience influence the work she does today.